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Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

Dec. 26, 2013
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Annals of Science             

America’s foremost advocate for frontal lobotomies as “treatment” for mental disorder, the late Dr. Walter Freeman, performed an estimated 3,500 lobotomies during the 1940s and 1950s before opposition finally solidified against him, according to a December 2013 investigation by The Wall Street Journal. At the peak of his influence, he was so confident that he demonstrated the procedure to skeptics by hammering an icepick (“from his own kitchen,” the Journal reported) into both eye sockets of an electrical-shocked patient and “toggling” the picks around the brain tissue, certain that he was severing “correctly.” For years, Freeman (a neurologist untrained in surgery) marshaled positive feedback from enough patients and families for the procedure to survive criticism, and he spent his final years (until his death in 1972) securing patient testimonials to “prove” the validity of lobotomies.                                 


Cultural Diversity            

Since the 13th century, sheepherders in Spain have had the right (still honored) to use 78,000 miles of paths in the country for seasonal flock migrations—even some streets of Madrid, including a crossing of Puerta del Sol, described as Madrid’s Times Square. The shepherds pay a customary, token duty, which, according to an October Associated Press dispatch, the government proudly accepts, given the prominence of Spain’s native Merino sheep breed in the world’s wool market.                                   


Questionable Judgments

Took It Too Far: Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School in Langley, British Columbia, announced to parents in November that henceforth it would not just prohibit abusive or unwanted physical contact among its kindergarteners, but all contact. Officials said they were responding to parents who objected to “rough play,” but, said another parent, incredulous, “No tag, no hugging, no touching at all. ...I am not going to tell my daughter she can’t touch her friends at school. I am going to teach her boundaries.”                    


Clichés Come to Life        

n In criminal cases, DNA is usually a smoking gun for the prosecution—except, of course, if there is an “evil twin.” In November a judge in Colorado Springs ruled that a suspect, Army Lt. Aaron Lucas, should have the opportunity to blame his brother Brian for a string of sexual assaults because the DNA might be Brian’s. Brian has not been charged and denies any involvement, but Aaron said Brian was in two crime-scene states that Aaron was never in. Said a Denver defense lawyer, “The only time I have seen (the evil-twin defense) was on ‘Law and Order: SVU.’”           

n Of course: Four villagers in northeast Kenya, angry that cheetahs were killing their goats, lay in wait one night in November and then chased down and captured them. Cheetahs are regarded as the fastest mammals on Earth, but they lack endurance; Kenyans are marathon prodigies. Indeed, the cheetahs were captured only when they ran out of gas after about four miles of pursuit by the Kenyans, and were handed over alive, and exhausted, to the Kenyan Wildlife Service.                                                                 


Least Competent Criminals           

Not Ready for Prime Time: Johnny Deleon, 20, was arrested in Houston in October, caught in the act of removing wheel caps from a Cadillac Escalade in a deli's parking lot. Even in the daylight, Deleon apparently failed to notice the many police cars in the lot (as a ceremonial planning meeting was underway in the deli). Officers, from among 30 inside, dashed out and arrested Deleon.                                  


Recurring Themes            

(1) Once again a fortuitous, unrelated medical exam was credited with possibly saving a life. Los Angeles television personality Julie Chang suffered a concussion in a surfing accident recently, but the routine CT scan also showed a previously unrevealed brain tumor. She was immediately scheduled for surgery and reported to colleagues that she “will be OK.” (2) New York animal rights activist Steven Wise pushed the envelope in December by filing a writ of habeas corpus (requiring jailers to prove any legal basis for an individual’s detention) for a chimpanzee living at a Gloversville, N.Y., farm (although, in fairness, “Tommy” is being held by an animal “rescuer” who said he is seeking a proper home). (U.S. habeas corpus law has heretofore applied only to humans.)                                             




Would white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan pose the same threat they do now if a mainstream Republican were president instead of Donald Trump?

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