News of the weird

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ManÕs Best Friend

Researchers are now preparing a study seeking to confirm that dog slobber, by itself (and not just the psychological advantages of playing with and petting a dog), might provide human health benefits (such as relief from asthma, allergies and inflammation). Specialists from the University of Arizona and University of California San Diego point to existing evidence of the comparative healthiness of dog-owning families and suspect that canine saliva, like yogurt, may have unusual probiotic value.

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Ñ India Justice: Since News of the Weird last visited the judicial backlog in India (2013), the problem has worsened. The open caseload grew to 31,367,915 by the end of that year Ñ a quantity that, if all of the countryÕs judges, working around the clock, each resolved 100 cases an hour, it would still take 35 years to clear. Bloomberg Business Week reported in January that lawyers needlessly fatten the backlog with multiple filings, mainly to jack up their fees (and thus encouraging "extortion threats," in place of "law," as the preferred method of resolving disputes).

Ñ Death-penalty opponents have long sought a clear-cut case in which an obviously innocent person was wrongfully executed, and unsurprisingly, the great state of Texas appears about to provide that, in Cameron Todd Willingham (convicted in 1992 and executed in 2004). Since his trial, the arson evidence "proving" murder has been thoroughly discredited, and recently an ex-cellmateÕs 1996 letter surfaced Ñ demanding that his own prosecutor comply with the sentence-reduction he was promised if he claimed that Willingham had "confessed" to him (and in fact the cellmateÕs sentence was substantially reduced after he wrote the letter, though the cellmate later appeared grievously remorseful). Prosecutor John Jackson is facing a state investigation for not disclosing the sentencing promise before trial.

Ñ Elf Justice: Public policymaking in the United States is often gridlocked by recalcitrant ideologues, but at least administrators are not constrained by elves, as in Iceland. After seven years of controversy, the countryÕs Road Administration recently approved a new pathway near Reykjavik that had been delayed by a troublesome, 70-ton boulder in the right-of-way Ñ which could not be dislodged because it is believed to be a "church" for the countryÕs legendary "hidden people." The elvesÕ leading spokeswoman, Ragnhildur Jonsdottir, finally declared, to officialsÕ relief, that the elves had accepted the boulderÕs relocation (to the side of the road), having "been preparing for this for a long time, moving their energy to the new location."

Ñ Four weeks ago, News of the Weird noted that a United Nations representative opposed a suggestion to open certain meetings to the public, fearing that it would only invite spectators in the gallery to throw "mayonnaise" at the delegates. However, two months earlier (and unknown to News of the Weird), the Belgian prime minister, defending his countryÕs austerity measures, had faced a group of protesters who had rained upon him french fries topped with mayonnaise.

Ñ Three months ago, News of the Weird highlighted a London manÕs agreement to pay the equivalent of $500 for surgery on a nondescript office-aquarium goldfish, to relieve its constipation. Subsequently, however, veterinarians in Scotland (charging the equivalent of $750) performed cancer surgery on two goldfish, and in September 2014, in Melbourne, Australia, a goldfish received "brain surgery" (for the apparent bargain of $200).

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Recurring Themes

Ñ Japan may have its cat restaurants (where loaner felines lounge during meals) and even its penguin bar in Ikebukuro, and London (as reported here a month ago) an experimental owl cafe (with specially domesticated birds perched on dinersÕ shoulders), but not to be outdone, an entrepreneur in Seoul, South Korea, guesses that his Thanks to Nature Cafe will be a big hit Ñ with sheep wandering through the dining room. (After all, according to the lunar calendar, 2015 is the Chinese zodiac Year of the Sheep.) Owner Lee Kwang-ho said his novel business model has attracted visitors from Macedonia, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand, among other countries.

Ñ Home Unimprovement: Recent cases to add to the classic "DonÕt DIY" Files: (1) Fred Horne of Columbus, Ohio, burned down his house in February trying to smoke the bedbugs out of his couch. Only that one piece of furniture caught fire, but carrying it out of the house, Horne got stuck in a doorway, and the blaze spread. (2) Near Darwin, Australia, in February, an unnamed woman living in an RV came face-to-face with a snake and decided to encourage the serpent to leave Ñ by lighting a fire beneath the RVÕs floor. The vehicle was destroyed but, said the police superintendent, "we donÕt know what happened to the snake."

Ñ Supporting the Troops: Federal law prohibits foreclosures and repossessions (unless by court order) against active-duty military members, but Americans would hardly know that from observing creditors. A 2012 Government Accountability Office report found at least 15,000 violations by U.S. financial institutions, small and large, including J.P. Morgan Chase (violations News of the Weird reported in 2011). In February, auto lender Santander Consumer USA agreed to pay $9.35 million to settle charges that it illegally seized cars of 760 service members (some while deployed in war zones) over the last five years.

Ñ Smash-Mouth Competition: Dentist Leopold Weinstein, 63, was arrested in February in Camarillo, California, and charged with suspicion of setting fire to three competing dental offices (one for the fourth time). One victim said the arsonist even drilled holes in the roof and poured in gasoline to accelerate the blaze. (Later in February, in Hua Hin, Thailand, a 36-year-old woman was arrested for scattering screws on a busy street in order to increase business for her husbandÕs tire shop.)

Ñ Artists Working in the Medium of Silicone: Padge-Victoria Windslowe, a "Gothic hip-hop" performer known as "Black Madam" who carried out buttocks-enhancement procedures on the side ("thousands," she bragged) using industrial-grade silicone (and Krazy Glue to seal the injection site), was convicted in Philadelphia in March of the third-degree murder of one "patient" whose silicone leaked to her lungs. During the trial, Windslowe told the jury she had been called the "Michelangelo of buttocks injections" Ñ though the reigning overachiever still appears to be Ron Oneal Morris, some of whose patients achieved higher booty-circumference numbers. (Morris is awaiting trial in Miami on manslaughter charges.)

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Also, Recurring É

(1) Devin Gesell, 17, and two underage accomplices are the most recent burglars to make off with a deceased personÕs ashes, believing they had swiped cocaine. Disappointment resulted from the very first taste, and the cremains were immediately tossed from the getaway car. (St. Peters, Missouri, March). (2) A 35-year-old woman became the most recent to get stuck climbing down a chimney, but she wasnÕt a would-be burglar. She was trying to enter the house of a former boyfriend (and father of her three children), who had forbidden her presence in the home. (Also, she was naked, perhaps to assist her descent.) (Woodcrest, California, January)

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A News of the Weird Classic (February 2010)

Too-Swift Justice: It is not unheard of for someone to commit a crime and then immediately surrender, usually for safety or the comfort of a jail cell. However, Gerard Cellette Jr., 44, tried to be even more helpful. Knowing that he would soon be arrested (and probably convicted) for running a $53 million Ponzi scheme in the Minneapolis area, he walked into a county judgeÕs chambers in December (2009) and offered to begin serving time. The judge explained patiently that Cellette would have to wait until he was arrested and charges were filed and a plea recorded Ñ which would all take time. (He was disappointed but 12 months later was sentenced to eight years in prison.)