Chuck Shepherd - Weekender Wire Services

News of the Weird: $4 billion bail, alarming headlines and some undignified deaths

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    U-S-A! U-S-A!

    Although discouraging the marriage of children in developing nations has been U.S. foreign policy for years, a data-collecting watchdog group in America disclosed in February that 27 U.S. states have no minimum marriage ages and estimates that an average of almost 25,000 children age 15 and under are permitted to marry every year (“estimates” because some states do not keep records by age). Child marriage is often allowed in the U.S. if parents approve, although no such exemption is made in foreign policy, largely to curb developing nations’ “family honor” marriages — which often wreck girls’ chances for self-actualizing. (However, “family honor” is still, in some states, the basis for allowing U.S. child marriages, such as with “shotgun” weddings.)

    Runaway math

    1. John Haskew, who told investigators that he was “self-taught on the banking industry,” evidently thought he might succeed making bogus wire transfers to himself from a large (unidentified) national bank, in the amount of $7 billion. He pleaded guilty in February in Lakeland, Fla. (He said he thought he “deserved” the money.)

    2. Katherine Kempson, 49, deciding to pay “cash” for a $1.2 million home, forged (according to York County, Pennsylvania, deputies) a “proof of funds” letter from the Members 1st credit union. Home sales are, of course, highly regulated formalities, and several attempted “closings” were halted when her money kept not showing up. One deputy told a reporter, “I’m guessing that she probably didn’t think it through.”

    3. The highest bail amount ever ordered in America — $4 billion for murder suspect Antonio Willis — was briefly in play in Killeen, Texas, in February, set by Bell County’s elected Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown. Bail was reduced 10 days later to $150,000 by a district court judge, prompting Brown to acknowledge that she set the “$4 billion” to call attention to Texas’ lack of bail standards, which especially punishes indigent arrestees with little hope of raising even modest amounts when accused of minor crimes.

    Wait, what?

    1. Researchers including Rice University biochemist John Olson revealed in a February journal article that one reason a man avoided anemia even though he had a gene mutation that weakened his hemoglobin was because he has been a tobacco smoker — that the carbon monoxide from smoke had been therapeutic. His daughter, with the same gene mutation, did develop anemia since she never smoked (although Olson suggested other ways besides smoking to strengthen hemoglobin, such as by massive vitamin C).

    2. Several death-penalty states continue to be frustrated by whether lethal-injection “cocktails” make death so painful as to be unconstitutionally “cruel,” and Arizona’s latest “solution,” announced as a Department of Corrections protocol, is for the condemned to supply their own (presumably less unpleasant) drugs. (There was immediate objection, noting that such drugs might only be available by black market — and questioning whether the government can legally force someone to kill himself.)

    People with underdeveloped consciences

    1. Just before Christmas, Tammy Strickland, 38, was arrested in Polk County, Fla., and charged with stealing 100 toys from a Toys for Tots collection box.

    2. In February, thieves unbolted and stole a PlayStation from the children’s cancer ward at Wellington Hospital in New Zealand.

    3. Judith Permar, 56, who was found dead, stuck in a clothing donation drop-off box in Mount Carmel, PA., in February (a result, police said, of trying to “steal” items), had driven to the box in her Hummer.

    Recent alarming headlines

    “America’s Top Fortune Cookie Writer Is Quitting Because of Writer’s Block” (Time magazine, 2-3-2017).

    “Vaginal Pain Helps Exonerate Man Accused of Murder” (Miami Herald, 2-8-2017) (emergency medical technicians treating his sister corroborated his alibi).

    “Dresden Protest Against Anti-Islam Pegida Group Banned Over Snowball Fight Fears” (The Independent (London), 1-24-2017) (previously in Dresden, Germany, religious-freedom demonstrators chose “tossing snowballs” as appropriate for ridiculing Pegida).

    Phallic news from overseas

    1. Earlier, He Would Have Been Worshipped: In February, doctors at Narayana Health City in Bangalore, India, were successful in a five-hour, 20-specialist surgery normalizing an infant born with the chromosomal abnormality “polymelia” — which resulted in four legs and two penises. Doctors praised the parents, from rural Puladinni village, for recognizing the issue as “medical” and not as “superstition.”

    2. In February, police in southern Bangladesh arrested a family that used a fake penis to convince neighbors that the family had the powers of genies (“djinns”). The villagers had known the family had a girl, but overnight the genies had “changed” her into a “boy,” thus frightening the villagers into making offerings to the family.

    Undignified deaths

    1. Unhappy Ending: Clifford Jones, 58, was killed in a one-vehicle crash in Detroit in January, having lost control of his car because, according to Michigan State Police, he was distracted by watching pornography on his cellphone. He was also not wearing pants.

    2. Leslie Ray Charping, 75, of Galveston, Texas, lived “much longer than he deserved,” according to his daughter, in a widely shared obituary in February, in a life that “served no obvious purpose.” The death notice referenced his “bad parenting” and “being generally offensive,” and closed with “Leslie’s passing proves that evil does in fact die.”

    Least competent criminals

    Willie Anthony, 20, and Jamarqua Davis, 16, were arrested in Kannapolis, N.C., in February after, police said, they broke into a Rent-a-Center at 2 a.m. and stole a big-screen TV. After loading the set into one car, they drove off in separate vehicles, but in their haste, smashed into each other in the parking lot. Both men subsequently drove the wrong way down South Cannon Boulevard, and both then accidentally crashed separately into other vehicles, allowing police to catch up.

    The Passing Parade

    1. Nelson Foyle, 93, is believed to be Britain’s longest-time patron of the same pub (the Dog and Gun in Salisbury, England), and fellow drinkers recently bought him an honorary “lordship” title to mark his 80th year on the establishment’s barstools.

    2. An art collective in a Los Angeles storefront re-created (for a two-week run in January) a retro video store that featured only boxed VHS editions of the movie “Jerry Maguire” — about 14,000 copies.

    A News of the Weird Classic (May 2013)

    The beauty pageant each April at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, Texas, requires traditional abilities (interview poise, evening-gown fashion, talent), but also some skill and inclination to milk and skin rattlers. High school senior Kyndra Vaught won 2013’s Miss Snake Charmer, wearing jeweled boots one night for her country-western ballad, then Kevlar boots and camouflage chaps the next as she took on dozens of rattlers in the wooden snake pit. Vaught expertly held up one snake, offered its tail-end rattles for a baby to touch, then helped measure, milk and skin the buzzing, slithery serpent.

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    Chuck Shepherd

    Weekender Wire Services

    Reach Weekender at wbwnews@civitasmedia.com. Read more weird news at www.WeirdUniverse.net; send items to WeirdNews earthlink.net, and P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Florida, 33679.

    Reach Weekender at wbwnews@civitasmedia.com. Read more weird news at www.WeirdUniverse.net; send items to WeirdNews earthlink.net, and P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Florida, 33679.