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Wednesday September 17th 2014

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News of the Weird 1/12/12

by Chuck Shepherd

Obsessions: (1) Don Aslett, 76, recently opened the Museum of Clean in Pocatello, Idaho, as the culmination of a lifelong devotion to tidying up. Highlights are several hundred pre-electric vacuum cleaners plus interactive exhibits to encourage kids to clean their rooms. Aslett told London’s Daily Mail in December that people who don’t understand his dedication must never have experienced the satisfaction of making a toilet bowl sparkle. (2) Also starting early in life, Dustin Kruse, 4, is so knowledgeable about toilet models and plumbing mechanics that the Kohler Co. presented him with an advanced-model “dual flush” commode for Christmas. Dustin, a fan of the Kohler showroom, has been known to explain toilet technology to other showroom visitors.

Government in Action! Predator drones are an important weapon against terrorists in Afghanistan, Yemen and other countries, but in June, an unarmed predator was employed stateside to help catch cattle rustlers. The Department of Homeland Security owns eight predators for surveillance and occasionally assists local law enforcement. The cattle rustlers had been arrested, then jumped bail and holed up on their vast ranch near Lakota, N.D., but the predator spotted their exact location on the property, leading to a raid that ended without bloodshed.

Government Inaction: India’s legendarily plodding government bureaucracy had long stymied a snake charmer named Hakkul (a villager in Uttar Pradesh state), who had sought a snake-conservation permit, which had been authorized at one level but delayed locally. In November, finally exasperated, Hakkul walked into the land revenue office in the town of Harraiya with several sacks of snakes (including cobras) and turned them loose, sending clerks and visitors climbing furniture or fleeing. Recent news accounts report that “almost all” of the snakes had been rounded up.

• A December news release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warned of the dangers of Campylobacter jejuni bacteria infections on a sheep ranch, but apparently only among workers who used an old-style (19th century) method of castrating the animals. CDC strongly urged that workers stop biting off the sheep’s genitals and instead use modern tools.

Chutzpah! Convicted serial rapist Steven Phillips was exonerated in 2008, one of a continuing string of wrongly convicted Dallas-area “criminals” proved innocent by DNA testing, and under a formula by state law, he was awarded about $4 million, tax-free, for his 25 years behind bars. Recently, Phillips’ ex-wife filed a petition in court demanding a portion—even though the couple had been divorced for the last 17 years of his incarceration, and the ex-wife had remarried and had a child. (The ex-wife claims it was Phillips who originated the divorce and that she had given up on him only because he had revealed a “disgusting” history as a “peeping tom” and flasher.)

Cliches Come to Life (1) A 28-year-old man in New York City quietly excused himself the morning after his wedding in November (at a hotel following an elaborate reception), took a taxi to a Harlem River overlook, and jumped to his death. According to a relative, the man’s suicide note mentioned that he “couldn’t take it anymore.” (2) Luna Oraivej, 37, was ordered in 2010 by a court in Seattle to take an anger- management course to settle a charge of domestic violence, but in December 2011, she sued the creator of the course because a fellow attendee had stabbed her in the arm during a classroom dispute. (The instructor was playing a video of “Dr. Phil,” and Oraivej had urged the classmate to listen to Dr. Phil’s message, but the classmate apparently could not bear it.) {in}