NEWS OF THE WEIRD 

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Unclear on the concept Police finally arrested William Footman, 55, in October as the person who somehow managed to swipe inside-front-door mats from at least 37 New York City banks between March and May 2013. No money was ever taken, and some banks were slow to realize the thefts — unobservant that they had even had front-door mats in the first place. “I sell them to bodegas,” Footman said. “Their floors get wet.” — Rodney Rotert of Tulsa, Okla., filed a lawsuit recently against Philadelphia Insurance Companies demanding the return of “his” classic 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, supposedly worth about $100,000. His case is complicated by the fact that he also recently pleaded no contest to possessing stolen property, i.e., that very same car, stolen from an Arkansas dealer in 2007. (Rotert claims he bought the car legitimately, but he also changed the Vehicle Identification Number to obtain a false title.) Rotert said his legal claim, especially with the “current” VIN, is superior to the insurance company’s claim.

Perspective While many educators lament the mediocrity of American universities in encouraging study of science and engineering, U.S. colleges are surely among world leaders in one area: sensitivity to students questioning their gender. In the current school year, Bellevue (Wash.) College and Mills College (Oakland, Calif.) have offered students unprecedented choices of self-identification. “Male/female” is no longer useful at Bellevue, which offers “feminine, masculine, androgynous, gender neutral, transgender and other.” At Mills, students identify themselves as “agender, bigender, third-gender or gender-fluid,” and select the pronoun they wish to be referred to with (he or she or ze or sie or ve, or the agrammatical “they”).

The continuing crisis When a pickpocket shared a taxi ride with him recently in China’s Hunan province and somehow managed to lift Zou Bin’s iPhone, Zou was frightened that he had lost all of his beverageindustry business contacts and began text-messaging desperate pleas to the thief. Several days later, in the postal mail, Zou received a list of his contacts, apparently carefully copied from the phone, totaling 11 handwritten pages of names and numbers, and as the story broke on Chinese social media, the earnest thief was referred to as “the conscience of the (robbery) industry,” and compared to a member of the People’s Liberation Army as the model conscientious citizen that the Chinese should aspire to.

News that sounds like a joke Iowa lawyer Robert Allan Wright Jr. was suspended for a year by the Attorney Disciplinary Board in December for mishandling client funds. One client had received a “Nigerian inheritance” letter in 2011, and Wright apparently jumped at the opportunity to receive “$18 million,” seemingly unaware of what almost everyone else in the developed world knows about unsolicited Nigerian business deals. By December 2013, Wright had looted accounts of other clients in order to pay the “fees” necessary to free up the $18 million. He was spared a more onerous punishment only because the board concluded that Wright “honestly ... continues to believe” that the inheritance is real ― that “one day a trunk full of ... one hundred dollar bills is going to appear upon his office doorstep.” — Tough sell for the French, even at discount: The Petite Syrah cafe, in the city of Nice, France, began pricing its coffee differently in December to introduce greater politeness among the notoriously brusque French. If a patron orders by saying, “Bonjour, un cafe, s’il vous plait” (i.e., with “hello” and “please”), the price is 1.40 euros (about $1.90). “Un cafe, s’il vous plait” — not quite as polite — costs 4.25 euros (about $5.80). The price for “Un cafe!” — apparently the usual way of announcing one’s need for coffee — 7 euros (about $9.50). — Chuck Shepherd

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