Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird
- Equality Under Law: (1) In December, Fort Worth, Texas, judge Jean Boyd sentenced teenager Ethan Couch to probation with no jail time for drunkenly killing four people in a car crash—apparently accepting Couch's “defense” that his affluent, permissive childhood had taught him irresponsibility. (WFAA-TV turned up a 2012 case in which Judge Boyd sentenced a 14-year-old black kid to prison for punching another boy who then fell, bumped his head and died.) (2) New York City prostitute murderer Rasheen Everett got a 29-year sentence in December, despite his lawyer's "defense" that the victim was merely a transgendered prostitute. (“Shouldn’t [29-year sentences] be reserved for people who are guilty of killing certain [higher] classes of individuals?”)
- Tension over digital security is such that an alarming disclosure made in 2004 (and largely ignored) can resurface on a website in 2013 and appear even more astonishing. At the height of the Cold War in the 1960s (and largely because of Pentagon-White House contentiousness), “safeguards” were installed to prevent rogue generals from launching nuclear war on their own. What today would be a “PIN” number was assigned to each missile, but Strategic Air Command generals mocked the PINs by setting each one to “00000000”—a code that today would be ridiculed as naive. (Furthermore, “00000000” was then written out on each missile’s instructions, according to the former launch control officer who disclosed it in 2004.)
Unclear on the Concept
Police finally arrested William Footman, 55, in October as the person who somehow managed to swipe inside-front-door mats from at least 37 New York City banks between March and May 2013. No money was ever taken, and some banks were slow to realize the thefts—unobservant that they had even had front-door mats in the first place. “I sell them to bodegas,” Footman said. “Their floors get wet.”
The Continuing Crisis
When a pickpocket shared a taxi ride with Zou Bin recently in China’s Hunan province and somehow managed to lift his iPhone, Zou was frightened that he had lost all of his beverage-industry business contacts and began text messaging desperate pleas to the thief. Several days later, in the postal mail, Zou received a list of his contacts, apparently carefully copied from the phone, totaling 11 handwritten pages of names and numbers, and as the story broke on Chinese social media, the earnest thief was referred to as “the conscience of the [robbery] industry,” and compared to a member of the People’s Liberation Army as the model conscientious citizen that the Chinese should aspire to.
News That Sounds Like a Joke
- Iowa lawyer Robert Allan Wright Jr. was suspended for a year by the Attorney Disciplinary Board in December for mishandling client funds. One client had received a “Nigerian inheritance” letter in 2011, and Wright apparently jumped at the opportunity to receive “$18 million,” seemingly unaware of what almost everyone else in the developed world knows about unsolicited Nigerian business deals. By December 2013, Wright had looted accounts of other clients in order to pay the “fees” necessary to free up the $18 million. He was spared a more onerous punishment only because the board concluded that Wright “honestly…continues to believe” that the inheritance is real—that “one day a trunk full of…one hundred dollar bills is going to appear upon his office doorstep.”
- Tough Sell for the French, Even at Discount: The Petite Syrah cafe, in the city of Nice, France, began pricing its coffee differently in December to introduce greater politeness among the notoriously brusque French. If a patron orders by saying, “Bonjour, un cafe, s’il vous plait” (i.e., with “hello” and “please”), the price is 1.40 euros (about $1.90). “Un cafe, s’il vous plait”—not quite as polite—costs 4.25 euros (about $5.80). The price for “Un cafe!”—apparently the usual way of announcing one’s need for coffee—7 euros (about $9.50).
© 2013 CHUCK SHEPHERD