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Friday, July 19, 2013

Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

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Priorities

At a June hearing, a Philadelphia judge became so exasperated at defendant Robert Williams’ (aka Meek Mill) seeming cluelessness about his need to keep his probation appointments that she ordered him to take “etiquette” classes as part of his probation requirements. Williams, a rapper and budding music mogul still under court supervision on gun and drug charges from 2008, defended his inability to find time for his probation officer by explaining that he was a busy man, working with seven artists, with a demanding travel schedule, and uninhibitedly using social media (creating posts that, allegedly, led to threats against the probation officer).

Ironies

  • An atheist “church” in Lake Charles, La., run by lapsed Pentecostal Jerry DeWitt, conducts periodic services with many of the trappings expected by the pious—except for the need to believe in a supreme being. Such “churches” (reported The New York Times and Washington Post) can help soothe the biological needs for survival and avoidance of loneliness by congregational rituals (such as celebrating a sabbath) and in helping find meaning outside of oneself. For example, atheist Sigfried Gold praised an intensive prayer routine (beseeching a vibrant goddess he created) in overcoming his weight problem.
  • War Endangers War Relics: In June, fighting in the Syrian civil war spread to its west, threatening archaeological digs and already recovered artifacts near the ancient city of Hamoukar—which is the site of history's earliest known urban warfare (about 5,500 years ago).
  • The business website Quartz reported in June that a popular consumer item in North Korea’s perhaps-improving economy is the refrigerator, made in China and increasingly available as a reward to stellar performers among civil servants and other elites. The appliances, however, cannot reliably store food because the country’s electric grid is so frequently offline and are mostly just status symbols. One item Quartz says often gets displayed in the refrigerator: books.
  • Robert Dugan, 47, a full-time patrolman for the Delaware County (Pa.) Park Police, was charged in June with illegally impersonating a police officer. According to authorities in Brookhaven, Pa., Dugan had accosted a woman double-parked outside her home to pressure her into moving the car, but she refused. Dugan allegedly claimed he was an Upland Borough police officer (with authority to write parking citations and make arrests, which he did not actually have).

Perspective

Floridians Standing Their Ground: In May, a jury in Tampa decided that Ralph Wald, 70, was not guilty of murdering a 32-year-old man he had shot in the back three times. He said he had caught the man having sex with his wife (successfully claiming that he thought the man was a dangerous intruder in his home). However, Marissa Alexander, 31, of Jacksonville, was sentenced last year to 20 years in prison for “aggravated assault” for merely firing a warning shot during an altercation with her estranged husband. The man, Rico Gray, is a serial domestic abuser and admitted that he was threatening Alexander that night and that she never actually pointed her gun directly at him. However, the judge denied Alexander use of the “stand your ground” defense because she had declined to simply walk away from Gray.

Least Competent Criminals

Not Well-Thought-Out: (1) A 64-year-old man was arrested in Geelong, Australia, (near Melbourne) in June after carjacking a 22-year-old woman's vehicle. He was still on-scene when police arrived, as it took him time to load his walker into the car, along with several bags he had nearby when he decided to commandeer the vehicle. (2) A well-dressed, 5-foot-10 man bailed out of an attempted robbery in May of a New York City Bank of America when, after handing a teller his holdup note, the woman panicked, began screaming “Oh my God!” and ran to the other side of the bank, diving under a counter. According to a witness, the robber stood in silence for a few seconds before fleeing