News of the Weird December 17 2008

LEAD STORY: The Brazilian designer Lucia Lorio introduced women's lingerie in October containing a global positioning device to enable the wearer to be tracked by satellite. The creator said the password-protected lace bodice would make it easier for women kidnapped by thugs or terrorists to be located and rescued. Critics called it a virtual chastity belt, primarily of service to insecure males curious to know where their women are. (The wearer can manually turn the device off, however.) Another anti-terror lingerie product may also surface someday, based on a 2007 U.S. patent, issued to a Plainfield, Ill., company for a bra whose cups could also function as air-filtration systems in case of chemical attacks.

Government in Action!: Facing a state budget crisis in July, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fired about 10,000 temporary and part-time workers and ordered the 200,000 permanent employees to be paid only the minimum wage of $6.55 an hour until the Legislature passed a crisis-solving budget. A week later, however, the State Controller John Chiang pointed out that state payroll records could not be changed to accommodate the cut because they were written in the antiquated COBOL computer language, and virtually the only state employees who knew the code were some of the part-timers Schwarzenegger had just fired.

Women Under Arrest: 1) The September mugshot of Michelle Allen of Middletown, Ohio, was possibly the Internet's most-circulated news photo of 2008, since she was inexplicably dressed in a full-body cow suit (with rubber teats) as she was allegedly disorderly in chasing children and interfering with traffic. (Alcohol may have been involved.) 2) Shopper Amber Dibartolomeo, 23, was arrested in a Wal-Mart in North Bay, Ontario, in July and charged with selling crack cocaine inside the store. Police said they found $2,217 in cash on her, along with a can of pepper spray, and 27 grams of cocaine (one in her bra and 26 in her vagina).

Things You Thought Didn't Happen These Days: A restaurant owner in Rutino, Italy (near Salerno), told police in November that as he was negotiating over the building's lease with his landlords, one hit him in the head with a chair and two others kicked him repeatedly in the stomach. The landlords were not from La Cosa Nostra but were a priest and two nuns from the local Catholic order that owns the building.

Least Competent People: Merle Sorenson, 48, had to be rescued from the Columbia River near Quincy, Wash., in October, where he nearly drowned after driving his Humvee off of a boat launch. He told the rescuers that he was trying to clean his tires and wanted to see how far he could drive the vehicle into the water but still be able to back out.

Oops! In October in Vancouver, Wash., a 74-year-old man actually succeeded in his mission to unclog, with his hands, the garbage chute from his 10th floor apartment, but then he pushed too far. When rescue workers arrived, only the man's feet and lower legs were visible, with his wife holding on for dear life.

Recurring Themes: People whose special land-use and zoning requests are turned down by the government or neighborhood associations sometimes retaliate defiantly, as News of the Weird has reported. In July in Bucks County, Pa., two men who were denied the right to tear down a house decided to paint it purple and pink, just to annoy the neighbors. In October in Olympia, Wash., a developer who was denied a permit for a grocery store decided instead to expand his adult video store next door into an "emporium." In September in Potsdam, N.Y., a man wanting to build a convenience store was turned down and so installed a row of nine used toilets in his front yard, as "artwork."

Undignified Deaths: Failed Prayers: 1) The 16 players for a soccer team called Midland Portland Cement, who were in Zimbabwe for a match in October, were told that a swim in the Zambezi River is a traditional ritual that would cleanse the team of evil spirits. However, only 15 players made it back, as there are crocodiles. 2) Hundreds of visitors a day visit the Muslim shrine of Khan Jahan Ali in Bangladesh, where they bathe in a pond to wash away evil spirits and feed chickens to crocodiles to bring good fortune. "Normally, the crocodiles are very friendly," said a local police officer, but in August, Mr. Rubel Sheikh was eaten while washing away his evil spirits.

A News of the Weird Classic (October 2002): Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison said they had developed new technology that would detect breast-enhancement cheating at beauty contests. The researchers are veterinarians, and the relevant contests are of show cows at dairy exhibits, where the "cheating" involves making the cow's udders fuller, smoother and more symmetrical (in that 40 percent of the contestant's grade is based on udder integrity). Unlike their human beauty contest counterparts, though, cow udders are valued only for milk-producing potential.

CLARIFICATION: Two weeks ago, News of the Weird reported that all "appeals" by defendants without lawyers in one Louisiana state circuit had been automatically dismissed, for 13 years, without a judge's ever reading them. Uniquely, Louisiana has two ways for a defendant to seek to overturn a conviction: a "supervisory writ" and an "appeal." The treatment referred to in the News of the Weird story involved all 2,400 supervisory writs. No accusation was made about how the Louisiana circuit's judges handled appeals that were not supervisory writs.