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Friday, May 4, 2012

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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A Sea of Money

In April, a research ship will begin surveying the floor of the Atlantic Ocean off of Nova Scotia as the first step toward building a $300 million private fiber-optic line connecting New York and London financial markets so as to speed up current transmission times—by about 5 milliseconds. According to a March report in Bloomberg Businessweek, those 5 milliseconds will enable a small group of firms (paying hefty fees for exclusive use of the line) to earn millions of dollars per transaction by having their trade sales arrive 5 milliseconds before their competitors' sales.

Shooting Down Safety Guidelines


In April, the Tampa Police Department issued preliminary security guidelines to control areas around the Republican National Convention, which takes place in August in Tampa, Fla. Although the Secret Service will control the convention arena, Tampa Police are establishing a zone around the arena in which weapons will be confiscated (including sticks, rocks, bottles and slingshots). Police would like to have banned firearms, too, but Republican-led state law prevents cities from restricting the rights of licensed gun-carriers.

Latest Religious Messages


Reports indicate that Trinity Broadcasting Network televangelists Paul and Jan Crouch have spent well more than $50 million of worshippers' donations on personal expenses, including 13 mansions, his-and-hers private jets and a $100,000 mobile home for Mrs. Crouch's dogs. The jets are necessary, the Crouches' lawyer told the Los Angeles Times, because the Crouches receive more death threats than the president of the United States. Allegedly, the Crouches keep millions of dollars in cash on hand. According to their lawyer, this is merely out of obedience to the biblical principle of owing "no man anything."

Questionable Judgments


  • Perp's Remorse: (1) Jason Adkins was charged in March in Cynthiana, Ky., with stealing electronic equipment from the home of a friend. According to police, Adkins said he felt guilty about the break-in the next day and returned the items. However, he admitted that he broke into the home again the following day and re-stole them. (2) Ivan Barker was sentenced in March in England's Stoke-on-Trent Magistrates Court for stealing a laptop computer and cigarettes from the home of a physically disabled acquaintance. Barker subsequently visited the man and apologized for the theft. But later, during that same visit, Barker reportedly stole the man's new replacement laptop and more cigarettes.
  • In Lumpkin County, Ga., Judge David Barrett, apparently frustrated by a victim's reluctant testimony at a trial in February, blurted out in court that the victim was "killing her case." To dramatize the point, Barrett reportedly pulled out a handgun and offered it to her, explaining that she might as well shoot her lawyer because the chances for conviction were dropping rapidly. (Five days later, following news reports, Barrett resigned.)


Least Competent Criminals

Relentless: In March, England's Canterbury Crown Court heard evidence against a gang of five people who in August and September 2010 reportedly attempted to break into seven ATMs using fancy power tools, but came away empty-handed each time. Brick walls were smashed around three machines, and a blowtorch was used at least twice, resulting in fires. In each case, alarms were triggered, sending the gang away without any money.

Update

The Japanese delicacy "fugu" (blowfish) must be properly filleted by trained chefs because of the highly concentrated poison in its tissue—and, indeed, a few deaths are reported every year in Japan from people who prepare fugu at home, since even a small amount can be fatal. The additional training and licensing for chefs partly explains why Tokyo restaurants charge the equivalent of $120 or more for the dish. However, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which is apparently newly concerned about restaurant price competition, announced that it would soon no longer require formal training of fugu chefs, leaving it to individual restaurants to set their own standards. Said one 30-year veteran chef, "We licensed chefs feel this way of thinking is a bit strange."

© 2012 Chuck Shepherd