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News of the Weird 

Slavercise for Christ?: Toning up one's body is apparently a need that unites diverse soldiers in America's so-called culture war. In July, USA Today profiled the Lord's Gym in the West Palm Beach suburb of Greenacres, catering to devout Christians (sales pitch: "Your body is a temple for Christ"), where mothers say they can bring their teenage daughters without men ogling them. But in April, Reuters profiled a "Slavercise" class in New York City, where dominatrix "Mistress Victoria" led her clients through punishing fitness and weight-loss routines while wielding an intimidating riding crop.

You break it, you bought it: Australia's High Court ruled 4-3 in July that because Dr. Stephen Cattanach's sterilization surgery on Kerry Melchior had failed, it was Cattanach's (and the Queensland Health Department's) responsibility to pay the cost of raising the Melchiors' unwanted child until age 18. The decision stunned the medical profession and insurers in Australia, especially because Cattanach had relied on Melchior's inaccurate statement that her right fallopian tube had been removed at age 15 (and so performed surgery only on the left tube).

Leading Economic Indicators: The Salon Mexico restaurant in New York City introduced a $45 burrito in July, with a filling of filet mignon and truffles. And the founder of Paul Mitchell salon products recently launched John Paul Pets (shampoos for dogs), joining Estee Lauder's Origins line in the so-far-uncrowded upscale pet hair-care field. And a June runway show at Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo featured eight dogs modeling fashions such as a yellow dog raincoat (US $72) and a wedding dress and matching hat for dogs.

People With Issues: Until May, Darlene Heatherington, 40, was a well-regarded, high-achieving city councilwoman in Lethbridge, Alberta, but then she traveled to Great Falls, Mont., on city business, during which trip an incident occurred. In several shifting public statements since then, Heatherington said she was drugged, kidnapped to Las Vegas and raped. However, police in Las Vegas, Great Falls and Lethbridge have contradicted her accounts, and (in Great Falls and Lethbridge) have charged her with filing false reports. Still, she has stuck to her story (baffling most people in Lethbridge) and denies any emotional problems ("I'm a long way from nuts," she said). (A National Post columnist wrote in June that, most likely, she had a consensual tryst and was then tormented by her own super-straight image.)

Least Competent Criminals: Brian Kline, 10, playing with his father's old handcuffs (Dad used to be a security agent) on Father's Day, lovingly cuffed himself to dad William Kline Jr., 33, but the key was lost, and William called police (in Des Moines, Iowa) to get the cuffs off. As is routine, police ran Kline through their database, found two arrest warrants outstanding, and re-cuffed Kline for real. And in Tulsa, Okla., in July, suspected shoplifter Jacob Wise, 18, had cleverly removed security tags from clothes he was allegedly walking out of a store with, but the alarm went off anyway because he had merely put the removed tags in his pocket.

Brain drain: In July, at an isolated hospital in Peru's Andes mountains, Dr. Cesar Venero realized that patient Centeno Quispe could not be airlifted to a full-service hospital in time to save his life from a brain injury incurred during a street fight. Luckily, the hardware store in the town of Andahuaylas was open, and with a drill and pliers, Venero (who earns the equivalent of about US $5,000 a year) saved Quispe's life by making the necessary holes in the skull to remove the clots that were putting pressure on the brain.

Weird Labor News: According to Norway's Newspaper VG (which is currently running a series on odd summer jobs), teenager Svein Tore Hauge's job may take the prize: Armed with a shovel and a container, he works at Saerheim Plant Research, following cattle around and catching their excreta before it can hit the ground. Because the work-product is used for scientific study, it must be "pristine," free of grass, dirt, foreign bacteria, etc. Sometimes, it's easy, he said, but, "Sometimes it just sprays in all directions." A labor tribunal in Denmark concluded in May that the rule about not drinking alcoholic beverages on the job, issued by management of MJ Mason Co. (Broenderslev, Denmark), was illegal and could not be enforced. The Mason owner had issued a no-drinking rule, but since he did not follow the procedure in the union contract, it was declared void, at least as to employees' break times.

Update: In the latest news from Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Center, a researcher said in June that his study had found that men's underarm odor has a stress-reducing effect on women. The week before that, The Wall Street Journal, profiling the Gillette Co.'s research lab, reported that lab director Ahmet Baydar is working not just on ordinary antibacterial-plus-fragrance products but on a substance that actually blocks odor receptors in other people's noses. (Gillette's tests use a synthetic malodor compound so strong that more than a few molecules can make a room uninhabitable, and involve five odor judges who sniff actual armpits and rate them 1 to 10, with 10 meaning "your head snaps back.")

Sticky situation: The 50th Vienna Biennale opened in Austria in June with its usual array of avant-garde art, including another chapter in Canadian videomaker Jana Sterbak's series on reactions to pain. This time, she strapped a camera to a Jack Russell terrier, Stanley. Among his experiences was an innocent but intrusive exploration of a porcupine, which eventually provoked a quill attack, at which point the video goes haywire as Stanley jumps and writhes in pain. (Stanley appeared with Sterbak at the exhibit and, by his demeanor, apparently has no hard feelings.)

You owe me: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit recently ruled that just because convicted marijuana dealer Frederick R. James had sent the judge invoices for $500,000 each time the judge uttered his name during the trial (which his threats to do were reported in News of the Weird in 2002), that was not proof that James was legally insane. The court thus rejected James' appeal of his 22-year sentence, which makes it further unlikely James will ever collect on the $151 million he says District Judge Michael R. Reagan owes him for the "copyright" violations.

Seriously in denial: Syracuse, N.Y., dungeonmaster John Jamelske, 68, sentenced to 18 years to life in July for holding a series of girls and women as sex slaves underneath his house (though all were eventually released), told the judge that he thought of the slaves as his "buddies," that he would get together with them in the "party room," and that he did not "kidnap" them because no ransom was requested. And in Doylestown Borough, Pa., in May, ex-pediatrician Alva Hartwright, sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison for sexually abusing homeless teenage boys in his care, continued in May to insist that the many enemas he gave them were "medically necessary" and that the reason he had a huge cache of child pornography was because he found the pictures "aesthetically pleasing," in the same way as his other photos of landscapes and wildlife.

Also, in the Last Month: A man allegedly seeking a street-corner prostitute was arrested and, per local law, had his vehicle confiscated, even though his vehicle that night was a municipal transit bus, which he was returning after a shift (Cicero, Ill.). A 45-year-old man fleeing police in a high-speed chase between Oak Ridge, Texas, and Lebanon, Okla., kept calling 911 on his cell phone, asking the operators to tell police to stop chasing him. The Cranbrook (British Columbia) Daily Townsman profiled Irene Weller's cat, Patches, which nurses not only her kittens but also two mice that Weller had recently ejected from the home.

2003 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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