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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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More Leg Room

A captain for Pakistan International Airlines made an interesting revenue-enhancing decision, according to a February report by the Indo-Asian News Service. Airline officials apparently overbooked Flight PK 303 from Lahore to Karachi by two passengers. Reportedly, the captain told the two passengers that they would not have to rearrange their flight plans if they accepted seats for the 640-mile flight in the plane's restroom. Apparently, they accepted the proposal.

Least Competent Criminals


According to prosecutors in Camden, S.C., in November, Christopher Hutto, 30, needed money to buy crack cocaine. Allegedly, the best plan Hutto could devise was using his phone to text his mother and demand a ransom for his alleged kidnapping. Though Hutto, according to the text messages, supposedly had been beaten up by kidnappers and dumped in a secret location and was "near death," the "kidnapper" asked only for $100. The mother reportedly negotiated the ransom down to $60. The money drop was made, and sheriff's deputies arrested Hutto running from the site with the booty.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

  • Last year in Cape Town, South Africa, the "gentlemen's club" Mavericks began selling an Alibi line of fragrances designed for men who needed excuses for going home late. For example, as men walked through the door, they could splash on "I Was Working Late" (to reek of coffee and cigarettes) or "My Car Broke Down" (smelling like fuel, burned rubber and grease).
  • Bipartisanship: White supremacist Richard Treis, 38, was arrested in February in St. Louis, along with his alleged partner, black gang member Robert "Biz" Swinney, 22, and charged with running a methamphetamine operation. The two, who had met through associates at a prison halfway house, had allegedly meshed their unique talents—Treis as a meth cook and Swinney as a skilled street seller who recruited people to buy restricted pseudoephedrine products from pharmacies. Said a deputy, "They put away their differences to get the job done."

Science on the Cutting Edge

Can't Possibly Be True: According to a December report in London's Daily Telegraph, scientists are at work on bio-computer models based on the movements of slime to solve complex-systems problems. Though slime molds are single-cell organisms lacking a "brain," said professor Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Japan's Future University Hakodate, they can "organize" themselves to create the most direct route through mazes in order to find food. Said professor Atsushi Tero, of Kyushu University, ordinary computers are "not so good" at finding such ideal routes because of the quantity of calculations required. Slime molds, on the other hand, seem to flow “in an impromptu manner and gradually find the best routes.”

Leading Economic Indicators

Real estate reassessments hit Pittsburgh like a bombshell in December when county officials announced enhanced estimates of property value in order to raise tax revenue. In the first wave of assessments (which engendered criticism countywide, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story), a real estate attorney who lives in the Mount Washington neighborhood was stunned to find his condominium apartment had jumped $55,000 in value, now "worth" $228,700, and, worse, his private parking space on the ground floor of the building, previously valued at $5,000, was now "worth" $287,800.

Bright Ideas

Like many cities, Taipei, Taiwan, had a dog-litter problem that had proved unsolvable, as citizens continued to ignore pleas to pick up after their dogs and keep sidewalks clean. Finally, city officials designed a successful program, announced in December: a dog-poop lottery. Anyone handing in a bag of dog litter would get a ticket (one ticket per bag) to a drawing with prizes ranging up to pieces of gold worth the equivalent of about $2,000. Citizens would be on the honor system as to whether the "litter" in the bag came from a dog or from another source.

© 2012 Chuck Shepherd