News of the Weird M512, January 29, 2017

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Chuck Shepherd

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Jan 29, 2017, 9:11:18 AM1/29/17
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WEIRDNUZ.M512 (News of the Weird, January 29, 2017)
by Chuck Shepherd
    
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd.  All rights reserved.

Lead Story                                  
              
* Suspicions Confirmed:  Schools' standardized tests are often
criticized as harmfully rigid, and in the latest version of the Texas
Education Agency's STAAR test, poet Sara Holbrook said she
flubbed the "correct" answer for "author motivation"--in two of her
own poems that were on the test.  Writing in Huffington Post in
January, a disheartened Holbrook lamented, "Kids' futures and the
evaluations of their teachers will be based on their ability to guess
the so-called correct answer to [poorly] made-up questions."
[Huffington Post, 1-5-2017]

Compelling Explanations

* In December, James Leslie Kelly, 52 and with a 37-conviction rap
sheet dating to 1985, filed a federal lawsuit in Florida claiming that
his latest brush with the law was Verizon's fault and not his.  Kelly
was convicted of stealing the identity of another James Kelly and
taking more than $300 in Verizon services.  He bases his case on
the Verizon's sales representative's having spent "an hour and a
half" with him--surely enough time, he says, to have figured out that
he was not the "James Kelly" he was pretending to be.  He seeks
$72 million.  [WFTV (Orlando), 1-2-2016]

* In Hong Kong in December, Mr. Lam Chung-kan, 37, pleaded
guilty to stealing a bottle of a co-worker's breast milk at work and
drinking it--but only to help with "stress" in his job as a computer
technician.  Undermining the health-improvement explanation was
a photo Lam sent the woman, showing himself in an aroused state.)
[South China Morning Post, 12-21-2016]

Ironies

* London's The Guardian reported in January that "dozens" of
people have been charged or jailed recently for "defaming" the new
Myanmar government, which has been headed (in a prime-minister-
like role) since April by Aung San Suu Kyi, who was elected after
her release from house detention following two decades of
persecution for criticizing the longtime military regime.  For her
struggle for free speech, Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1991.  Said the wife of arrestee, Myo Yan Naung Thein,
on trial for "criminal defamation" of Suu Kyi's regime, "[He] is
not insulting [but] just criticizing, with facts.  This is freedom of
speech."  [The Guardian, 1-9-2017]

The Litigious Society

* High Finance:  Sometime in 2006, a photographer on assignment
roamed a Chipotle restaurant in Denver, Colo., snapping photos of
customers.  Leah Caldwell was one person photographed, but says
she refused to sign the photographer's "release"--and was surprised,
nevertheless, to see a photo of herself in a Chipotle promotion in
2014 and again in 2015 (and on her table in the photo were
"alcoholic beverages" she denied ever ordering).  In January,
Caldwell said the misuse of her image is Chipotle's fault for
ignoring her non-"release," and thus that she is entitled to all of the
profits Chipotle earned between 2006 and 2015:  $2.237 billion.
[KMGH (Denver), 1-5-2017]

Precocious

* In December, Ashlynd Howell, age 6, of Little Rock, Ark., deftly
mashed her sleeping mother's thumbprint onto her phone to unlock
the Amazon app and order $250 worth of Pokemon toys.  Mom later
noticed 13 email confirmations and asked Ashlynd if something was
amiss.  According to the Wall Street Journal report, Ashlynd said,
"No, Mommy, I was shopping." [Wall Street Journal, 12-23-2016]

Leading Economic Indicators

* The British think tank High Pay Centre reported in January that
the average CEO among the UK's top 100 companies (in the
Financial Times Stock Exchange index) earns the equivalent of
around $1,500 an hour--meaning that a 12-hour-a-day boss will
earn, by mid-day January 4th, as much money as the typical worker
at his firm will earn the entire year.  (Around the same time, the
anti-poverty organization Oxfam reported, to an astonished press,
that eight men--six Americans, headed by Bill Gates--have the same
total "net worth" as the 3.6 billion people who comprise the poorest
half of the planet.) [The Guardian, 1-3-2017] [New York Times, 1-
16-2017]

