News of the weird: Bathroom-themed restaurants, gender taken to a whole new level and India’s ‘baby tossing’ outlawed
New World Order
Australians are about to learn how particular some people are about their genders. Queensland University of Technology and three other sponsors have created an online preference survey (currently underway) that asks participants to decide among 33 “genders” (since “gender” is, according to the World Health Organization, “socially constructed”). “Male” and “female” are clear enough — but only where “identity” matches plumbing. Otherwise, it’s “trans” or “transsexual,” or else the more complicated bigender, omnigender, polygender, pangender, intergender, genderfluid, “cisgender,” trigender, demigender, “gender non-conforming,” “non-binary,” “none gender” and a few others.
Latest Religious Messages
India has supposedly outlawed the “baby-tossing” religious test popular among Hindus and Muslims in rural villages in Maharashtra and Karnataka states, but a July New York Times report suggested that parents were still allowing surrogates to drop their newborn infants from 30 feet up and awaiting the gods’ blessing for a prosperous, healthy life. In all cases, according to the report, the gods come through, and a bedsheet appears below to catch the unharmed baby.
Government in Action
1. More federal civilian employees have “arrest and firearms authority” than the total number of active-duty U.S. Marines, according to a June report by the organization Open The Books, which claims to have tallied line-by-line expenditures across the government. Several agencies (including the IRS and EPA) purchase assault weapons and other military-grade equipment (camouflage, night-vision goggles, 30-round magazines) for their agents, and even the Small Business Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Department of Education buy their agents guns and ammo.
2. San Diego Padres outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. was traded on July 23 to the Toronto Blue Jays in the middle of a series between the Padres and the Blue Jays in Toronto. Normally, such a player would merely gather his belongings and walk down the hall to the other team’s locker room. However, while Canada treats Blue Jays’ opponents as “visitors,” Blue Jays players, themselves, are Canadian employees, and if not residents must have work permits. Upton had to leave the stadium and drive to Lewiston, New York, which is the closest place he could find to apply to re-enter Canada properly. (He made it back by game time.)
Leading Economic Indicators
1. Since Bulgaria, on Romania’s southern border, lies close to Romania’s iconic Transylvania region, Bulgarian tourism officials have begun marketing their own vampire tourism industry — stepped up following a 2014 archaeological find of a 4th-century “graveyard” of adolescents with iron stakes through their chests.
2. The new tourism minister of Thailand is threatening to close down the lucrative sex business in Bangkok and Pattaya, even with the country still rallying from a 2014 near-recession. Ms. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul insisted that visitors are not interested in “such a thing (as sex)” but come for Thailand’s “beautiful” culture.
Paid to Go Away
Sports Illustrated noted in May that some universities are still paying out millions of dollars to failed coaches who had managed to secure big contracts in more optimistic times. Notre Dame’s largest athletic payout in 2014 was the $2.05 million to ex-football coach Charlie Weis — five years after he had been fired. That ended Weis’s Notre Dame contract (which paid him $15 million post-dismissal), but he is still drawing several million dollars from the University of Kansas despite having been let go there, also.
The Continuing Crisis
Horniness: A year-long, nationwide investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (reporting in May) found more than 2,400 doctors penalized for sexually abusing their patients — with state medical boards ultimately allowing more than half to continue practicing medicine. Some doctors, a reporter noted, are among “the most prolific sex offenders in the country,” with “hundreds” of victims.
2. District Judge Joseph Boeckmann (in Arkansas’s rural Cross County) resigned in May after the state Judicial Discipline committee found as many as 4,500 nude or semi-nude photos of young men who had been before Boeckmann in court. (Some were naked, being paddled by Boeckmann, who trolled for victims by writing young men notes offering a “community service” option.
For Good Measure
1. Rhys Holman pleaded guilty to a firearms charge in Melbourne, Australia, in July for shooting 53 bullets into his brother’s Xbox. (The brother had urinated on Holman’s car.)
2. Mauricio Morales-Caceres, 24, was sentenced to life in prison by a Montgomery County, Maryland, judge in July following his April conviction for fatally stabbing a “friend” — 89 times.
Boldface Names in News of the Weird!
1. Police in Southampton, New York, confirmed a July altercation in which model Christie Brinkley water-hosed a woman she had spotted urinating on her beachfront property. Erica Remkus, 36, said her need was urgent after watching a July 4 fireworks show, but Brinkley shouted, “How dare you!” and, “I walk on these rocks (where Remkus had relieved herself).”
2. Actress Brooke Shields made the news when she — as a curator of an art show in Southampton, New York — managed to rescue a piece that custodians had inadvertently tossed into the garbage. (The cleanup crew had made an understandable mistake, as the statue was a raccoon standing next to a trashcan, ready to rummage.)
1. Knoxville, Tennessee, firefighters were called to a home in July when a woman tried to barbecue brisket in her bathroom — and, in addition to losing control of the flame, melted her fiberglass bathtub. Firefighters limited the damage — by turning on the shower.
2. One day earlier, in Union, South Carolina, a 33-year-old woman called police to her home, claiming that she had fallen asleep on her couch with her “upper plate” in her mouth, but that when she awoke, it was gone and that she suspects a teeth-napping intruder.
How to Tell if You’re Drunk
The owner of the Howl At The Moon Bar in Gold Coast, Australia, released surveillance video of a July break-in (later inspiring the perpetrator to turn himself in). The man is seen trying to enter the locked bar at 3 a.m., then tossing a beer keg at a glass door three times, finally creating a hole large enough to climb through, acrobatically, and fall to the floor (lit cigarette remaining firmly between his lips). Once inside, he stood at the bar, apparently waiting for someone to take his order. When no one came, he meekly left through the same door. The owner said nothing was taken, and nothing else was damaged.
Too Many Toilet-Themed Restaurants: The first one, in Taiwan, made News of the Weird in 2006, but recently two more opened their doors. One, in Semarang, Indonesia (on Java island), serves only one dish — brown meatballs floating in thick soup, arrayed in a toilet-shaped pan. The owner’s secondary agenda is to inspire people to install toilets in their homes. In Toronto’s Koreatown, a dessert-themed one was scheduled to open in August with patron seating on you-know-whats and a variety of brown sweets such as swirly-stool-shaped chocolate ice cream. Potty-themed restaurants have opened in Russia, South Korea, the Philippines, China, Japan and Los Angeles.
A News of the Weird Classic (August 2012)
A Michigan government watchdog group learned, in a Freedom of Information Act request, that the Detroit Water and Sewage Department still has one job on the payroll as a “horseshoer.” (The Department owns no horses.) Over the years, the position has become a patronage slot paying about $57,000 a year in salary and benefits, and sometimes the “horseshoer” has been asked to do “blacksmith” work, such as metal repair. (The city employees’ union fights to retain every job, no matter its title.)
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