News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
Overdose of Evidence
• In August, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration dropped all charges against a doctor who has been at the center of a prescription-drug fraud case because, said prosecutors, they have too much evidence against him and not enough space to store it. The U.S. attorney in northern Iowa said her office needs to clear out the 400,000 paper documents and two terabytes of electronic data (the latter of which under current technology takes up little space but in DEA’s antiquated computer system hogs 5 percent of the agency’s worldwide electronic storage). The accused, Dr. Armando Angulo, has lived since 2004 in Panama, which will not extradite him. (He remains under indictment on state charges in Florida.)
The Litigious Society
• If Megan Duskey’s parents had been with her that night in 2010, they perhaps would have insisted she (dressed as the comic book hero Silver Spectre) not try to slide down the railing during the Halloween-themed ball at Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton hotel, but she did slide down, and she fell four floors to her death. Nonetheless, in July 2012, the parents filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Hilton and other entities, claiming that the death of Ms. Duskey at age 23 was the hotel’s and the sponsors’ fault.
• In July, a California appeals court reinstated police officer Enrique Chavez’s lawsuit against the Austrian gun manufacturer Glock for its “unsafe” design. Chavez is now paralyzed from the waist down because his 3-year-old son got hold of the gun and accidentally fired it, hitting his dad. Chavez, in violation of police policies, had left the gun loaded underneath the front seat of his car, and his son, whom Chavez had not belted into a child seat, was free to explore while Dad drove. The gun is regarded as of safe design by dozens, if not hundreds, of police departments, and the LAPD disciplined Chavez over the incident.
Democracy in Action
• Didier Peleman, 41, is a major-party candidate for the city council in Ghent, Belgium, and, like most, has champions and detractors. Though he has been active in “community work” for 11 years, Peleman is candid about a mental disability that noticeably slows down his speaking and writing and which some voters fear impedes his reasoning ability. His Flemish Christian Democrats Party said it is important that people with disabilities challenge constraints.
• A July battle in the House of Representatives pitted austerity-driven members striving to cut $72 million in spending on NASCAR against North Carolina House members determined to keep the money in. (Most NASCAR teams are headquartered in the state, as is the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.) More than a third of the money would go to the National Guard for sponsoring driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. The North Carolina legislators believe military recruitment will suffer unless the race- car connection is maintained.
• Karma: (1) In July a 30-year-old man suspected of skipping out on a bar bill at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manchester, N.H., did not make it far. As he tried to hop an iron fence, he impaled his leg and eventually required eight firefighters to rescue him using hydraulic cutting tools. (2) Greyston Garcia, 26, who was cleared of murder charges in January under Florida’s “stand your ground” defense (even though he had chased the victim more than a block to stab him to death after the man took his radio), was inadvertently killed in June by random gang gunfire in Miami.
• Csanad Szegedi, a member of the European Parliament representing the anti-Semitic Jobbik Party of Hungary (a party whose presidential candidate described Jews as “lice-infested”), resigned in August after admitting that he had learned two years earlier that his own mother was (and therefore he is) a Jew. Initially, Szegedi tried to quash the revelation via bribery but eventually resigned, apologized, and vowed to pay respects at Auschwitz.
All in the Mind
• Mark Worsfold, 54, a former British soldier and martial arts instructor, was sitting along a road on July 28 watching the Olympic men’s cycling race when he was detained because police on security alert said his “behavior” had “caused concern.” According to a report in The Guardian, Worsfold, after being handcuffed and taken to a police station, was told he was arousing suspicion because he “had not been seen to be visibly enjoying the event,” to which he replied, truthfully, that he has Parkinson’s disease, which causes facial rigidity. (After two hours of detention, he was released without charges.)
• Dennis Brown, 55, was arrested in August in Tyler, Texas, after police saw him taking pictures, surreptitiously, of women and high school girls near Robert E. Lee High School. Since people in public spaces generally have no legal expectation of privacy, Brown could not normally be charged with a crime. However, Brown admitted to police that the mundane photos of the clothed women were for his sexual enjoyment. He was perhaps unaware of a Texas Penal Code provision that requires consent for any type of photo of another person if it is for “sexual gratification” (a motive that, regarding ordinary photographs, is nearly impossible to prove—unless the accused volunteers it).
• Problems of the First World: Third World teenagers often must deal with conscription, sweatshop labor and life as street beggars, but in affluent New York City (according to a June report in The New York Times), a major anxiety of teen and almost-teen girls is having to endure sleepaway summer camp with hairy legs. Said celebrity makeup designer Bobbi Brown, “If she’s going to be in a bunk with all these girls,” and “insecure” about lip or leg hair, “You do whatever you can do to make her feel good.” (Seemingly drawing on the Times story, Uni K Waxing of New York City announced a July-only special—with girls 15 and under receiving a 50 percent discount on bikini-waxing.)
• As the frenzied pace of contemporary life becomes less appealing, Dull Men’s Clubs have grown since their News of the Weird mention in 2007. A July Wall Street Journal dispatch from Pembroke, Mass., revealed recent themes for that club’s excitement-challenged members, including why one of them carries a spoon everywhere and the old standbys of which way toilet paper should hang and the wisdom of a city’s street grid system. DullMensClub.com has about 5,000 members who always, according to legend, “think inside the box” about such topics as remembering to keep their staplers filled and which way, in airports around the world, luggage carousels turn (clockwise or counter- clockwise).
The Pervo-American Community
• Christian Hobbs, 44, was arrested in Salem, N.H., in August after a woman discovered him underneath her mobile home, looking up at her through a hole in the floor of her bathroom. The woman said Hobbs had sold her the home two years ago and recently done some handyman work for her, leading to this unauthorized modification. Police said Hobbs had taken cellphone video of the woman and her toddler in the bathroom and that the food, beverages and tissues found underneath the home suggested that Hobbs had been there for as long as two days.
The News Is Grim in Africa, Too
• From a July report on NewZimbabwe.com (motto: “The Zimbabwe News You Trust”): On July 11, as many as 26 women in two villages presided over by Chief Njelele of Gokwe awoke missing their panties, which were later found in a heap down the road, with 17 pairs “positively identified” by the victims. Just as the chief was making arrangements to bring in a “prophet” to find the evil local “wizard,” a huge owl swooped down a few feet away and carried off a dog. “It’s mind-boggling what’s going on in the area,” the chief said.blog comments powered by Disqus
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