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News of the Weird


The "F" is for "Free Market":

China's youth and young adults are increasingly beyond the communist government's control in their spending and leisure habits, according to a May dispatch in Toronto's Globe and Mail. Although party leaders still appear on "most-admired" lists, so do Bill Gates and pop stars such as the Taiwanese boy band F4, and older Chinese complain that superficial, amoral kids know more lyrics of Michael Jackson than sayings of Mao Tse-tung. (The government recently banned an imported, 15-episode TV show starring F4, but had to back down because of the boys' popularity among screaming teenage girls and because of complaints by government TV stations that they needed the advertising revenue the show would bring in.)Model Misbehavior:

"Dozens" of money-making websites have recently been created by parents who post photos they have taken of their adolescent daughters (as young as age 6) frolicking in frilly clothing or swimwear, according to a May New York Daily News report. The sites are operated like pornography businesses, with some free teaser photos, but with $30-a-month "members" getting access to the photo archive and "personal" messages from the "model." Some sites operate chat rooms where members discuss the girls in great detail. One "typical" site has 3,000 daily users, and another had 32 million page views in nine months. The parents say they are helping their daughters with modeling careers or with future college expenses.

Shapers of Young Minds:

Middle-school teacher Timothy Thomure, 46, admitted rubbing a knife blade along a student's finger (and other acts of intimidation) to "loosen [students] up and get them to interact" (Sedalia, Mo., March). Parents of an 8-year-old boy recently asked school officials for counseling help to deal with a lingering 1999 incident in which a teacher disciplined him by dumping a cup of cockroaches on his chest (Houston, April). A middle-school teacher was fired for allegedly throwing a chair at a student during a "behavior management" class (Pflugerville, Texas, May). A Sunday school teacher was convicted of a misdemeanor for counseling a teenage boy that a good way to curb his masturbation habit was to write "What would Jesus do?" on his penis (Andover, Minn., June).The Litigious Society:

June Bond, 34, filed a $300,000 claim against Ventura County (Calif.) because her husband (on a work program for violating probation) stomped a palm frond down into a Dumpster, and it snapped back and severed his ear, causing him, she said, to no longer be affectionate. And Tim and Donna Vogle filed a lawsuit against a restaurant in St. Joseph, Mo., in June, claiming that the owner slapped Mrs. Vogle in the head with a raw steak (after she complained that it was overdone) and that as a result, the couple's sex life has been 75 percent diminished.

Unclear on the Concept:

Correction Service of Canada recently touted some prisons' successful model programs of allowing inmates who request it to live in certain wings designated as drug-free zones (even though all sections of all prisons are supposed to be drug-free). And Suffolk County (Mass.) has begun to pay its prison guards a $1,000 yearly bonus if they test clean for illegal drugs. (The programs in both of these stories were enticements to get inmates and guards to agree to random drug testing, which would otherwise be prohibited.)

Undignified Deaths:

A 49-year-old Kingman, Ariz., inmate was killed when he slipped on feces he had expelled in his cell and struck his head on the floor (April). A 60-year-old Tucson, Ariz., model-airplane enthusiast was killed when he was accidentally hit in the chest by his own radio-controlled, 6-pound, 5-foot-wing-span plane (May).

Also, in the Last Month:

Four women were taken in by a man who persuaded them to stand topless at their windows so that cutting-edge global satellite technology could give them at-home mammograms (Algarve region of southern Portugal). The "Barbasol bandit," a 44-year-old convenience-store robber whose "mask" consisted of slathered-on shaving cream, pleaded guilty (Vernon, Conn.). A 280-pound sea lion arose from San Francisco Bay, crossed two runways and made it to a terminal at SFX airport before security detected it. A Columbus, Ohio, suburb proclaimed that residents with odd street addresses should sit in their yards on Friday nights so that people on the other side of the street can visit them, with the situation reversed on Saturday nights (Worthington, Ohio). 2002 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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