News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
You Snooze (Even for a Split-Second), You Lose
• In April, a research ship will begin surveying the Atlantic Ocean floor off of Nova Scotia as the first step to building, by 2013, a $300 million private fiber-optic line connecting New York and London financial markets so as to speed up current transmission times—by about five milliseconds. Those five milliseconds, though (according to an April report in Bloomberg Business Week), will enable the small group of firms that are underwriting the project (and who will have exclusive use of it) to earn millions of dollars per transaction by having their trade sales arrive five milliseconds before their competitors’ sales would have arrived.
• Brazil’s Safety Net for the Poor: Dr. Ivo Pitanguy, the most celebrated plastic surgeon in the country, apparently earned enough money from well-off clients that he can now “give back,” by funding and inspiring more than 200 clinics to provide low-income women with enhancement procedures (face lifts, tummy tucks, butt lifts) at a reduced, and sometimes no, charge. A local anthropology professor told ABC News, for a March dispatch, that “[i]n Brazil, plastic surgery is now seen as something of the norm” (or, as the reporter put it, “[B]eauty is [considered] a right, and the poor deserve to be ravishing, too”).
• In a March interview on Bolivian television, Judge Gualberto Cusi, who was recently elected to Bolivia’s Constitutional Tribunal from the indigenous Aymara community, acknowledged that occasionally, when deciding tough cases, he relied on the Aymaran tradition of “reading” coca leaves. “In moments when decisions must be taken, we turn to coca to guide us and show us the way.”
• In February, the Life-End Clinic in the Netherlands announced that six mobile euthanasia teams were placed in service countrywide to make assisted-suicide house calls—provided the client qualified under the nation’s strict laws. (Euthanasia, legal in the Netherlands since 2002, is available to people who suffer “unbearable, interminable” pain and for which at least two doctors certify there is “no cure.” Panels of doctors, lawyers and ethicists rule on the applications.)
Latest Religious Messages
• Two lawsuits filed in Los Angeles recently against the founding family of the religious Trinity Broadcasting Network allege that televangelists Paul and Jan Crouch have spent well over $50 million of worshippers’ donations on “personal” expenses, including 13 “mansions,” his-and-hers private jets, and a $100,000 mobile home for Mrs. Crouch’s dogs. The jets are necessary, the Crouches’ lawyer told the Los Angeles Times, because the Crouches receive more death threats than even the president of the United States. Allegedly, the Crouches keep millions of dollars in cash on hand, but according to their lawyer, that is merely out of obedience to the biblical principle of “ow(ing) no man anything.”
• High-ranking Vatican administrator Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, 68, fired back at critics in April after an Italian website reported his extensive collection of guns and love of shooting. He told reporters that he owns only 13 weapons and that, “above all,” he enjoys “repairing” them rather than shooting them (although, he admitted, “I used to go to shooting ranges”).
Fine Points of Florida Law
• (1) In April, the Tampa Police Department issued preliminary security guidelines to control areas around August’s Republican National Convention in the city. Although the Secret Service will control the actual convention arena, Tampa Police are establishing a zone around the arena in which weapons will be confiscated (including sticks, rocks, bottles and slingshots). Police would like to have banned firearms, too, but state law prevents cities from restricting the rights of licensed gun-carriers. (2) South Florida station WPLG-TV reported in March that vendors were openly selling, for about $30, verbatim driver’s license test questions and answers, on the street in front of DMV offices. However, when told about it, a DMV official shrugged, pointing out that test-takers still had to memorize them to pass the closed-book exam.
• Perp’s Remorse: (1) Jason Adkins was charged in March in Cynthiana, Ky., with stealing electronic equipment from the home of a friend. According to police, Adkins admitted the break-in but said he felt guilty the next day and returned the items. However, he then admitted breaking back into the home two days after that and re-stealing them. (2) Ivan Barker was sentenced in March in England’s Stoke-on-Trent Magistrates Court for stealing a laptop computer and cigarettes from the home of a wheelchair-bound man of his acquaintance. Barker subsequently visited the man and apologized for the theft, but then, during that visit, Barker stole the man’s new replacement laptop computer and more cigarettes. [Cynthiana Democrat, 3-23-2012] [ThisIsStaffordshire.com, 3-22- 2012]
• At a March town meeting in Embden, Maine, residents turned down proposals to rename its most notorious street “Katie Road.” Thus, the name will remain, as it has for decades, “Katie Crotch Road.” Some residents, in addition to being embarrassed by the name, also noted the cost of constantly replacing the street signs stolen by giggling visitors. (A Kennebec Journal report noted uncertainty about the name’s origin. It might refer to how the road splits in two, forming a “Y” shape. On the low side, the name might refer to an early settler who would sit on her front porch without underwear.)
• Lumpkin County, Ga., judge David Barrett, apparently frustrated by an alleged rape victim’s reluctant testimony at a trial in February, blurted out in court that she was “killing her case [against the accused rapist],” and to dramatize the point, pulled out his own handgun and offered it to her, explaining that she might as well shoot her lawyer because the chances for conviction were dropping rapidly. (Five days later, following news reports, Barrett resigned.)
No Spectators Allowed
• For the first time in years, there was no Easter bunny at Central City Park in Macon, Ga., this year because the county commissioner who runs the sponsoring organization said he was tired of violent parents hogging the Easter egg hunt by “helping” their kids. (Two years ago, Olney High School in Philadelphia barred players’ parents from its boys’ junior varsity basketball games unless they registered and vowed to obey a code of conduct. In February 2012, the president of the Egyptian Football Association similarly announced that the season would continue but without spectators, because of the probability of violence. Of course, Egypt, unlike Macon, Ga., and Olney High School, has just been through a bloody civil war.)
Least Competent Criminals
• Relentless: (1) In the early hours of Jan. 31, police in Gaston, N.C., were alerted to five burglaries in a two-block area that left shattered glass, broken doors and other damage, but no missing property. There was also a blood trail leading from one store, likely from a break-in boo-boo. (2) In March, England’s Canterbury Crown Court heard the evidence against a gang of five who in August and September 2010 attempted to break into seven ATMs, using fancy power tools, but came away empty-handed each time. Brick walls were smashed around three machines, and twice explosives were used, resulting in fires. In each case, alarms were triggered, sending the men away prematurely, including once from an ATM that contained the equivalent of $223,000.
• The Japanese delicacy “fugu” (blowfish) must be properly filleted by trained chefs because of the highly concentrated poison in its tissue, and indeed, a few deaths are reported every year in Japan from people who prepare fugu at home, since a single drop can be fatal. (The additional training, and chef-licensing, partly explains why Tokyo restaurants charge the equivalent of $120 or more for the dish.) However, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which is apparently newly concerned about restaurant competition, announced recently that it would soon no longer require formal training of fugu chefs, leaving it to individual restaurants to set their own standards. Said one 30-year veteran chef, “We licensed chefs feel this way of thinking is a bit strange.”blog comments powered by Disqus
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