News of the Weird July 30 2008

LEAD STORY: After languishing for two years in the Irish legislature, the Nuclear Test Ban Bill of 2006 has recently been rethought and refurbished, according to a June report in the Irish Independent. Originally, the bill codified the U.N. Test Ban Treaty, adding some provisions specific to Ireland. Among those additions was the punishment for anyone detonating a nuclear weapon in Ireland: up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to 5,000 euros (then, around $6,500), along with language that might even allow a person found guilty to apply for first-offense probation. The proposed punishment this time is expected to be considerably harsher.

Can’t Possibly Be True: In the 1920s, when inmate “chain gangs” were in their heyday, Alabama sheriffs were allotted a prison meal budget of $1.75 per prisoner per day, with thrifty sheriffs allowed to pocket any excess for themselves. According to a May Associated Press investigation, the policy, and the amount, are unchanged to this day in 55 of the state’s 67 counties, and also unchanged is the fact that sheriffs have cut the menus so cleverly or drastically that some sheriffs still make money on the deal. (The per-meal fee under the National School Lunch program for low-income students is $2.47.)

Mr. Gokhan Mutlu filed a lawsuit in May against JetBlue Airways for more than $2 million after he was ordered out of his seat by the captain during a full New York-to-California flight and told to stand up or go “hang out in the bathroom” for the duration. Mutlu had only a gift ticket, and an off-duty JetBlue employee who had originally agreed to sit in the cockpit jump seat changed her mind and thus was given Mutlu’s seat. Mutlu pointed out that he was un-seat-belted during turbulence and during the landing.

Not Exactly Hard Time: 1) In May, St. Catharines, Ontario, Judge Stephen Glithero released Wayne Ryczak on 14 months’ jail time already served, as punishment for strangling a prostitute in his trailer home. He claimed self-defense (improbable in such a strangulation), but had pleaded guilty to manslaughter, requesting via his lawyer a two-year sentence. 2) Last year, Stephanie Grissom, driving 71 mph in a 55-mph zone, accidentally struck and killed a Howard County, Md., traffic officer when he stepped onto the highway to motion for her to pull over. In May 2008, the case was closed, with Grissom fined $310 and three points on her record.

Vendors in Qingdao, China (where Olympic sailing events will take place in August), were reportedly selling, as unofficial Olympics souvenirs, key rings with heart-shaped plastic charms that contained live (at least temporarily) goldfish suspended in water. Animal protection advocates were incredulous, according to a June report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Unclear on the Concept: Denmark has already aroused Muslims’ ire for a Danish newspaper’s publishing blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in 2006, and in June, the country’s public broadcast channel DR1 sponsored an Internet-voting contest to choose among women (presumably Muslims) modeling head scarves. The winner was 18-year-old Huda Falah, who is Iraqi and one of the 46 women who submitted photographs. DR1 insisted that the contest was more about fashionable head scarves than a beauty contest for the models. Among the prizes: an iPod and a subscription to Muslim Girl magazine.

“This proves that we are normal,” said the founder of the Liberty Gay Rodeo Association in May during the organization’s event in a Philadelphia suburb. The sight of rugged cowboys and cowgirls, she said, dispels some sexual stereotypes that have plagued gays and lesbians. Among the events , however, was “goat dressing” (with pairs of contestants trying to put hot-pink underwear on an uncooperative goat in the shortest time, according to a Reuters report).

After motorist Mark Holder, 30, had a seizure in Boynton Beach, Fla., in June, his car swerved off the road and smashed into a sign, badly injuring him. Emergency workers arrived and, protecting against possible nerve damage, attempted to put a brace on to stabilize his neck. Holder became combative, however, and sheriff’s deputies reported that they were forced to shoot Holder “several times” with a Taser to calm him enough that the brace could be fitted.

People With Issues: 1) In Singapore in June, a 36-year-old man was sentenced to 14 years in jail and 18 strokes of the cane after he was convicted of 23 counts of molesting women on elevators and other places, mostly by sniffing their armpits. 2) In June, a masochist, with tastes similar to those of the Ontario man reported here three months ago, was sentenced to four years in jail for encouraging two underage girls near Bicester, England, to kick him repeatedly in the groin until he could no longer handle the pain.

Least Competent Criminals: Not Ready for Prime Time: 1) James Milsom, 21, was arrested in Avon and Somerset, England, in June after a hidden camera in a police bait car caught him breaking in and swiping the GPS device. It was his third arrest in four months for breaking into a police bait car to steal a GPS (caught by the hidden camera each time). 2) In June, Reno, Nev., homicide detective David Jenkins was sitting in his unmarked car (but one with emergency lights on the dash and a police radio blaring away) when Mercedes Green, 19, hopped in and, yelling to be heard over the radio, propositioned him for sex. “You’re not the police, are you?” she asked. “What do you think?” he said. “I didn’t think so,” the streetwise woman replied. After her arrest, Green explained: “You wear glasses, and I didn’t think police could wear them.”