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Chuck Shepherd's News of The Weird

Jun. 27, 2014
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Compelling Explanations                

■ U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Omaha, Neb., trying to be helpful, he said, advised female lawyers appearing in his courtroom to lower their hemlines and cover their cleavage because males, including Judge Kopf himself, are “pigs.” Writing in his personal blog in March, he said, “I have been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man” and that the women in his office are similarly contemptuous of daringly dressed female lawyers. The lifetime-tenured judge later said he regretted any harm to the judiciary that his remarks might have caused.              

■ The National Security Agency admitted in a June court filing that it had disobeyed two judicial orders to stop deleting accusatory evidence in its databases (which judges had ordered preserved to help determine if the NSA was illegally violating privacy laws). The NSA’s reasoning for its chutzpah: Its data-gathering systems, it claims, are “too complex” to prevent the automatic deletions routinely programmed into its data, and it cannot reprogram to preserve the data without shutting down its entire intelligence-gathering mission. The challenging party (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) called the NSA’s explanation disingenuous and, in fact, further proof that the NSA is incapable of properly managing such massive data gathering.                                         



In June, a jury in Fresno, Calif., decided that Bobby Lee Pearson, 37, was guilty of burglary—but they accidentally signed the “not-guilty” form, instead, and by the time Judge W. Kent Hamlin caught the error, he could not change it (because of “double jeopardy”). Pearson walked out a free man, went to his sister’s home, got into a fight hours later and was stabbed to death by his sister’s boyfriend.                                                  


Things America Somehow Still Can’t Figure Out (Even Though We’re Smart

Enough to Send a Robot to Mars)   

The U.S. State Department somehow cannot arrange safe haven for Afghan interpreters who risked their lives daily serving U.S. combat troops and who face almost certain retaliation by militants once Americans have departed. Even a coordinator of the interpreter program, who applied for a U.S. visa in 2012, has not been approved (according to a March 2014 New York Times dispatch).                               


World-Class Brazil           

■ The sailing events at the 2016 Summer Olympics will be held on Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay, but dire warnings have been issued about the filthy, squalid condition of the bay and the near impossibility of a timely cleanup. A New York Times reporter, in a May dispatch, cited car tires, floating mattresses, dog carcasses, a partly submerged sofa and free-flowing untreated raw sewage. A Brazilian competitive sailor admitted that he had personally seen four human corpses in the bay. (By comparison, for the Beijing Olympics, 1,000 cleanup boats were dispatched just to remove algae from the sailing venue, but only three cleanup boats are operating on Guanabara now, with merely several dozen planned.)             

■ Arachnophobes (and their snake-fearing cousins, the ophidiophobes) may be in for an interesting 2016 Summer Olympics, in that Brazil seems to be one giant incubator of the scariest insects and vipers on the planet. Chief among them, reported the Wall Street Journal in June, is the Brazilian wandering spider—the world’s most poisonous and, in addition, the size of a dinner plate—whose venom at least owns the “redeeming” value of momentarily giving bitten men erections. Off the coast of São Paulo is the uninhabited (and barred to visitors) Ilha de Queimada Grande, overrun by the super-deadly golden lancehead pit viper (whose population may be as many as five snakes per square meter of land area).                                    


Recurring Themes            

(1) A British National Health Service hospital in Stockton, England, apparently failed to learn from a 2012 tragedy at Scarborough Hospital when, in May, a patient caught fire during surgery. (Tip for Next Time: Either no alcohol sterilizers or no electricity-made incisions.) (2) In the latest creative image-enhancer by a municipal sewage plant, Seattle’s Brightwater Treatment facility is offering to rent its indoor rooms ($2,000 for eight hours) as a wedding venue. According to an official, there is space for 260 guests, including full kitchen—and the plant is reputed to be a “zero odor” facility.                         




Would white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan pose the same threat they do now if a mainstream Republican were president instead of Donald Trump?

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