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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

• Edible “dirt” has recently appeared on the menus of several of the world’s most renowned restaurants (e.g., the top-rated Noma in Copenhagen, Shakuf in Tel Aviv, Gilt in New York City).
“People are really wowed to see dirt on their plates,” said Gilt’s head chef.
Actually, the “dirt” only looks and feels like dirt. Each chef creates signature tastes from dried or charred powders with the appearance and consistency of sand, soil or ash — from a base of plants, vegetables or eggs or even dried beer. Said a reviewer, “These chefs are reminding people where food actually comes from.”

Can’t Possibly Be True

• Until August, Nettleton Middle School near Tupelo, Miss., had a strict policy for election of class officers for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders: Only white students could be president, and only black students could be vice president. (Other officers were segregated by race, as well.)
Officials explained it was one way to assure black representation even though three-fourths of the students are white. A school memo was leaked to The Smoking Gun website in August, and a day later the school district rescinded the policy.
• After two Mexican fishermen were dragged from their boats and “chewed so badly that their bodies could not be identified by their own families,” according to a Daily Express review of an August British TV documentary, warnings were issued along the Pacific coast about the northern migration of Humboldt squid. They grow to 8 feet long, weigh up to 100 pounds, travel up to 15 mph, have eight swim/hold tentacles — and two “attack” tentacles that are studded with 40,000 or more razor-sharp teeth-like nubs that help each devour almost seven tons of fish a year. Furthermore, female Humboldts are capable of laying 30 million eggs.

Unclear on the Concept

• Police in New Albany, Ind., arrested two alleged counterfeiters in August but believed that a much bigger operation was in play. Subsequently, the Indiana State Police made a public plea for informants, focusing on the people most likely to be cheated by counterfeit money: local drug dealers.
“What we are asking today,” said police Sgt. Jerry Goodin, “is we want all the drug dealers to call us. We want to get all of your information and exactly what happened in (any of your dealings).”
Goodin added, “Trust us.”
•  In June, Raytown, Mo., farmer David Jungerman mounted a sign on a tractor-trailer denouncing “parasites” who “always have their hand out for whatever the government will give them.” Following news reports about the sign, the Kansas City Star reported that Jungerman himself had received more than $1 million in federal crop subsidies since 1995. (He later explained that a “parasite” pays no taxes at all yet seeks handouts. By contrast, Jungerman said, he pays taxes.)
• Playboy magazine has long published an audio edition, and the Library of Congress produces a text edition in Braille. However, as a Houston Chronicle reporter learned in August, a Texas organization (Taping for the Blind) goes one step further, with volunteer reader Suzi Hanks actually describing the photographs — even the Playmates and other nudes.
“I’d say if she has large breasts or small breasts, piercings or tattoos,” said Hanks. “I’ll describe her genitalia. … I take my time describing the girls. … Hey, blind guys like pretty, naked girls, too!”

Update

America’s most prolific litigant (and News of the Weird mainstay) may finally have met his match.
In September, federal prosecutors asked a judge in Kentucky to supervise Jonathan Lee Riches’ future filings to eliminate the frivolous ones (which likely means all of them). Riches is serving 10 years in prison for stealing credit card numbers and has filed an estimated 3,800 lawsuits from behind bars (more than one for every day of incarceration), alleging wrongs done to him by such people as George W. Bush, Britney Spears, the philosopher Plato, the Dave Matthews Band, Tiger Woods (luggage theft), baseball player Barry Bonds (illegal moonshine) and football player Michael Vick (who Riches alleges stole his pit bulls, sold them on eBay and used the proceeds to buy missiles from Iran).

Least Competent Criminals

Mark Smith, 59, was arrested at a bank in Watsonville, Calif., in September after he had allegedly threatened a teller with a bomb (spelled “bom”) and demanded $2,000. The teller, apparently skeptical of Smith’s toughness, tried to convince him, instead, to borrow the money, and she had him wait while she retrieved an application (during which time she called 911). By the time police arrived, Smith was filling out the loan form.

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