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Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014

Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

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Government in Action      

■ Florida’s second-most populous county, Broward, announced in December it was removing the agricultural tax break for 127 properties because it appeared their “farming” work was a sham. Broward’s property appraiser estimated the county had lost “hundreds of millions of dollars” over the years granting the bogus reductions—as landowners were blatantly housing just a few cows (in some cases, merely renting them) to graze and calling that “agricultural.” The appraiser’s office, after auditing only a few of the exemptions, found, for example, that land occupied by a government-contract prison was “agricultural” (with a rent-a-cow arrangement).         

■ The Ontario College of Trades ministry, finally implementing a long-ago reclassification of about 300,000 professionals, announced in November that barbers would immediately face fines if they had not acquired new licenses demonstrating proficiency with perms and highlighting and other aspects of women’s hairstyling. Even barbers who had cut men’s hair for decades and with no desire to accept female customers would probably need a costly study program for the upgrade, which one barber estimated at 2,000 hours and $5,000 or more. Said one exasperated old-timer, “We’re barbers, not neurosurgeons.”    

■ The Army Corps of Engineers said in December that it “continuously strives to implement lessons learned from its work in the extremely challenging Afghan environment”—apparently its primary response to an inspector general’s report that it wasted $5.4 million on trash incinerators for a forward operating base that were late, in disrepair, dysfunctional even if working properly, health hazards for troops and ultimately abandoned on site unused. The project was termed “a complete waste,” but the corps pointed out that money was actually saved by not repairing expensive equipment that would not have worked anyway.                                        

 

Great Art!            

South Africa, still transitioning to freedom after apartheid, has been slow to embrace the “performance art” that is a staple of American and European popular culture, but artist Anthea Moys is creating her own space, according to a December Wall Street Journal dispatch from Johannesburg. Recently she played an exhibition soccer game—alone against an 11-player lineup. Her "team" quickly fell behind, but sympathetic spectators wandered onto the pitch to help her, and she managed to lose by only 12-0. Before that, she had entered a 60-mile bicycle race in Johannesburg and, dressed properly in helmet and Spandex, she mounted a stationary bike at the starting line and began pedaling furiously as the other cyclists took off. “I’m not very competitive,” she said. “I’m interested in the joy of games and how people view them.”                                                 

 

Police Report      

■ Low-Tech Thief: Kevin Cook, 25, told police that he was mugged in New York City’s Central Park on Dec. 28, but that the thief had grabbed only his cellphone. Since it was a flip phone, the thief took a bemused look at it, asked, “What the (expletive) is this?” threw it back to Cook and walked away empty-handed.

■ Disability or Disguise? Police in Denver said the same man (still on the loose), in his 50s and about 5-foot-8, robbed three banks in the area in December and faces up to 60 years in prison if caught. Either he employs a finely detailed disguise, or he is robbing banks under a significant disability, for in each job he wears a “medical mask” and lugs around a portable oxygen supply.                                                                       

 

Least Competent Criminals           

Two men broke into a home in the Lincoln Heights section of Los Angeles in December, unaware that the resident had moments earlier called 911 after glimpsing them on his surveillance camera. When police arrived outside, the perps asked the resident to tie them up so that all would appear to be “victims” of the invaders, who had supposedly fled. The resident complied, but when police entered the home, the resident of course immediately squealed on the tied-up perps, ensuring their arrest. Two associates, who were outside standing lookout, were also arrested. Said one officer, “That’s what you call felony stupid.”

 

© 2013 CHUCK SHEPHERD