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Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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The Pull of Pushing

James Allan, 28, was sentenced to three years in prison in Oxford, England, in July for robbing a news shop. Allan's getaway was delayed when he insisted, repeatedly, on trying to push the front door open when he obviously should have been pulling. Finally, exasperated, he yanked off his balaclava, exposing his face to the surveillance camera, and kicked the door. He then insisted that the shop's manager open the door to help him escape. Police arrested him nearby about three hours later. (The 2000 British movie Snatch featured just such a memorable scene of push/pull helplessness.)

Hard to Swallow


New York City's tap water is already widely regarded as world-class in taste and safety; the city's Department of Environmental Protection subjects the water to 500,000 tests a year. However, two entrepreneurs recently opened Molecule water bar in the city's East Village, selling 16-ounce bottles of the same water for $2.50, filtered through their $25,000 machine that applies UV rays, ozone treatment and "reverse osmosis" in a seven-stage process to create what they call "pure H2O." The owners of Molecule are a restaurateur/art dealer and a "social-justice activist" who is a "former world champion boomerang player," according to a July Wall Street Journal profile.

Least Competent Criminals


When the assistant manager arrived early on June 26 to open up the Rent-A-Center in Brockton, Mass., he encountered a man with his head stuck underneath the heavy metal loading bay door (reportedly as a result of a failed burglary attempt during the night). "Hang tight!" the manager consoled the trapped man. "The police are on their way." Manuel Fernandes, 53, was arrested.

Democracy Follies


"It's Just Politics": (1) Mark Schimel told reporters in Albany, N.Y., in May that it was nothing personal that caused him to run for the Republican nomination to the state Assembly from Nassau County—where the incumbent is his estranged wife, Democrat Michelle Schimel. Mark's mother seemed quite upset at her son. "I can't believe he'd do a thing like this (to Michelle)," she told a reporter. "I'm going to talk to him." (2) Democratic attorney Christopher Smith is the presumptive nominee for a Florida Senate seat from Fort Lauderdale, and it was just a coincidence, said Republican leadership in June, that their candidate is attorney Christopher Smithmyer. Registered Democrats tend to dominate the district, but Smithmyer may win some votes by confusion.

Unclear on the Concept

William Voss has a tough job, noted a Bloomberg News report in June. Voss is CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, which relentlessly campaigns for improving airline safety regulations. He said that his primary obstacle is, oddly enough, safe airlines. (The last major airline accident in the United States was 11 years ago, leading to complacency by airlines, passengers and regulators, he said.) "If anyone wants to advance safety through regulation," Voss said, "it can't be done without further loss of life."

Leading Economic Indicator


Perspective: The median annual per-capita income in the New York City borough of the Bronx is about $18,000. In the adjacent borough of Manhattan, as the New York Post reported in May, a resident of a certain condominium on East 11th Street was about to pay more than 50 times that amount—just for a parking space.

Readers' Choice

The Judson Independent School District near San Antonio fired a kindergarten teacher in June for arranging an unorthodox solution to a colleague's bullying-student problem. The teacher allegedly ordered 24 students to line up and slap the bully—reportedly encouraging the students to "hit him harder"—to reinforce the message of "why bullying is bad."

© 2012 Chuck Shepherd