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Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

Aug. 8, 2013
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Government in Action

The National Security Agency is a “supercomputing powerhouse,” wrote propublica.org in July, with “machines so powerful their speed is measured in thousands of trillions of operations per second”—but apparently it has no ability to bulk-search its own employees’ official emails. Thus, ProPublica’s Freedom of Information Act demand for a seemingly simple all-hands search was turned down in July with the NSA informing ProPublica that the best it could do would be to go one-by-one through the emails of each of the agency’s 30,000 employees—which would be prohibitively expensive. (ProPublica reported that companywide searches are “common” for large corporations, which must respond to judicial subpoenas and provide information for their own internal investigations.)

Recurring Themes

  • To commemorate its 500th “deep brain stimulation” surgery in May, UCLA Medical Center live-Tweeted its operation on musician Brad Carter, 39, during which he was required to strum his guitar and sing so that surgeons would know where in his brain to plant the electrical stimulator that would relieve his Parkinson's disease symptoms. Carter had developed hand tremors in 2006, but the stimulator, once it is properly programmed and the surgery healed, is expected to reduce his symptoms, restore some guitar-playing ability and reduce his medication need. (And, yes, patients normally remain conscious during the surgery.)
  • Americans stage dog shows, Middle-Easterners stage camel beauty contests and in June, the annual German Holstein Show took over the city of Oldenburg, with the two-day event won by “Loh Nastygirl,” topping bovine beauties from Germany, Luxembourg and Austria. The event is also a showcase for the cow hairdressers, who trim cows’ leg and belly hair (to better display their veins). Said one dresser, “It is just like with us people—primping helps.” Groomed or not, cows with powerful legs, bulging udders and a strong bone structure are the favorites.
  • Fruit of any kind retails for outlandish prices in Japan, but some, such as Yubari cantaloupes, are so prestigious that they are often presented as gifts to friends or colleagues, and it was only mildly surprising that a pair of the melons sold in May for the equivalent of about $15,700 at auction at the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market. The melons appeared to be perfect specimens, with their T-shaped stalk still attached. The record melon-pair price, set in 2008, is about $25,200 measured at today’s exchange rate.

Still Unclear on the Concept

  • Some crime-scene investigative techniques seem far-fetched, as News of the Weird has reported, but police use of “ear prints” might be approaching the mainstream. Britain convicted its first burglar based on an ear print in 1998, and in May 2013, investigators in Lyon, France, tied a 26-year-old man from the Republic of Georgia to a string of about 80 burglaries—by taking prints from doors the man had leaned against while listening for activity inside the home.

    Among the oldest classic stories in News of the Weird is that of the hapless burglar or bank robber who inadvertently incriminates himself at the scene of the crime. Recently, (1) Korey Harris, a defensive lineman for West Virginia University’s football team, was arrested in July for a home invasion he allegedly committed while wearing his practice sweatpants emblazoned with his jersey number (96). (2) Police in Boston are confident that Zachary Tentoni is the man who robbed a woman in the yard of Harbor Middle School in June because, as he grabbed her purse and fled, he dropped two bags he was carrying. Among the contents: Tentoni’s birth certificate and a letter from his mother.

It took a year and a half of legal wrangling over a technicality, but Marshall University was finally dropped in June as one of the defendants in Louis Helmburg III’s lawsuit for his injuries when fellow party-goer Travis Hughes shot bottle rockets out of his posterior in 2011. Helmburg, some will recall, was so startled by Hughes’ stunt that he fell off the rail-less deck at a fraternity party staged by Alpha Tau Omega of Marshall University. Hughes and the fraternity remain as defendants in the January 2012 lawsuit.




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