Chuck Shepherd's News of The Weird
The Drug Users Resource Center in Vancouver, British Columbia (heralded previously for a vending machine dispensing 25-cent crack-cocaine pipes to discourage addicts from committing crimes to fund their habit), launched a program in August to supply alcoholics with beer-brewing and wine-making ingredients to discourage them from drinking rubbing alcohol, hand-sanitizer and mouthwash. The DURC “co-op” sells, for $10 monthly, brewing mix in a pre-hopped beer kit, but eventually, an official said, co-op members will brew from scratch, including boiling, mashing and milling. A civic leader told Canada’s National Post that the program has already begun to reduce crime in areas frequented by alcoholics.
Government in Action
Rape-prevention activists estimate that local governments have backlogs of untested evidentiary “rape kits” that total up to 400,000 nationally—signifying free crimes for rapists, lost justice for victims and ruined reputations for men wrongly arrested. (As TV police dramas emphasize, many rape victims are reluctant to submit to the indignity of swabbing and photographing so soon after being violated and comply only because detectives assure them of the rape kit’s importance.) Memphis, Tenn., has an inventory of 12,000, and the state of Texas at least 16,000—dating back to the 1980s. However, the cost of testing (about $500 each) is daunting for many city budgets, according to a February report by the Rape Kit Action Project in New York.
Frances Wadsworth-Jones’ jewelry design show (“Heaven Sent”) at the Museum of London runs until April, with centerpiece brooches that resemble bird droppings. Why, she was asked, would a woman want to wear jewelry suggesting that a pigeon soiled her lapel? “The stain is very intimate,” said the artist. It’s “something that you wouldn’t want, and you’re turning it into something beautiful.” Wadsworth-Jones’ pieces have sold for as much as the equivalent of $4,000.
■ Inexplicable: Three suspects fled with about 30 pieces of jewelry from a burglary at Timothy’s Fine Jewelry in Broomfield, Colo., in January, but not before creating a puzzling scene on the surveillance video. Crushing the glass cases with sledgehammers, they moved quickly around the store, all the while constantly telling each other, “I love you, brother.”
■ Suspicion Confirmed: After Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Donna Jane Watts ticketed Miami Police Department officer Fausto Lopez in 2011 for speeding to an off-duty job at 120 mph, naturally some in law enforcement began harassing her as a “rat,” according to a February Associated Press report. One provocation stood out—other officers’ accessing Watts’ driver record by claiming to be on official business. Watts identified those officers’ employers and recently filed a lawsuit under the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act, which provides penalties of up to $2,500 for each of the more than 200 unauthorized searches by 88 officers from 25 police agencies.
Democracy in Action
Christopher Schaeffer likely became the first public officeholder in the U.S. sworn in as an openly declared “Pastafarian”—an adherent of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster—when he took his seat on the Town Council of Pomfret, N.Y., in January. Schaeffer was wearing the traditional Pastafarian religious head covering (a colander).
Least Competent Criminals
Clumsy: The surveillance video of The Shambles bar in Chicago showed that an attempted break-in one night in January went awry when the unidentified perp removed the front entrance lock but gave up and fled seconds later when he couldn’t open the door—which he was shown furiously pulling on, oblivious that it was a “push” door.
In December, a 38-year-old man, apparently fed up with his girlfriend’s demands that he continue accompanying her at a shopping mall in Xuzhou, China, threw himself off a seventh-floor balcony, to his death. A witness reported the man yelling that the girlfriend already had “more shoes than she could wear in a lifetime, and it was pointless buying any more.” Following increasingly heated exchanges, the man dropped her shopping bags and leaped over the railing.
© 2014 CHUCK SHEPHERD