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News of the Weird

Bungee babies, 'Fab Five' cheerleaders and more

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LEAD STORY: Bungee Baby: Nick Fennelly, 31, was rushing his in-labor girlfriend Sharon Taylor into the parking lot at Calderdale Royal Hospital in West Yorkshire, England, just as their baby's head started to appear. In a corridor inside, little Ashleigh shot out of her mother so quickly that Fennelly couldn't grab her in time. She hit the floor, skidded, and then came back on the umbilical cord, according to a December report in the Halifax Courier. Except for a bruise, Ashleigh is fine.

Christmas Mania (continued): Melody Howell of Richburg, N.C., expanded her collection of full-sized, designer-decorated Christmas trees this year to 52, all placed inside her 2,500-square-foot home. (Said Howell's adult daughter, "My mom is over the top. Everything she does is over the top." On the less joyous side, the city council in Kingston Upon Hull, England, prohibited its trash collectors from wearing their traditional Santa hats this year, declaring that the hats "[do] not create a professional impression."

Latest Religious Messages: Checking a boy just before his bar mitzvah, Orthodox rabbis in Sydney, Australia, found that his rabbi-supervised circumcision had not quite been "complete" and ruled that it must be done again because, officially, the boy was not a Jew. The boy's mother objected and instead found a Progressive synagogue for the bar mitzvah (the Orthodox rabbi, Moshe Gutnick, said she is "fooling the child" into believing he is Jewish).

Ruth Bell Graham, the frail wife of evangelist Billy Graham, has split with her son Franklin by rejecting as her burial place Franklin's planned memorial library for Billy near Charlotte, N.C. (in favor of her mountaintop retreat west of there). According to a December Washington Post report, Ruth's longtime friend, crime writer Patricia Cornwell, told Ruth that the largely bookless "library" is "truly tacky," featuring a mechanical cow that greets visitors, and straw on the floor to resemble the barn of Billy's youth. Franklin's thinking is that the memorial should draw a new generation of worshipers and donors, including kids who would be attracted by the farm motif.

Fine Points of the Law: 1) In November, Arkansas' outgoing Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, who have been happily married for 32 years, set up a wedding registry at two department stores because it was apparently the easiest way for them to receive going-away gifts. Arkansas law prohibits gifts to public officials of more than $100, with a few exceptions, such as wedding gifts. 2) In October, Judge Robert Armstrong of Riverside, Calif., dismissed an indecent exposure charge against a woman solely because a state statute makes criminal only a person who "lewdly exposes his person, or the private parts thereof," which to Judge Armstrong clearly limited the law to males. (The prosecutor quickly filed an appeal.)

The Problem With Kids Is Their Parents: Dan Hinkle is the commissioner of the South County Youth Association, which plays in a large football league in Fairfax County, Va., and also the father of Scott, a player on the age-12-to-14 Raptors, who were fighting for a playoff spot in October when Hinkle fired their two coaches for violating his order to play Scott only on defense. (The coaches used him successfully on offense for one game.) The Raptors voted to disband the team even though they had made the playoffs, but Hinkle wouldn't change his mind.

Five star cheerleaders at McKinney North High School near Dallas apparently had the run of the place for the last year, often immune from school rules thanks to the aggressiveness of their parents and the timidity of school officials, according to an independent report to the school board (disclosed in December by The Dallas Morning News). The "Fab Five" walked out of classes, ignored teachers, dressed salaciously and posed for scandalous photos on the Internet, and whenever sanctions were suggested, parents rose in anger at unfairness toward their particular daughters. One staff member said the girls acted like they hadn't "been punished properly since the seventh grade." District officials are reviewing the report.

Least Competent Criminals: 1) Morgan Conatser, 29, was arrested a short time after making his way awkwardly out to the parking lot of the Guitars and Cadillacs store in De Queen, Ark., in November, with a guitar stuffed inside his clothes. The manager initially stopped Conatser, recovered the guitar, and let him go, but decided to call the sheriff's office when he realized Conatser had probably also hidden a wireless sound system in his pants. 2) Derek Pierson Jr., 21, was arrested in Shreveport, La., in November after allegedly attempting to rob a convenience store. He was an easy collar, as he had somehow not noticed that among the customers waiting in line at the cash register was uniformed police officer L.J. Scott, of the armed robbery task force.

Recurring Themes: 1) In an incident likely to be repeated as Americans get larger, the body of a 600-pound man who was cremated at the Garner Funeral Home in Salt Lake City in October started a grease fire when leaking body fluids overheated the conventional oven. 2) John Leonard Young, 46, pleaded guilty in October to the now-familiar charge of using the Internet to lure an underage girl for sex. Though Young had bought the girl a plane ticket to Seattle, she decided to buy her own ticket but mistakenly booked Washington, D.C. When she arrived there all alone, she sought help from authorities, and Young's plot unraveled.

Country Livin' Is the Life for Me!: 1) Jeffrey Turpin, 41, was arrested in August in Wytheville, Va., for malicious wounding of a woman after chasing her across two farms on a tractor. According to a witness, when the woman fell, Turpin dropped the tractor's bucket to the ground and rolled it over her, breaking her leg. 2) Three women were arrested in Columbus, Ga., in September and charged with forcing a pregnant teenager to drink turpentine, which the three had heard would induce an abortion.

Cultural Diversity: About a dozen Asian women living in Seattle flock to Bigelow Street every September, for hours at a time, to gather fallen chestnuts to take home and boil, according to a report in The Seattle Times. The residents of the upscale homes say they've come to accept the ladies, some elderly, who thoroughly search yards for hours and make themselves at home on the properties (including relieving themselves in the shrubbery) while waiting for the next batch to fall.

After the aircraft maintenance staff of Turkish Airlines finished up a repair job ahead of schedule in December, they celebrated by sacrificing a camel at Istanbul airport, with hundreds of pounds of meat distributed to workers. (The government of Turkey, which is working hard to be accepted into the European Union, might have preferred the sacrifice be done elsewhere.)

© 2006 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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