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Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

Dec. 15, 2015
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Leading Economic Indicators          

* Dr. Raymond Schinazi was a federal government employee when he led the team that discovered sofosbuvir, which completely cures hepatitis C patients with an 84-pill regimen, but, as he recently told CBS News, he only worked for the government “seven-eighths” of the time—and, conveniently, it was during the other one-eighth that he found sofosbuvir. He admits now that he made $400 million selling his sofosbuvir company in 2012 to Gilead Sciences, which famously set sofosbuvir’s price for a 12-week treatment to $84,000. Now, the Department of Veterans Affairs, with 230,000 war vets with hep-C, tells Congress that it needs much more money, even though Gilead has “cut” the VA’s price in half (to $42,000 per treatment, or close to $10 billion). (In a 2013 medical journal, Dr. Schinazi revealed that sofosbuvir could be manufactured for about $17 a pill, or $1,400 for an entire treatment.)         

* Famously, of course, no central characters from big banks went to jail for crashing the economy and causing thousands to lose their homes and jobs, but the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission seem rather proud that at least they pressured several banks to pay the government billions of dollars in civil-case settlements. However, the activist group U.S. PIRG revealed in December that of the 10 largest such federal settlements, where banks and corporations paid a total of $80 billion, about half was characterized as tax-deductible. (In addition, of course, all of the $80 billion was ultimately paid by the banks’ and corporations’ stockholders rather than by wrongdoing employees.)                                                                                 

 

Cliché Come to Life         

The Angelina County Sheriff’s Office (Lufkin, Texas) reported responding to a 911 call about shots fired at a home on Nov. 8, but made no arrest. The male resident was sitting in his pickup, admittedly drunk, and having listened to a “sad song” on his favorite station, he of course pulled his .22-caliber pistol and shot the radio. According to the report, “Suspect’s wife took possession of the handgun and suspect.”                                  

 

Ironies 

Sweet: (1) As deputy leader of Scotland’s South Lanarkshire Council, Jackie Burns was instrumental in the budgetary closing of all 24 public toilets in the area. In November, Burns was fined (the equivalent of about $43) after he, out on the town, could hold it in no longer and urinated in the street. (2) Hector Segura, 29, in town for a Washington, D.C., conference on drug policy reform (with most attendees certain that the “war on drugs” has failed) was found by police naked in a flower bed in a neighborhood near his hotel in Arlington, Va., with (according to police) “bath salts” the culprit. It required two Taser shots to subdue him as he pounded on a squad car.                                        

 

Bright Ideas        

China’s love of beef, plus a regulation requiring that live animals imported for food be slaughtered within 55 miles of entry port, has created big business for the Australian cattle exporter Elders, which uses double-deck Boeing 747s whose only main-deck passengers “moo” instead of complain about leg room. Without the flights, the 55-mile rule could be met only by coastal Chinese cities, thus ignoring inland gourmets demanding fresh meat. Unlike the well-fed upper-deck passengers, the cattle get minimal food—for obvious reasons.                                  

 

Least Competent Criminals           

Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) Kenneth Rogers, 45, was arrested in November and charged with breaking into a home in Cape San Blas, located in the Florida panhandle. A burglar alarm notified police, who found Rogers still in the house because he had accidentally locked himself in a room. (2) In Gloucester, England, Jamie Sharp, 25, stole a Porsche and was in the process of telephoning friends to brag when he crashed, pinning himself inside until rescuers (and police) arrived. In December, he was sentenced to four years in prison.                                               

 

Recurring Themes            

Drugs—Is There Nothing They Can’t Do? Brandon Terry and Casey Fowler were detained after calling 911 five times to report possums jumping out of their refrigerator and microwave, worms from their floor, and midgets in camouflage. They denied any drug use, but police said it was likely a drug similar to “bath salts.” (Spartanburg, S.C., November.)                                   

© 2015 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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