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Monday, Oct. 10, 2011

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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Lesson Learned?

In August, the Securities and Exchange Commission's inspector general revealed that in 2010 the agency paid a $1,200 cash award to one of the very employees who had been singled out for allowing Bernard Madoff to talk his way out of SEC inquiries in 2005 and 2006, before his epic Ponzi scheme was exposed in 2008. (The inspector general helpfully recommended that, in the future, awards not be given to employees who have recently been facing potential disciplinary action for poor performance.)

Government in Action!


  • An open-government advocacy group's survey of federal agencies, released in July, revealed that eight of them have unresolved Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that are more than a decade old, including one pending for more than 20 years. (FOIA law requires resolution within 20 business days, with a 10-day extension under "unusual circumstances.")
  • Among the aftershocks of the 9/11 attacks on America was the colossal spending binge on "homeland security." Among the questionable projects described in an August Los Angeles Times review were the purchase of an inflatable Zodiac boat with wide-scan sonar (in case terrorists were eyeing Lake McConaughy in Keith County, Neb.); cattle nose leads, halters and electric prods (to protect against biological attacks on cows, awarded to Cherry County, Neb.); a terrorist-proof iron fence around a Veterans Affairs hospital near Asheville, N.C.; and $557,400 in communications and rescue gear in case North Pole, Alaska, got hit.

Fetishes on Parade

Indecent-exposure flashers appear to be expanding their territories—in Florida, anyway. In Sarasota County in September, Shane Wheatley, 31, was arrested after a Comcast cable customer complained that Wheatley had begun fondling himself while installing the woman's TV service. Three days earlier, in Niceville, a 14-year-old boy (whose name was not released) was charged with indecent exposure after a worshipper reported him masturbating openly during services at the First United Methodist Church. The boy admitted he had done the same thing during services the week before because he was "bored."

Least Competent Criminals

In September, a jury found Terry Newman, 25, and an associate guilty of aggravated assault for a home invasion in San Antonio in 2009, thus adding insult to Newman's injuries. Newman was shot at by a resident during the initial invasion, and then again by another resident when he returned 15 minutes later to retrieve his car. Finally, after police encountered Newman following a short chase, he resisted officers and was shot at again, for the third time—and this time a bullet struck him. (The injury was not of the life-threatening variety.)

News That Sounds Like a Joke

Convenience store clerk Falguni Patel was giving testimony in the September trial of Morgan Armstrong (charged with robbing her in Hudson, Fla., in 2009) when she began shaking and then passed out while seated in the witness box. A relative of Patel's approached, removed her sneaker and held it to Patel's face, without success. The relative explained that Patel was subject to such blackouts and that sniffing the sneaker often revives her. (After paramedics attended to her, Patel took the rest of the day off and went back to court the next morning.)

(Very) Undignified Death

An inquest in Yorkshire, England, in September found that the February death of Brian Depledge, 38, was accidental—that he had inadvertently strangled himself after falling onto a folding clothes horse (of the kind often used to hang recently washed laundry). The coroner concluded that Depledge's body had become trapped between rungs in such a way that the more he moved his arms to extricate himself, the tighter was the pressure that was unavoidably placed on his neck.

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd

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