2014-01-30 / News of the Weird



Going postal

America’s returning warriors continue to experience inexplicable difficulty after putting their lives at risk for their country. It took 13 years for Army Sgt. Maj. Richard Erickson to get his job back from his civilian employer after he took leave in 2000 to serve in the National Guard special forces. The employer soon fired him for taking “excessive military leave.” The employer?

The U.S. Postal Service, for which Sgt. Maj. Erickson worked as a window clerk (and which was forced to reinstate him after a January 2014 ruling awarding him $2 million in back pay). Sgt. Maj. Erickson had won several interim victories, but USPS fought each one, extending the case, and said in January that it might even appeal the latest ruling. ¦

Recurring themes

¦ Once again, celebrants in France marked Jan. 1 by setting fire to 1,067 cars nationwide (down from 1,193 the previous Jan. 1). ¦ In the Hillbrow neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa, celebrants apparently decided to abandon a 20-yearold tradition and not hurl furniture from high-rise apartments. (The Hillbrow custom was highlighted on one socialnetworking website, along with the New Year’s graveyard gathering of relatives in Chile and Ireland’s banging bread on walls to dispel evil spirits.) ¦ Deformed animals born in developing countries often attract streams of pilgrims, seeking to touch a creature considered divinely blessed. In December, a five-legged cow in Raipur, India, had supposedly “caused” the last 30 women who touched it to give birth to

boys. And a day after that report came one from Phuket, Thailand, in which a newborn gecko with six legs and two heads has become a magnet for visitors seeking clues to winning lottery numbers.

¦ In November the Journal- News of Hamilton, Ohio, examining various police union contracts in the state, learned that in several jurisdictions, officers are allowed to work their shifts even when less sober than some drivers whom they ticket for DUI. In Lebanon, Ohio, for instance, cops can work with a .04 blood-alcohol reading. In Butler County, a .04 reading triggers legal protections for officers that are unavailable to ordinary drivers. (However, in Lebanon, an officer’s right to suck on a breath mint before taking the test was recently removed from the contract.) ¦

Judges as romantics

¦ In December, Italy’s top appeals court awarded a new trial to a man, 60, who had been convicted of having sex with an 11-year-old girl. Evidence had been excluded that the pair were having an “amorous relationship” with “feelings of love.” ¦ Alabama Judge James Woodroof of Limestone County, given two separate chances in December to sentence Austin Clem, 25, to jail time for raping a girl beginning when she was 13, both times opted for probation. (The no-jail sentences perhaps reflected that Clem’s family and hers continued to socialize after the rapes.) ¦

Abolishing risk

¦ Britain’s Royal Mail announced in December that it would stop delivery to Jeff and Sheila White’s cottage in Carnforth because the carrier was frightened of cows. (Mrs. White said he was just lazy, in that when the cows were present, the carrier had to open and close a gate to get to their cottage.) ¦ A 65-year-old school crossing guard resigned in October from a job he said he liked because officials at Manadon Vale Primary School had ordered him to stop playfully “high-fiving” students. Guards, the school said, need both arms free to hold signs and make proper signals. ¦

Snuggle club

News of the Weird informed readers in November that the Snuggle House was about to open in Madison, Wis., promising clients pajama-clad bedmates — as long as no sex (or foreplay, even) took place. In fact, Snuggle House has yet to open (in part because the Madison assistant city attorney has yet to overcome her belief that cuddling without sex is impossible). However, a December Associated Press report noted that no-sex cuddleries thrive in Rochester, N.Y. (The Snuggery), Boulder, Colo. (Be the Love You Are), and San Francisco (Cuddle Therapy). Snuggle House owner Matthew Hurtado said he is still working with Madison officials on regulations to prevent naughtiness. ¦

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