News of the Weird November 21 2007

Lead Story: Crime-fearing female pedestrians in Tokyo can soon protect themselves with fashion designer Aya Tsukioka's skirt that opens into a realistic-looking (except made of fabric), full-size vending machine that she hopes thugs will pass right by. It's one of several fanciful crime-avoiding creations of the genre that Japanese inventors are noted for, according to an October New York Times dispatch. Another, the "manhole bag," resembles a sewer covering when laid on the ground but can hold a person's valuables, again provided that the thug passes it up. Yet another is women's wraparound sunglasses that are extra-dark so that even shy, eye-contact-avoiding females can stare unobserved at potential perverts in trains to guard against the ubiquitous groping.

More Things to Worry About: As several sightings were made around Washington, D.C., of dragonfly-looking bugs hovering in the air at political events, government agencies were denying that they had released tiny surveillance robots, according to an October Washington Post investigation. "I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?'" asked a college student at an anti-war rally in Washington. "They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But ... those are not insects." Several agencies and private entities admitted to the Post that they were trying to develop such devices, but no one took credit for having them in the air yet.

Air Safety: 1) Nepal Airlines, which was having technical trouble with one of its two Boeing 757s in August, announced that it had fixed the problem by sacrificing two goats to appease the Hindu sky god Akash Bhairab. 2) As passengers boarded a Vueling Airlines flight from Madrid, Spain, in June, they noticed that 29 of the 32 rows of seats on one side were out of service, but they could hardly have been comforted by the captain's announcement that "We have a safety problem with the door at the front. Don't worry, it's only a safety problem." (No incidents were reported on the flight.)

News That Sounds Like a Joke: 1) After some mild bickering during a delivery at a Wal-Mart in October in Indiana County, Pa., according to police, a Pepsi route man allegedly repeatedly punched a Coca-Cola route man in the face. 2) Reuters reported in September that a 50-year-old man who bought two large sausages at a butcher shop in Mannheim, Germany, returned shortly afterward to have them wrapped for a flight to Dubai. On inspection, the butcher found that the man had stuffed each sausage with an anatomically correct latex dildo, for smuggling into Dubai.

People Different From Us: In September, Matt Wilkinson admitted to KGW-TV of Portland, Ore., that he had been in a coma for three days recently and nearly died after he decided to stick his pet Eastern diamondback rattlesnake into his mouth while drinking with some buddies: "Me, being me, I put his head in my mouth." A doctor told the station that Wilkinson barely made it to the hospital in time because his airway had nearly swollen shut from the venomous bites. Wilkinson said that the incident was "kind of" his "own stupid fault."

Least Competent People: Don't Criminals Need to Keep a Low Profile? 1) Community activist Steven Myrick, 41, was convicted in October of a rape in Torrance, Calif., that had gone unsolved for seven years. Myrick had called attention to himself during a public housing demonstration in which he mooned police officers and was arrested (and a subsequent DNA test tied him to the rape). 2) Vincent Scheffner, 63, a municipal parking-meter worker in St. Paul, Minn., was under investigation at press time on suspicion of theft after a local credit union reported that he had been regularly depositing, for the last year, enormous amounts of coins into his account.

Perfect Logic: Mandy Bailey, who lives in a suburb of Phoenix, is the mother of conjoined 1-year-old girls and wanted to take them to a family reunion in Maryland. She called Delta Air Lines to make sure the girls could ride for free on her ticket. No, said Delta, because even though a child under 2 can ride for free, each infant would need an oxygen mask in case of emergency, and thus, a separate ticket was needed. Bailey kept complaining (giving the story international reach) until a Delta higher-up compromised for the flight: Bailey's sister-in-law, who had been assigned to another row on the flight, was put next to Bailey so she could share her oxygen with the second twin.