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Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

Feb. 17, 2011
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Just Say No

Three men and two juveniles were charged with burglary in Silver Springs Shores, Fla., in January following a December break-in that netted them electronics and jewelry and what they thought was a stash of powder cocaine. The men told police they had already snorted some of the powder. The police report identified the powder as the ashes of the resident's late father and of two Great Danes. (Some of the ashes were later recovered.)

Can't Possibly Be True

  • Vietnam veteran Ronald Flanagan, in the midst of expensive treatment for bone cancer, had his medical insurance canceled in January because his wife mistakenly keyed in a "7" instead of a "9" in the "cents" space while paying the couple's regular premium online, leaving the Flanagans 2 cents short. According to the administrator, Ceridian COBRA Services, that "fit into the definition in the regulations of 'insufficient payment'" and allows for termination. (After receiving bad publicity, the company reinstated Flanagan’s insurance.)
  • It was a prestigious hospital (UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass.) on a worthy mission (to recruit hard-to-match bone marrow donors in order to renew dwindling supplies), but the tactics were a little unorthodox. The medical center hired young female models in short skirts to flirt with men at New Hampshire shopping centers and ballparks so as to entice the men to give DNA swabs for possible matches. Complaints piled up because state law requires insurance providers to cover the tests (at $4,000 for each swab submitted by the love-struck flirtees). The hospital recently dropped the program, according to a December report in TheNew York Times.

Unclear on the Concept

  • In January, Thalia Surf Shop of Laguna Beach, Calif. (named by OC Weekly in 2009 as Orange County's best), ran a special Martin Luther King Jr. promotion featuring "20% Off All Black Products." The promotion included an illustration with a doctored photograph of Dr. King in one of the shop's finest wet suits. Following some quick, bad publicity, the shop's management apologized.
  • Questionable State Regulation: (1) When it comes to where he can live, William MacDonald is restricted by state law because he is a "registered sex offender," he told The New York Times in January. He claims that his case is unfair in that his only felony crime was violating Virginia law by having oral sex with women of consenting age, which most legal scholars believe is not a crime (following a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision). (2) Tennessee, the "second-fattest" state, according to a recent report, continues to pay for obese Medicaid recipients to have bariatric surgery (at an average cost of about $2,000), but to deny coverage for an overweight person to consult, even once, with a dietitian.

First Things First

As of early November, 150 people had been killed by eruptions from Mount Merapi volcano in Central Java, Indonesia, and the government had created shelters in stadiums and public halls for 300,000 evacuees. The evacuees lived in close quarters and were afforded little privacy. Some people began to petition authorities to open up private shelter locations so that the displaced could attend to certain romantic, biological needs. Apparently some evacuees had become so frisky that they had left the shelter and returned to their homes in the danger zone just so they could have sex.

The Redneck Chronicles

Johni Rice, 35, eating at a Waffle House restaurant in Spartanburg, S.C., was charged in January with assaulting two diners at another table over the quality of their conversation—a man and a woman were discussing "women with hairy armpits."

2011 Chuck Shepherd


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