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News of the Weird 9/13/12

by Chuck Shepherd

Innate opera Researchers Having Fun: Scientists from the Primate Research Institute at Japan’s Kyoto University reported in an August journal article that they had given helium gas to apes (gibbons), which, predictably, made their voices goofily high-pitched. However, it was not a fraternity prank or lab assistant’s initiation, but a way for the scientists to determine whether the famously sonorous gibbons could yell just as loudly at a higher-than-natural pitch. The gibbons succeeded, showing a rare talent similar to that of the world’s greatest human sopranos, who maintain their booming amplitude by altering the shape of their vocal tract, including their mouth and tongue.

Latest Religious Messages Prayer failed for Leslie Burton, 26, and Terrell Williams, 22, in St. Paul, Minn., in July. As they sat in the back seat of a police car while officers searched their own car, the pair, touching hands (according to the cruiser’s video camera), quietly begged divine intervention that the guns in their car not be found. However, not only were the guns spotted, but a subsequent strip search revealed a baggie of suspected Ecstasy pills in Williams’ rectum.
• In August, an abbot at the Wat Phra Dhammakaya Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand, reported that Steve Jobs is doing well now as a “mid-level angel.” He was reincarnated as “a half-Witthayathorn, half-Yak,” which the Bangkok Post took to mean that Jobs continues to be a “giant” and a seeker of scientific knowledge and apparently resides in a “parallel universe” near his former office in Cupertino, Calif.

Questionable Judgments The mayor of Triberg, Germany, touted his town’s new public parking area in July by noting that 12 of the spaces were wider, and well-lit, compared to the others, and would be reserved for female drivers. The harder-to-access “men’s spaces” required maneuvering at an angle around concrete pillars. “(M)en are, as a rule, a little better at such challenges,” the mayor said, predicting that the men’s spots would become a visitors’ “attraction” for the town.

• Bright Ideas: New signs were posted on doors of single-use restrooms in two medical clinics in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in July and immediately confused a transgender activist interviewed by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News. Three silhouette figures appear on the door: a man, a woman, and what is supposedly a gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender (which is a half-man, half-woman with the right-hand side of the figure wearing a dress and with sloping shoulders and the left-hand side with the thicker pant legs of a man). Said the activist, “I understand they were trying to … make people feel included, but…”

Fine Points of the Law Finally responding to defense lawyers, the U.S. Department of Justice acknowledged that it has been trying to keep certain North Carolina inmates locked up even though judges had declared them legally innocent. About 60 prisoners, according to a June USA Today investigation, were victims of an incorrect interpretation of federal gun-possession law supposedly rectified by a May 2011 U.S. Court of Appeals decision, but the Justice Department had continued to demand holds, for 12 months, arguing that somehow it still needed time to consider the men’s records. (Some of the inmates are serving time for multiple counts and would only be eligible for sentence reductions.) In August, the department, sportingly, said it would stop opposing release of the men who had been ruled innocent more than a year earlier.

Least Competent People Not Into Politics: Lowell Turpin, 40, was arrested in Anderson County, Tenn., in July after he became jealously enraged at a stranger’s photo on his live-in girlfriend’s Facebook page and, demanding to know who the man is, allegedly punched her in the face and smashed her computer. According to the police report, it was a campaign photo of Mitt Romney.

Armed and Clumsy (all-new!) Men Who Accidentally Shot Themselves Recently: A man in Wawa, Ontario, in July, clubbing a mouse with the butt end of a rifle. The 56-year-old man in Sparks, Nev., who brought his handgun with him to “The Bourne Legacy” after the Colorado massacre and was shot in the buttocks when it fell to the floor. Two men who shot themselves in the genitals (a 45-year-old in Birmingham, Mich., in June and 36-year-old Tavares Colbert in Oklahoma City in July). Tough guys like the 18-year-old in Philadelphian who fired the unloaded (he thought!) gun at his own head after his “manhood” was challenged, and the 17-year-old in Largo, Fla., in June who lost in the first round at Russian roulette. Two people didn’t even need a gun to shoot themselves: a Modesto, Calif., weightlifter whose dumbbell slipped to the floor in April and landed on a bullet, and a 56-year-old woman in Montoursville, Pa., who apparently carries bullets in her purse, and somehow had one explode, wounding her.