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News of the Weird 12/29/11

by Chuck Shepherd

A regional development commission in Michigan, purchasing equipment for 13 counties in May using homeland security grants, bought 13 machines that make snow cones, at a total cost of $11,700 (after rejecting one county’s request for a popcorn machine). Pressed to justify the purchases, officials pointed out that the machines make shaved ice, which might be useful for medical situations stemming from natural disasters and heat emergencies (but that they also make snow cones to draw crowds at homeland security demonstrations).

Recurring Themes: Once again, a genius tried to pass a piece of U.S. currency in an amount not even close to being legal tender: a $1 million bill. (The largest denomination is $100.) Michael Fuller, 53, was arrested in Lexington, N.C., in November when a Walmart cashier turned him in after he attempted to buy electronics totaling $475.78 (apparently expecting change of $999,524.22).

• Most News of the Weird epic cases of “scorned” lovers who seemingly never give up obnoxiously stalking their exes are of Japanese women, but “dumped” Americans surface occasionally. In October, Toni Jo Silvey, 49, was arrested in Houston when her ex (artist Peter Main) reported that she made 146 phone calls in one day and more than 1,000 (and 712 e-mails) in three months, following their 2009 breakup over his seeing a younger woman. She was also charged with attacking his home with a tire iron, eggs and a sword.

• “Take Your Daughter (Son) to Work” days are still popular at some companies, to introduce children to their parents’ cultures. Inadvertently, even criminals mimic the phenomenon. Joseph Romano, 2-year-old son in tow, was allegedly selling drugs when police picked him up in September in Tunkhannock Township, Pa. And Edward Chatman Jr., 32, who was arrested for raping a woman in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in August, had brought his 6-month-old baby with him when he climbed through the woman’s window (though, police said, he stashed the kid in another room during the assault).

• A cutting-edge treatment when News of the Weird first heard of it in 2000 is now mainstream for those suffering extreme diarrhea due to a lack of “predator bacteria” in the colon (perhaps caused by antibiotics). Among the primary treatments now is a transplant — a transfusion of “fecal flora” from the gut of a bacteria-normal person, to restore the natural balance (introduced by a colonoscope after the stool is liquified in a blender). Following months of failed alternatives, Jerry Grant, 33, said in October that his transplant, at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., worked remarkably well. (A recent study reported success in 70 of 77 patients.)

• The law of child support changes only slowly in the U.S., but maybe less so in Australia. American courts are reluctant to end payments even if the man later disproves paternity (citing the harm to the child if the payments stop). However, in October, the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne, Australia, acting on fertility-test results, ordered a mother to reimburse the man she swore was the father after he proved he had been sterile. The woman also “recalled,” after extensive therapy, that she might have had a one-night stand with a stranger around the time of conception.

• Perversion Du Jour: The 10-year-old law-enforcement crackdown on Internet child pornography has lately hit a technicality-based roadblock. Several times recently, perverts have beaten charges after creating “child pornography” that consisted of nude adult female bodies onto which facial photos of young girls had been pasted. This handiwork was apparently arousing to two Lakeland, Fla., men, Danny Parker, convicted in 2011, and John Stelmack, convicted in 2010, but both ultimately had their convictions overturned because no actual child was involved in sex.

• Forgetting to pay the monthly rental fees on a storage locker can have serious consequences if the locker was used to store embarrassing or even incriminating materials. News of the Weird reported one such hapless client in 2007: a central Florida political activist under investigation whose locker yielded a rich trove for a local reporter. Similarly, perhaps, Dr. Conrad Murray (then under suspicion in the death of Michael Jackson) reportedly missed three payments on a Las Vegas storage locker, and prosecutors recovered items that appeared to contribute to their case (although it is not clear that any of the items were ever presented in court).

•  Hospital protocols may be changing, but too slowly for Doreen Wallace, who fell in the lobby of the Greater Niagara General Hospital in Ontario in October and broke her hip. Though it was less than 150 feet from the lobby to the emergency room, hospital personnel, following rules, instructed her to call an ambulance to take her around to the ER, though the nearest such ambulance, in the next city, did not arrive for 30 pain-filled minutes. Hospital officials said they would handle things better in the future.