Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Brand-Name Obsession

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India’s middle class is humming with “brand freaks” obsessed with luxury labels like Prada and Louis Vuitton, according to a February WashingtonPostdispatch, even though more than half of the country lives in “abject poverty.” As one consumer attested, “I’ll spend my whole salary for a really swank brand and eat idli (steamed rice cakes) for the rest of the month.” According to the newly launched India edition of Vogue, the country’s “Me Culture” has taken over. On a road in Ahmadabad, barefoot kids tap on car windows and beg for money while billboards for TAG Heuer and Montblanc tower overhead. By some estimates, the country has more uncared-for dogs on the streets than any other nation in the world; nevertheless, Gucci dog bowls are for sale in New Delhi.

News That Sounds Like a Joke
Toronto police announced in February that they arrested the man who stole a backhoe with the intention of driving it to a carwash in order to break down a wall and get at the facility’s coin machine. The call to police came from a snowplow driver who was hot on the heels of the backhoe, with the driver having diverted from his route to chase the thief.

Working its way through multimillion-dollar proposals for naming rights on campus buildings in exchange for donations, the University of Colorado decided in January to accept the offer of venture capitalist Brad Feld, who made a $25,000 donation to the school in exchange for having a second-floor men’s room named for him in a campus technology building.

Government in Action
In 2006, two ex-employees of Sioux Manufacturing Corp. revealed that the company had shorted the quality of the Kevlar in more than 2 million combat helmets sold to the Pentagon between 1994- 2006. In February 2008, Sioux agreed to pay $2 million to settle the dispute. In August 2007, however, while the Pentagon was still investigating, the U.S. Air Force nonetheless contracted with Sioux to produce new Kevlar combat helmets.

Police Blotter
Petty Criminals: A 43-year-old alleged shoplifter was arrested in Newburgh, N.Y., in January with 42 items under his clothes as he left a store. However, the total value of the items was only $132.07.

And in December, Wesley Gregory, 52, who works on parking meters for the city of Greensboro, N.C., was arrested and charged with embezzling nickels, dimes and quarters for five years, with his “haul” averaging about $10 a week.

People Different From Us
James Bowring, 45, told a court in Tauranga, New Zealand, in February that he wants to reconcile with his son, Jacob, 18, despite the elder Bowring’s recent conviction for trying to run Jacob over with his car at 50 mph (after making a U-turn and jumping a curb to get at him). James admitted that he was upset because Jacob had called him a “pedophile.” Then again, James had wooed Jacob’s 18-year-old girlfriend and gotten her pregnant Subsequently, a judge sentenced James to five months’ home detention in the bus he lives in with the pregnant girlfriend.

Least Competent Criminals
Should’ve Left Well Enough Alone: (1) Eric Livers, 20, a wanted man in Cheyenne, Wyo., fled scot-free to Portsmouth, N.H. But then he called his former Wyoming employer to ask that his final paycheck be mailed to his New Hampshire address. The employer called authorities, and Portsmouth police picked up Livers in February. (2) Jeremy Hart, 24, was arrested in Topsham, Maine, in December after allegedly burglarizing a home while the residents were asleep According to police, Hart hit a snowbank in the driveway as he was leaving, causing his car to stall. Hart allegedly become so cold that he walked back to the home, rang the victims’ doorbell and asked if he could come in to get warm. (The residents, aware that Hart had just been in their house, had already called police.)

Armed and Clumsy (all-new)
More people who accidentally shot themselves recently: A man, 20, showing off to friends, fatally shot himself in the head after miscounting bullets (Dallas, January). A man who said he didn’t feel safe walking his dog unless he had his gun with him, wounded himself on a walk (Palm Bay, Fla., February). A convenience-store robber, 25, shot himself in the genitals when stuffing the gun into his waistband (Kokomo, Ind., January). A man, 26, checking on a disturbance near his apartment, shot himself in the buttocks (Scottsdale, Ariz., December). An insurance company employee, 47, who brings a gun to work every day to hang in his cubicle, accidentally shot himself in both legs (Lake Worth, Texas, October). A man, 26, shot himself in the head while loading his gun at a firing range (Riverside, Calif., November).

2008 Chuck Shepherd

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