News of the Weird

Mar. 24, 2010
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Spam (A Lot)

The day before Liam Francis, a 26-year-old chef for the British army, arrived at his forward operating base in Afghanistan, the Taliban shot down the helicopter ferrying in food rations. This meant that Francis had to make do with the supplies already on hand—a pantry consisting only of seasonings and hundreds of tins of Spam. For six weeks, Francis prepared items like "sweet-and-sour Spam," "Spam fritters," "Spam carbonara," "Spam stroganoff" and "stir-fried Spam" until a new supply of food finally reached the base. Francis told the Daily Telegraph that he was proud of his work but admitted that "morale improved" when fresh food arrived.

Unclear on the Concept

In March, sheriff's deputies in Kissimmee, Fla., detained a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent who, while working undercover, had aroused suspicions of neighborhood residents. After investigating, the deputies reportedly discovered that in order to guard his identity as an ICE agent, the man had posed as an FBI agent. [Orlando Sentinel, March 4, 2010]

Least Competent Criminals

(1) Jonathon Smith, 22, was arrested in March in Fairbanks, Alaska, shortly after his release on bail on charges that he tried to use forged checks to buy three trucks from local dealers. His latest arrest came at Seekins Ford, where, according to police, he was trying to buy yet another pickup truck with a forged check. (2) Police in Falmouth, Mass., hired John Yarrington as a confidential informant on Feb. 16, setting him up with $50 in marked bills to buy cocaine from dealer Cory Noonan. Yarrington completed the deal, left the scene and was paid $100. Less than 10 minutes later, however, before Noonan had even been arrested, Yarrington returned and, according to police, attempted to buy more cocaine on his own.

Animal Business

n Pigs Livin' Large: In February, farmer Cathy Gieseker was sentenced for perpetrating an alleged $27 million Ponzi scheme (prosecutors called her the "Midwest Madoff"). Among the items she allegedly bought with proceeds from the Ponzi scheme was a $900 tanning bed for her "show" pigs.

n Animals With Issues: (1) Ashley Saks’ 2-year-old basset hound Roxy was resting comfortably in Jacksonville, Fla., in November after a veterinarian removed 130 nails Roxy had swallowed. (2) In November, maritime rescuers were called to ocean waters off the coast of Darwin, Australia, to rescue an adult cow that was dog-paddling around. According to a seaman, the cow was "not in a good mood."

Fine Points of the Law

If, while wearing a ski mask, you carry a gun into a store with the intent to rob it, but there are no employees around to rob and you abort the attempt, is it still an "attempted robbery"? That question faces Sanjuan Reyes, 22, and two teenagers who were arrested in Joliet, Ill., in January and charged with attempting to rob the Supermercado Viva Mexico. Two people acted as lookouts while the youngest, wearing a ski mask and wielding an air pistol, entered the store. Apparently, the only employees on duty were in the back room. The boy waited for a minute or so, then bailed, and the three fled empty-handed. Joliet's deputy police chief said a crime was still committed.

Questionable Obsessions

(1) In November, Jim Bartek, 49, of Maple Heights, Ohio, announced he was ending a streak of 524 consecutive days in which he listened to the album Nostradamus by the heavy-metal group Judas Priest. (2) In February, Hilary Taylor, 63, of Great Yarmouth, England, revealed that her late uncle, Ken Strickland, had bequeathed to her his collection of 3,000 watering cans.

Leading Economic Indicators

Details about Britain's biggest marijuana-importing operation emerged in March following the conviction of its three managers in Southwark Crown Court. The enterprise earned the equivalent of an estimated $300 million at such a rapid rate that the partners apparently were unable to spend much of it, despite buying real estate, jewelry and expensive cars. An inspector said Scotland Yard found "moldy [cash] rotting away," hidden under floorboards. In their words, "It was no good to anybody."

Undignified Deaths

(1) A 36-year-old man drowned in Denville, N.J., in January during a friendly swimming competition with a pal, as they ended up underneath a 30-yard-long ice patch on partially frozen Indian Lake. (2) New York City police believe that hit man Hector Quinones, 44, shot three men to death in a high-rise apartment in December, but allowed a woman in the apartment to escape when he tripped on his own baggy pants while chasing her. As police arrived, Quinones climbed out onto the fire escape but accidentally fell off and broke his neck.

2010 Chuck Shepherd


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