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Friday October 31st 2014

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News of the Weird

By Chuck Sheppard

In January, a baby was born to Canadians Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, but seven months later, they still have not revealed to family or friends whether little “Storm” is a boy or a girl. The couple are intending to raise Storm free of gender-specific cultural stereotypes (i.e., such things as domesticity, aggressiveness, preferences for arts or mathematics) because society tends to overvalue “boy” norms. On a larger scale, in Stockholm, according to a June Associated Press dispatch, the 33 Swedish preschoolers at the Egalia school socialize in daily environments scrubbed of all gender references. For example, boys and girls alike play with kitchen toys and building materials, and when playing “family,” parental roles are interchangeable. Critics say the children will be left unprepared for the “real” world.

Who Knew? “The streets of 47th Street are literally paved with gold,” said one of New York City’s gold wranglers, as he, down on all fours and manipulating tweezers, picked specks of gold, silver and jewels that had fallen off of clothing and jewelry racks as they were rolled from trucks into stores. The man told the New York Post in June that he had recently earned $819 in redemptions for six days’ prospecting.

New, on the News of the Weird Food Cart (1) grasshopper tacos (at San Francisco’s La Oaxaquena Bakery, but pulled in June by local health authorities, who were concerned that the bakery was importing Mexican insects rather than using American ones); (2) cicada ice cream (at Sparky’s Homemade in Columbia, Mo., but also yanked off sale by local health authorities in June); (3) maggot-melt sandwiches (which are just what you suspect—cheese and dead maggots—at the California State Fair in July).
• In June, scientists at China’s Agricultural University in Beijing announced that they had produced human breast milk from genetically modified dairy cows and expect supplies to be available in supermarkets within three years. Employing technology once used to produce the sheep “Dolly,” researchers created a herd of 300 modified cows, which yielded milk that was reported as “sweeter” and “stronger” than typical cow milk.

Growing Up Early (1) A loaded handgun fell from the pocket of a kindergarten student in Houston in April, firing a single bullet that slightly wounded two classmates and the “shooter.” (2) Prosecutors in Grant County, Wis., filed first-degree sexual assault charges recently against a 6-year-old boy, stemming from a game of “doctor” that authorities say he pressured a 5-year-old girl into in 2010. (3) Lakewood, Colo., police, attempting to wrest control of a sharpened stick that a second-grade boy was using to threaten classmates and a teacher, gave him two shots of pepper spray. (The boy had just finished shouting to police, “Get away from me you f—ers.”)
Leading Economic Indicators In June, officials of California’s Alvord Unified School District announced that their brand-new, $105 million high school, Hillcrest, would remain unused for the coming school year (and perhaps beyond) — because the budget-strapped state does not have $3 million to run the school for a year. (In any event, it costs $1 million per year just to maintain the building to prevent its deterioration.)

Full-Circle-Outsourcing A Mumbai, India, company, Aegis Communications, announced in May that it will hire about 10,000 new employees to work in its call centers fielding customer service problems for U.S.-based companies. However, those jobs are not in India. Aegis will outsource those jobs to Americans, at $12 to $14 an hour, at nine call centers in the United States.

Recurring Themes News of the Weird has mentioned various overseas prisons where crime kingpins serve time in relative comfort (through bribery or fear), but according to a June New York Times dispatch, Venezuela’s San Antonio prison (which houses the country’s drug traffickers) is in a class of its own. San Antonio’s four swimming pools frequently host inmates’ families and “guests,” who lounge with barbecue meals and liquor. Paid “bodyguards” pass the time shucking oysters for alpha-dog-inmate Teofilo Rodriguez. DirecTV dishes serve the cells. Drug-smuggling via guards is so prevalent that Venezuelan locals actually visit the prison to buy the surplus (which they carry out because guards only “search” them upon entering). Rodriguez’s enforcement is backed up by an openly displayed arsenal of guns. Said a Russian drug trafficker-inmate, “This is the strangest place I’ve ever been.”

People Who Accidently Shot Themselves Recently Sean Murphy, 38, destroyed most of his finger trying to shoot off a wart (South Yorkshire, England, June). A Secret Service agent (assigned to Nancy Reagan) shot himself in the hip holstering his gun (Ventura, Calif., February). A 17-year-old boy, playing with a gun in bed, shot himself in the testicles (Orlando, February). A training officer at the Ohio Peace Officer Academy shot himself in the thigh (December). Sheriff Lorin Nielson of Bannock County, Idaho, shot himself in the hand (December). Johnathan Hartman, 27, holstering his gun in his back pocket (after threatening his girlfriend), shot himself in the butt (Billings, Mont., December). A man trying to scratch his nose with a pellet gun shot himself in the face (Amherst, Mass., November).