Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird
- In October, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro created a “Deputy Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness” to coordinate the welfare programs begun by the late President Hugo Chavez. Critics charged, however, that there is much to be unhappy about, given the country’s annual rate of inflation (near 50%), and an Associated Press dispatch quoted one critic who said she would be happy enough if only stores were not constantly out of milk and toilet paper. (Another skeptic said he looked forward to maybe a Vice Ministry of Beer.)
- The U.S. government has engaged in some legendarily wasteful projects, but leaders in China’s Yungai village (pop. 3,683), in Hunan province, have surely raised the bar for epic squander after borrowing the equivalent of $2.4 million and building an impressive seven-story government headquarters—but with 96 still-unlooked-out front windows because there is no activity beyond the first floor. According to an October London Daily Telegraph report, the only occupants are the village government’s eight employees.
- Informal Georgia Sobriety Tests: Rachel Gossett blew a .216 alcohol reading in Loganville, Ga., in November, but that was probably a formality after an officer witnessed her attempt to put a cheeseburger from a Waffle House onto her foot as if it were a shoe. And Rashad Williams, 38, was charged with DUI in Atlanta in October after he crashed through the front of a Walgreens drugstore and then, according to a witness, calmly exited his vehicle (which was sticking halfway into the building) and resumed drinking next door at the Anchor Bar.
- Round Up the Usual Suspect: Indicted for rape in August in Hamilton County, Tenn.: John Allan Raper, 19. (Other recent miscreants were Batman Suparman, 23, convicted in Singapore in November of housebreaking and theft, and Bamboo Flute Blanchard, 18, who was arrested in June in Gainesville, Fla., and accused of trying to stab his father for an unreported provocation—although one possible motive suggests itself.)
Sights to Behold
- When Franco Scaramuzza witnessed two men pepper-spraying a couple in a shopping center parking lot in Nashville, Tenn., in September, he bravely responded in the only way he knew. Scaramuzza, who teaches the art of fencing, drew his fencing sword (“épée”) and challenged the men. With his épée held high and aimed, and chanting fencing-type yells, he charged at the men. As he said later, “They completely panicked and dropped everything…and really took off.” Michael Butt and Zachary Johnson were arrested nearby and charged with robbery.
- In a courthouse lobby in Kelso, Wash., in October, a woman brought a cake in with her through security. Robert Fredrickson, a stranger, was also in the building on business. Without warning, Fredrickson attacked—the cake, not the woman—feeding himself with his hands before washing them off at a drinking fountain. “(S)tand right there. Don’t move,” yelled a deputy, attempting to bring Fredrickson to justice. As soon as the officer looked away, however, Fredrickson returned to clawing at the cake and stuffing his mouth. Finally, several deputies arrived to subdue Fredrickson and charge him with theft and resisting arrest.
Least Competent Criminals
Not Ready for Prime Time: Derek Codd, 19, apparently left his cellphone, by accident, at the house in Lake Worth, Fla., that he had burglarized in November, and just as investigating officers were arriving and noticed it, the phone rang. (“Who is this?” an officer asked. The caller answered innocently, “Derek Codd’s mother.” Derek was arrested a short time later.)
A News of the Weird Classic (February 2009)
Among the medical oddities mentioned in a December (2008) Wall Street Journal roundup was “Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Disorder,” in which a person, when startled, would “jump, twitch, flail their limbs, and obey commands given suddenly, even if it means hurting themselves or a loved one.” It was first observed in 1878 among lumberjacks in Maine, but has been reported also among factory workers in Malaysia and Siberia. It is believed to result from a genetic mutation that blocks the calming of the central nervous system (but could be merely psychological, from the stress of working in close quarters).
© 2013 CHUCK SHEPHERD