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Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

Mar. 8, 2013
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Guilt That Lingers

An Arizona appeals court ruled in February that someone can be guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana even when its psychoactive ingredient has long ago left his/her system. Since tests of marijuana measure both active and inactive ingredients, and since the active substance vanishes quickly, while the inactive one remains in the body for weeks, a marijuana consumer may test "positive" even when not the least bit impaired. (In fact, since neighboring Colorado recently legalized some marijuana possession, a Colorado driver motoring through Arizona weeks later could be guilty of DUI for a completely legal, harmless act.) The appeals court majority reasoned that since the legislature did not distinguish the inactive ingredient from the active, neither would the court.

The Litigious Society

  • Keith Brown and four other inmates at Idaho's Kuna prison filed a lawsuit in December against eight major beer and liquor manufacturers for having sold them alcohol at an early age without warning of its addictiveness—and are thus responsible for the men's subsequent lives of crime. Brown, 52, said he personally has been locked up a total of 30 years and is now serving time for manslaughter.
  • Jason Starn, formerly a law student at the Laurence Drivon School of Law in Stockton, Calif., filed a lawsuit recently against three Stockton-Modesto-area "head shops" that had sold him Whip-It nitrous oxide, which led him to overindulge and eventually suffer spinal-cord degeneration. Starn's attorney told the Sacramento Bee, "At first, he felt a little embarrassed about" filing the lawsuit (but managed to overcome the shame in order to warn all the other nitrous-oxide abusers).

Suspicions Confirmed

  • A 53-year-old Rosenheim, Germany, postal worker was relieved of criminal charges in January when a judge ruled him innocent of discarding mail (as jealous "whistle-blowers" had charged) after concluding that the carrier finished routes early simply because he worked faster. Although the charge was dropped, he was reprimanded for taking unauthorized (i.e., simpler) routes.
  • Faith healer, Ariel Ben Sherman, 78, died in November in a South Carolina hospital after suffering respiratory arrest while being treated for small-cell cancer. He had been found guilty in May 2012 of neglect in the cancer death of a 15-year-old girl (of whom he had accepted the title of "spiritual father") for his insistence that the girl's mother reject medical care and treat the girl only with prayer.

People With Issues

Australian researchers recently uncovered a minor prison phenomenon in that country that might shed light on isolated cases reported in southwest U.S. prisons (mentioned in News of the Weird in 2012): inmates inserting objects underneath the skin of their penises, somehow under the impression that (a) it doesn't hurt and (b) it provides sexual pleasure and virility. Among the items discovered in Australia: buttons, dice, deodorant roller balls. The apparent favorite among the several Hispanic men discovered in the U.S. Southwest: shaved dominoes. In many cases, infections resulted and sometimes required major surgery.


From a tag on an item of clothing offered recently at a new-item price by the retailer Urban Outfitters: "This unique found item was hand-selected for you from a yard sale or flea market. Any tears, holes, paint stains or other 'defects' we consider a virtue and not a flaw. Wear it well." Consequently, an item that might have been donated overseas or to a Goodwill or Salvation Army store is sold to "urban" clotheshounds at "new" prices. Urban Outfitters defended the practice, calling any such items "curated" by their expert store buyers, "hand-picked" for their "uniqueness," and sometimes "truly one-of-a-kind, which means that once they're gone, they're gone."

Readers' Choice

In December, a 38-year-old male worker at the Social Security office in Baltimore was issued a formal reprimand after coworkers complained that he prodigiously passed gas at his desk. He had been counseled informally in the summer of 2012, and to satisfy "due process," a log was made later listing 60 specific emissions on 17 separate dates, with, for example, nine blasts on Sept. 19. Seven days after the letter of reprimand was issued, "senior management" at the agency learned of it and withdrew it, without comment, according to a Washington Post report.             


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