American families from certain Asian and African cultures continue to ritually “circumcise” their young daughters, though the practice is illegal in the U.S. and most of the world. In May, the bioethics committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its policy from absolutely banning such surgery to one which would sanction a minor “pinprick” on girls’ genitals (comparable, it said, to ear-piercing), with the hope of satisfying parents so they would not opt to send the girls to the home countries for full genital “mutilation.” U.S. anti-female-circumcision support groups were outraged. Said one advocate, “We don’t let (husbands) beat their wives a little bit” just because their cultures permit wife-beating. (On May 26, following that storm of criticism, the academy rescinded the policy change.)
Government in Action!
The local government of Bolton, England, responding in March to a citizen’s report of a discarded mattress on the side of a road, sent an official to assess the scene. He wrote a work order for four men (a driver, an assistant and two supervisors) and a 1.7-ton construction vehicle, and the pickup was scheduled for the following week, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph. (When a Bolton councilman saw the schedule, he, with the help of a friend, drove a council van to the scene and hauled the mattress to a dump site.)
A Hollywood, Fla., leukemia patient on Medicaid had endured six months of grueling chemotherapy in order to be healthy enough for a long awaited bone marrow transplant when, in March, a Social Security Administration caseworker called her up out of the blue to inform her that her son was eligible for disability payments, which the woman immediately signed up for. However, almost as immediately, Medicaid removed her from its rolls because the disability check raised her income beyond the qualifying maximum, and her transplant was, life-threateningly, canceled. (In April, the hospital persuaded Medicaid to cover the transplant.)
Apparently, the death penalty is so important to Californians that they spend $125 million a year administering it, plus $400 million recently for a new death row and execution chamber even though the state is notoriously nearly bankrupt and even though, in a death-row population of more than 700, only 13 have been executed in the past 30 years. (As News of the Weird mentioned last year, one killer demanded the death penalty instead of life in prison because death row has better facilities and because, like nearly everyone on death row, he expects to die of disease or natural causes before the state can execute him.) Said the outraged mother of a raped-and-murdered teenage boy, of her son’s killer, “(Scott Erskine) is (in) there watching television knowing I am going to die before he does.”
Susan Collis’ conceptual art, “Since I Fell for You,” debuted at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, England, in May, consisting of an empty room with pieces of lumber on the floor, along with a broom propped against a wall and an empty laundry bag. Though the Birmingham Mail quoted several annoyed visitors, Collis defended her work. “Often a work that looks very careless ... takes a long time to produce.”
Just finishing up in May at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art is a tribute to performance artist Marina Abramovic for her lifetime achievements in making patrons uneasy. Videos played, including one in which the artist screams at the top of her lungs until such time as she loses her voice, and visitors faced unsettling live demonstrations, including being asked to enter a room by squeezing between a naked man and woman facing each other in the doorway. The artist herself planned to attend the entire run sitting at a table in the museum’s atrium, silent and motionless, all day long, during which time patrons could stare back at her.
A 2009 Minnesota law gives local police the authority to make traffic stops to enforce the standalone offense of failure of a passenger to wear a seat belt. According to a report in the Pioneer Press, police in the St. Paul suburb of Maplewood take it seriously. An undercover cop, posing as a homeless man with a “will work for food” sign, roamed an intersection, peering into cars and secretly signaling colleagues, who subsequently pulled over violators, and all unbelted passengers were issued $108 tickets: $25 for the violation, $75 for a brand-new “surcharge” for petty misdemeanors, and an $8 general state fee (none of which, according to the legislative history, represented a “tax increase”).
Galena Park, Texas, high school teacher Fernando Gonzalez, 35, was sentenced to seven years in prison in March as a result of his being caught using his classroom computer to watch child pornography from his many disks. He tried to explain that he had no other choice, in that his wife had already banned him from watching child porn at home.
James Fall, 58, told police in Mound, Minn., in March that his “marriage” to his 10-year-old niece was perfectly acceptable in that he is a “prophet of God,” citing Corinthians 6:12.
Adam Disabato, who said he is “the Messiah,” was arrested in Pittsburgh in April after he drove his car into the Poale Zedeck synagogue, causing about $30,000 in damages. “I’m not crazy, and I don’t hear voices. I just got a feeling sent by God to drive real fast for some reason.”
Illustrations by Tom Briscoe. Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or visit www.newsoftheweird.com.