* An organization that tracks "high net worth" investors (Spectrem
Group of Lake Forest, Ill.) reported recently that, of Americans
worth $25 million or more, only about two-thirds donate $10,000 or
more yearly to charity.  And then there is Charles Feeney, 85, of
New York City, who in December made his final gift to charity ($7
million to Cornell University), completing his pledge to give away
almost everything he had--$8 billion.  (He left his wife and himself
$2 million to live on, in their rental apartment in San Francisco.)  A
January New York Times profile noted that nothing is "named" for
Feeney, that the gifts were mostly anonymous, and that Feeney
assiduously cultivated his low profile.  [Harper's Index (February
2017)] [New York Times, 1-6-2017]

* A "disturbingly large" (according to one report) number of
smartphone apps are available devoted to calculating how much the
user has "earned" per day and per year during restroom breaks
answering nature's calls while at work.  Australia's News Limited's
rough calculation estimated US$1,227 for someone making
US$55,000 a year, but results might vary since there are so many
apps:  Poop Salary, ToiletPay, Log-Log, Paid 2 Poo, Pricy Poop,
Poop Break and perhaps others. [News Limited via New York Post,
12-9-2016]

People Different From Us

* "Every major event in my life has been about insects," Aaron
Rodriques, 26, told the New York Times in December, home in
New York City during a winter break from his doctoral research at
Purdue University on the "sweet tergal secretions" of German
cockroaches, and on his way to buy a supply of crickets and
hornworms.  ("Hornworms," he said, have an "amazing defense"
where they "eat tobacco for the nicotine, which they exhale as a gas
to scare away predators.")  "When I'm feeling stressed out,"
Rodriques said, he might take one out to "calm me down."  He met
his first girlfriend when she was attracted to his pet giant African
millipede (as long as a human forearm) but admits that "for the vast
majority" of time in school, "I was alone."  [New York Times, 12-
29-2016]

Updates

* Two years ago, News of the Weird updated previous entries by
noting that China's Ministry of Culture had cracked down on the
centuries-old tradition of festively over-the-top funerals (ceremonies
to assure the family that the deceased did not die "faceless")--by
arresting the song-and-dance people (including strippers and pole-
dancers) peddling their services to mourners.  Even though that ban
has been working, nostalgic Chinese can still see great funeral pole-
dancing--in Taiwan--according to a January report on the death of
Chiayi county official Tung Hsiang, featuring 50 "scantily-clad"
entertainers.  (Pole-dancing, itself, is still big in China, where the
national pole-dancing team recently performed its annual outdoor
show, wearing shorts and halter tops, in the country's northernmost
Beiji village--where the temperature was minus-33C.) [Shanghaiist,
1-5-20-17] [Shanghaiist, 12-21-2016]

The Passing Parade

* (1) Woodstock, Vt., police arrested a 28-year-old man for bank
robbery in January, with a key piece of evidence coming to their
attention when a disapproving Vermonter noted a paper coffee cup
not in its proper recycling bin.  The cup held the robber's holdup
note and DNA.  (2) A 46-year-old man was arrested in December
after an evening at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa., and
charged with leaving a server a non-monetary "tip"--of a Valium
pill.  [Valley News (Lebanon, N.H.), 1-12-2017] [Morning Call
(Allentown), 12-30-2016]

A News of the Weird Classic (April 2013)
                                  
* College basketball player Shanteona Keys makes free throws at a
78-percent rate for her career, but on February 16th [2013], she
weakly shanked one of those 15-foot shots, causing it to thud to the
floor about eight feet short of the rim--the worst collegiate free-
throw attempt of all time, according to several sports reporters who
viewed the video.  Keys explained to Deadspin.com that she always
brings the ball close to her face when she shoots, "[a]nd my
fingernail got caught on my nose, so I couldn't follow through
correctly."  Her Georgia College (Milledgeville, Ga.) team lost to
rival Columbus State, 70-60. [Deadspin.com, 2-20-2013]

     Thanks This Week to Brian Bixby and Mel Birge, and to the
News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
                     ****
NewsoftheWeird.com, weirdnews at earthlink dot net, and P. O.
Box 18737, Tampa FL 33629
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