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News of the Weird by Chuck Shepherd

By News of the Weird by Chuck Shepherd

Published April 27, 2015

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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 -- a quantity that, if all of the country's 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). [Bloomberg Business Week, 1-8-2015]

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-cellmate's 1996 letter surfaced -- 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 cellmate's 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. [Washington Post, 3-9-2015]

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 country's Road Administration recently approved a new pathway near Reykjavik that had been delayed by a troublesome, 70-ton boulder in the right-of-way -- which could not be dislodged because it is believed to be a "church" for the country's legendary "hidden people." The elves' leading spokeswoman, Ragnhildur Jonsdottir, finally declared, to officials' relief, that the elves had accepted the boulder's relocation (to the side of the road), having "been preparing for this for a long time, moving their energy to the new location." [mbl.is (Reykjavik), 3-18-2015]

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 country's austerity measures, had faced a group of protesters who had rained upon him french fries topped with mayonnaise. [Daily Mail (London), 12-22-2014] -- Three months ago, News of the Weird highlighted a London man's 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). [Newser.com, 3-20-2015, 9-16-2014]

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