Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird
China, Japan and Taiwan each claim ownership of the uninhabited South China Sea islands of Senkaku (as they are known in Japan), or Diaoyu (as China calls them), and the controversy heightened in September when Japan announced that it had formally "purchased" three of the five main islands from a private owner. China countered by "launching" its first-ever aircraft carrier (a vessel sold in 1998 by the Ukraine), which it hopes will intimidate its neighbors even though it is currently useless to planes. Days later, patrol boats from Taiwan and Japan had a confrontation near the islands—drenching each other in a military-grade squirt-gun fight. (Reportedly, Japan won.)
A 14-year-old boy was hospitalized in critical condition in Churchill, Pa., in August after allegedly swiping a Jeep Grand Cherokee and leading the owner's boyfriend on a brief high-speed chase before rolling the Cherokee on Interstate 376. The boy's mother, according to WTAE-TV, blamed the Cherokee's owner: A vehicle with the keys in it, she said, "was an opportunity that, in a 14-year-old's eyes, was…the perfect moment." Also, she said, the boyfriend "had no right to chase my son." The boy "could have (just wanted) a joyride down the street. Maybe he (merely) wanted to go farther than he felt like walking."
Irresistible: (1) David Thompson, 27, was arrested in August and charged with stealing a bag of marijuana from the Charleroi (Pa.) Regional police station. While talking to an officer about an unrelated case, Thompson allegedly noticed an evidence bag on a counter and swiped it. Caught moments later, Thompson profusely apologized, reportedly telling the officer, "I just couldn't help myself. That bud smelled so good." (2) Aaron Morris, 18, was charged in August with battery in North Lauderdale, Fla., for groping the buttocks of a woman at a Walmart. According to the arresting officer, Morris explained, "Her booty looked so good, I just couldn't resist touching it."
Democracy in Action!
Challenging Races: (1) Richard Wagner Jones, running for a school board seat in Granite, Utah, told reporters in June that since the job is mainly about taxes and budgets, he would not have to make site visits to schools. That is fortunate, since Jones is barred from schools as a registered sex offender based on a 1990 conviction. (2) Mike Rios, a former school board member in Moreno Valley, Calif., said in August that he was still considering running for city council despite his March arrest for attempted murder and April arrest for pimping (allegedly caught with several underage recruits). (3) Verna Jackson Hammons said in August that her candidacy for mayor of Cullman, Ala., should not suffer just because she appeared 10 years earlier as "the other woman" in a love triangle on an episode of "The Jerry Springer Show."
Brazil has a robust democracy, but it has very few controls on what candidates may call themselves on ballots. Among those running for office this election season, according to a September New York Times dispatch from Rio de Janeiro: "John Kennedy Abreu Sousa," "Jimmi Carter Santarem Barroso," "Ladi Gaga," "Christ of Jerusalem," a "Macgaiver," five "Batmans," two "James Bonds" and 16 people whose name contains "Obama." "It's a marketing strategy," said city council candidate Geraldo Custodio, who apparently likes his chances better as "Geraldo Wolverine."
Fungus in the News
(1) Yak herders in Tibet and farmers in the Indian Himalayas are becoming relatively prosperous, according to recent reports by National Geographic and London's The Guardian, by harvesting rare caterpillar fungi. In Tibet, "yartsa gunbu" supposedly cures ailments like back pain, hair loss, asthma and more, and often sells in local markets for twice its weight in gold. In India, "kira jari" is believed to be an aphrodisiac and energy booster, but the government is trying to control the market because insufficient new larvae means the land might soon be picked clean. (2) Swiss researcher Francis W.M.R. Schwarze announced in September that he would manufacture 30 violins out of wood treated with certain fungi that, in music-appreciation tests, made a lesser-grade violin sound like a Stradivarius.
© Chuck Shepherd