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Government in Action!

In April, Britain’s Office of Work and Pensions acknowledged to the Daily Mail that the multiple wives of polygamous husbands who are legally in the country routinely draw dependents’ unemployment allowances from the government (even though polygamy itself is illegal in the U.K.). A single person receives the equivalent of about $120 a week, and a married couple about $180, with each additional wife about $60.)

Miles Nurse and Jennifer Plomt, condominium owners in Vancouver, British Columbia, learned in July that they would have to cohabit with as many as 80 bats that had infested their unit for the following six weeks because the B.C. Wildlife Act prevents disturbing the critters during their mating season, which would end in late August. At press time for a July Vancouver Sun story, the couple had found one bat in bed with them, another hanging upside down from a bathroom door frame and five in the ceiling over a kitchen pantry.

It’s Good to Be a British Prisoner: (1) Faced with overcrowding, the government announced earlier this year that 25,500 inmates would be early-released, and since that would take away their “free” housing for the remainder of their sentences, awarded each released person “room and board” expenses to live on until their terms expired. (2) Britain’s Prison Service announced in May that inmate obesity was such a problem that it had hired “dozens” of fitness trainers to serve at 25 U.K. jails. Trainers will provide individualized exercise routines and “holistic, alternative therap(ies),” according to a report in The Sun.

Seven years ago, the city council of Bainbridge Island, Wash., set out to build a public restroom for downtown Waterfront Park so visitors would no longer have to use portable toilets. Today, the toilets are still there, following council battles over million-dollar proposals such as a glass-tiled structure dug into a hillside, a combination restroom/scenic-viewing area, and a design that anticipated $45,000 just for artwork. In May 2007, the council gave the public works director some money and ordered him to (in the words of one council member) “just (build) a bathroom.”

In February, a New Jersey appeals court ruled against the town of Voorhees, which had waged a nearly three-year battle with a businessman because it disputed the shade of paint he had used on his Friendly’s restaurant. Town officials said it wasn’t “sandy” (the required color for buildings in that particular shopping center), but rather “creamy yellow.” The township spent $20,000 fighting for “sandy,” and the restaurateur spent $70,000 to show that “creamy yellow” matched the other buildings, and the appeals court judges seemingly just shrugged.

Great Art!

The Horror of War: A U.S. law professor representing Guantanamo prisoners compiled a book of poems by some of the detainees, to be published this month by University of Iowa Press and featuring a cover blurb by former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky. Among the verses, for example, by Sami al Haj, quoted in a June Wall Street Journal story: “When I heard the pigeons cooing in the trees / Hot tears covered my face” and “My soul is like a roiling sea, stirred by anguish / Violent with passion.” The U.S. military had to approve the text, citing the ease with which imagery could be used as coded messages to colleagues outside.

Police Report

(1) James Coldwell, 49, was arrested in Manchester, N.H., in July and charged as the man who robbed a Citizen Bank branch dressed as a tree (branches duct-taped to his body and head, obscuring much of his face, though he was still identified from the security camera). (2) A prosecutor in Chelsea, Vt., refused in June to pursue police officers’ charges against Jayna Hutchinson, 33, that she had committed a crime because she made faces at a police dog and “star(ed)” at him.

Community Policing: One traditional opportunity for police in the United States to mediate problems occurs when they facilitate the exchange of driver information (identification and insurance) in traffic accidents. Similarly, in Braunschweig, Germany, in June, police were called to a legal brothel to mediate a prostitute-client dispute following the rupture of a condom during their encounter. Police were successful in encouraging the prostitute, and the reluctant customer, to exchange information, in case of future health problems.

Public Urination and Drug Law Enforcement

(1) Authorities in Doylestown, Pa., arrested 34 people after a seven-month police investigation of drug-dealing, which began last December when a man on probation gave the police information about the ring in order to avoid going back to prison. He had been facing a charge of public urination. (2) Chicago police arrested three alleged dope-sellers in June after casually spotting one of them inside a garage with the door open, bagging $670,000 worth of marijuana. The police came upon the garage while chasing a man who had been urinating in public.

Recurring Themes

Accidents that leave victims relatively normal but with severely heightened sexual desires have been mentioned several times in News of the Weird, back to a 1978 collision with a Pepsi truck that, according to a jury in Detroit, left a man with a spontaneous, intense desire to become a woman. In 2002, motorcyclist Kunal Lindsay was hit by a car and, after an arduous physical recovery, realized he had become maniacally horny (and, incidentally, unusually interested in cell phones) and that his marriage was near collapse because he constantly pestered his wife for sex, often in “pornographic” terms. London’s High Court approved an insurance settlement in March 2007 for the equivalent of about $2.4 million (with more should Lindsay’s condition “deteriorate”).

Least Competent Criminals:

(1) In May, Damion Mosher, 18, of Lake Luzerne, N.Y., became the most recent person to injure himself by needing to find out if putting a bullet into a vise and hitting it with a screwdriver would cause it to fire. (It would; he was slightly wounded.) (2) Two men and a woman were among the recent wave of people trying to cash in on the high price of copper scrap metal when they broke into an abandoned nursing home in Gainesville, Ga., in July. However, they had missed the sign at the entrance announcing that the building had recently been converted into a training facility and kennel for police dogs, and they were quickly sicced on and arrested.

Undignified Deaths

(1) Police in Brandon, Fla., arrested Willie Tarpley Jr., 46, in May, alleging that he killed his ex-wife’s boyfriend because he was upset that she was dating a man who was a registered sex offender (even though Tarpley and his ex-wife are reportedly also registered sex offenders). (2) At a Toronto nursing home in May, a 69-year-old resident angrily kicked a 79-year-old fellow resident, causing him to fall and fatally hit his head. The victim had taken up with a female resident, thinking she was his wife, but the jealous younger man thought the woman was his own wife. She was actually married to neither; all three had Alzheimer’s disease. (No charges were filed.)