Can't Possibly Be True | News of the Weird | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Can't Possibly Be True 

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Can't Possibly Be True
Kids as young as 6 who live on a cliff-top in China's Atule'er village in Sichuan province will no longer have to use flexible vine-based ladders to climb down and up the 2,600-foot descent from their homes to school. Beijing News disclosed in October, in a report carried by CNN, that a sturdy steel ladder was being built to aid the 400 villagers after breathtaking photographs of them making the treacherous commute surfaced on the internet earlier this year.

Round Up The Usual Suspects ("Youth Pastors")
Sentenced to six years in prison for sex with teenage girls (September): former Youth Pastor David Hayman, 38 (Hackensack, N.J.). Sentenced to six months in jail for sending inappropriate texts to teenage boys (August): former Youth Pastor Brian Burchfield (Shawnee, Okla.). Charged and awaiting trial for impregnating a 15-year-old girl (October): Youth Pastor Wesley Blackburn, 35 (New Paris, Pa.). Sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl (September): former Youth Pastor Brian Mitchell, 31 (North Olmsted, Ohio). Charged and awaiting trial for luring teenagers into prostitution (October): Youth Pastor Ron Cooper, 52 (Miami). Sentenced to 90 days in jail as part of a sex-assault case involving a 13-year-old girl (September): former Youth Pastor Christopher Hutchinson, 37 (Parker, Colo.).

An "Ant" Version of Hell
Researchers in Poland reported in August the "survival" of a colony of ants that wandered unsuspectingly into an old nuclear-weapons bunker and became trapped. When researchers first noticed in 2013, they assumed the ants would soon die, either freezing or starving to death, but, returning in 2015 and 2016, they found the population stable. Their only guess: New ants were falling into the bunker, "replacing" the dead ones. Thus, ants condemned to the bunker slowly starve, freezing, in total darkness, until newly condemned ants arrive and freeze and starve in total darkness—and on and on.

Judicial Activism
Jackson County, Mich., judge John McBain briefly gained notoriety in October when a Michigan news site released courtroom video of a December 2015 hearing in which McBain felt the need to throw off his robe, leap from the bench and tackle defendant Jacob Larson, who was resisting the one court officer on hand to restrain him. Yelling "Tase his ass right now," McBain is shown holding on until help arrived—with Larson perhaps undermining his earlier courtroom statements claiming it was his girlfriend, and not he, who was the aggressor in alleged stalking incidents.

Names in Florida News
Arrested in October and charged with kidnapping a 4-year-old girl in Lakeland: a truck driver, Mr. Wild West Hogs. Arrested in West Palm Beach in August and charged with trespassing at a Publix supermarket (and screaming at employees), Mr. Vladimir Putin. And in August, at the dedication of a new unit at Tampa General Hospital's pediatric center, longtime satisfied patients attended, including Maria Luva, who told guests her son, now 8 years old, was born there: Ywlyox Luva.

Perspective
In 1921, researchers for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife stated categorically in a journal that "the one predatory animal" inspiring practically nothing "good" is the mountain lion, but recent research in the journal Conservation Letters credits the animal for saving the lives of many motorists by killing deer, thus tempering the current annual number (20,000) of driver-deer collisions. Even killing deer, mountain lions still trail cats as predators; researchers in Nature Communications in 2013 estimated that "free-ranging domestic cats" kill at least 1.4 billion birds and 6.9 billion small mammals annually in the U.S.

Least Competent Criminals
On the way to the police station in Youngstown, Ohio, on Oct. 19, after being arrested for, among other things, being a felon in possession of a gun, Raymond Brooks, 25, asked an officer (apparently in all seriousness) whether, after he got booked at the station, he could have his gun back. The police report did not specify whether the officer said yes or no.

Recurring Themes
Sovereigns! The director of the Caribbean Cultural Center at the University of the Virgin Islands, facing foreclosure of her home by Firstbank Puerto Rico, decided she was not really "Chenzira Davis-Kahina" but actually "Royal Daughter Sat Yah" of the "Natural Sovereign Indigenous Nation of ... Smai Tawi Ta-Neter-Awe," and she and her equally befuddlingly named husband have sued the bank for $190 million in federal court (and begun the flood of incomprehensible paperwork). The couple's law of "Maat" conveniently holds that attempts by federal marshals to seize their property would double the damages to $380 million.

• Daniel, age 4—and a duck—accompanied a woman in her 20s in October on a flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Asheville, outfitted in a Captain America diaper and red shoes to protect its feet, occasionally (if inadvisedly) giving the woman a peck on the mouth. Reporting the event was author Mark Essig, who has written favorably about pigs but admitted he'd never before been on a flight with "companion poultry" and mused whether Daniel, gazing out a window, experienced an "ancestral" yearning to fly.

• At press time, Leston Lawrence, 35, an employee of the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa, was awaiting a court decision on charges that he stole $140,000 worth of thick gold coins ("pucks") that, over time, were taken from the mint in his rectum. The mint's "highest security measures" never turned up a puck on or in Lawrence; he was arrested after the mint investigated a tip that he had sold an unusual number of them for someone of his pay grade.

Government in Action
Mayor Paul Antonio of Toowoomba, Australia (pop. 100,000), admitted he had picked an uphill fight, but still has recently been handing out cards to men on the street asking them to help the city (in unspecified ways) become completely free of pornography. Though the city has several tax-paying sex businesses (even a strip club and a brothel), Antonio's message (augmented by public confessions of men burdened by their porn habits) is directed at the internet's ease of access to images of male "dominance and power" over females.

The Passing Parade
The town of Warley, England, announced it has applied to the Guinness people for the honor of having the world's smallest museum. The Warley Community Association's museum, with photos and mementoes of its past, is housed in an old phone booth. (So far, there are no "hours"; visitors just show up and open the door.)

• The recent 100th anniversary of America's National Park Service drew attention to the park in Guthrie, Okla.—a 10-by-10-foot space behind a post office, dating from the original Land Office on the spot in 1889. According to legend, the city clerk, instead of asking the government for a 100-by-100-foot square, mistakenly asked for "100 square feet."

Thanks this week to Alex Boese, Ellen Lockhart, Neb Rodgers, Mel Birge and John Smith, and to the News of the Weird Senior Advisors and Board of Editorial Advisors.

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