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News of the Weird 10/4/12

by Chuck Shepherd

French Full-Body Health Care As the U.S. government’s role in health care is debated, the French government’s role was highlighted in February with a report on Slate.com about France’s guarantee to new mothers of “10 to 20” free sessions of “la reeducation perineale” (vaginal re-toning to restore the pre-pregnancy condition, a “cornerstone of French post- natal care,” according to Slate). The sessions involve yoga-like calisthenics to rebuild muscles and improve genital flexibility. Similar procedures in the U.S. not only are not government entitlements, but are almost never covered by private insurance, and besides, say surgeons, the patients who request them do so almost entirely for aesthetic reasons. The French program, by contrast, is said to be designed not only for general health but to strengthen women for bearing more children, to raise the birth rate.

Compelling Explanations Drill, Baby, Drill: U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas may have been joking, but according to a February Washington Post story, he seemed serious at a Natural Resources Committee hearing when searching for yet more reasons why the U.S. should support oil drilling in Alaska. Caribou, he said, are fond of the warmth of the Alaskan pipeline. “So when they want to go on a date, they invite each other to head over to the pipeline.” That mating ritual, Rep. Gohmert concluded, is surely responsible for a recent tenfold increase in the local caribou population.

• In assigning a bail of only $20,000, the judge in Ellisville, Miss., seemed torn about whether to believe that Harold Hadley is a terrorist—that is, did Hadley plant a bomb at Jones County Junior College? In February, investigators told WDAM-TV that the evidence against Hadley included a note on toilet paper on which he had written in effect, “I passed a bomb in the library.” However, no bomb was found, and a relative of Hadley’s told the judge that Hadley often speaks of breaking wind as “passing a bomb.” The case is continuing.

• John Hughes, 55, was fined $1,000 in February in Butte, Mont., after pleading guilty to reckless driving for leading police on a 100-mph-plus chase starting at 3:25 a.m. After police deflated his tires and arrested him, an officer asked why he had taken off. Said Hughes, “I just always wanted to do that.”

• Melvyn Webb, 54, was acquitted in March of alleged indecent behavior on a train. An eight-woman, four-man jury in Reading (England) Crown Court found Webb’s explanation entirely plausible—that he was a banjo player and was “playing” some riffs underneath the newspaper in his lap. “(S)ometimes I do, with my hands, pick out a pattern on my knees,” he said. (On the other hand, the female witness against him had testified that Webb “was facing me, breathing heavily and snarling.”)

Ironies Earl Persell, 56, was arrested in Palm Bay, Fla., in February when police were summoned to his home on a domestic violence call. Persell’s girlfriend said he had assaulted her and held her down by the neck, and then moments later, with his truck, rammed the car she was driving away in. The subject of the couple’s argument was legendary singer Tina Turner and her late, wife-beating husband, Ike.

• U.S. military forces called to battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, including reservists and National Guardsmen on active duty, have their civilian jobs protected by federal law, but every year the Pentagon reports having to assist personnel who have been illegally fired or demoted during their tours of duty. Of all the employers in the United States who are seemingly ignorant of the law, one stands out: civilian agencies of the federal government. The Washington Post, using a Freedom of Information Act request, revealed in February that during fiscal year 2011, 18 percent of all complaints under the law were filed against federal agencies.

Fine Points of the Law Internal Revenue Service is battling the estate of art dealer Ileana Sonnabend over the value of a Robert Rauschenberg stuffed bald eagle that is part of his work “Canyon.” IRS has levied taxes as if the work were worth $65 million, but the Sonnabend estate, citing multiple auction-house appraisals, says the correct value is “zero,” since it is impossible to sell the piece because two federal laws prohibit the trafficking of bald eagles, whether dead or alive. (Despite the law, IRS says, there is a black market for the work, for example, by a “recluse billionaire in China (who) might want to buy it and hide it.”)

Least Competent Criminals (1) Maureen Reed, 41, was charged with DWI in March in Lockport, N.Y., after arriving at a police station inebriated. She had gotten into an altercation with two others at the Niagara Hotel and left to go press charges. The police station is about 200 feet from the hotel, but Reed unwisely decided to drive her car there instead of walking. (2) Two men were robbed in a motel room in Bradenton, Fla., in February by Cedrick Mitchell, 39, who pulled a handgun on them, but lost it in a struggle when the men started to fight back. One of the men pepper-sprayed Mitchell, sending him fleeing. He returned a few minutes later and begged to buy the gun back for $40, but all he got was another pepper-spraying. Police arrested Mitchell nearby. {in}