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Friday, April 4, 2014

Chuck Shepherd's News of The Weird

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Democracy Blues              

U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews announced his retirement in February, after 23 years of representing his New Jersey district, and in “tribute,” The Washington Post suggested he might be the least successful lawmaker of the past two decades, in that he had sponsored a total of 646 pieces of legislation—more than any of his contemporaries—but that not a single one became law. In fact, Andrews has not accomplished even the easiest of all bill sponsoring—to name a post office or a courthouse.         

November election returns for the city council of Flint, Mich., revealed that voters chose two convicted felons (Wantwaz Davis and Eric Mays) and two other candidates who had been through federal bankruptcy. Davis never publicized his 1991 second-degree murder plea, but said he talked about it while campaigning.         

 

Inexplicable        

The Internal Revenue Service reportedly hit the estate of Michael Jackson recently with a federal income tax bill of $702 million because of undervaluing properties that it owned—including a valuation on the Jackson-owned catalog of Beatles songs at “zero.” The estate reckoned that Jackson was worth a total of $7 million upon his death in 2009, but IRS placed the number at $1.125 billion. (In 2012 alone, according to Forbes magazine, Jackson earned more than any other celebrity, living or dead, at about $160 million.)                                                                   

 

Perspective          

A controversial landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2005 for the first time allowed a city to force unwilling owners to sell private property not for a school or police station or other traditional municipal necessity, but just because a developer promised “economic development.” Consequently, longtime residents such as Susette Kelo were forced off their land because the city of New London, Conn., had hopes of a prosperous buildup anchored by a new facility from the drugmaker Pfizer. The Weekly Standard magazine reported in February that, nine years down the road, Pfizer has backed out, and the 90-acre area of New London on which Kelo’s and others’ homes were bulldozed is waist-high in weeds—an even worse blight than that which New London sacrificed private property rights in order to prevent.      

 

News of the Self-Indulgent             

Plastic surgeons have performed beard implants before, but usually for men with facial scarring or for female-to-male transgendered persons. Recently, New York City surgeons reported an uptick in business by men solely to achieve the proper aesthetic look. According to the New York City website DNAinfo, the procedure is the same as for hair transplants—and takes eight hours to do, at a cost of about $7,000. Said veteran plastic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, “Whether you’re talking about the Brooklyn hipster or the advertising executive, the look is definitely to have a bit of facial hair.”                                                                                  

 

Least Competent Criminals           

Hernando County, Fla., Sheriff’s detective James Smith happened across longtime fugitive James Dixon, 53, in March and detained him, even though Dixon claimed he was actually one of his own twin brothers, Gary Dixon. On a hunch, Det. Smith called out to “Gary,” “Hey, James!”—and “Gary” quickly turned his head to see what Smith wanted. Smith said “Gary” then put his head down and acknowledged that he was really James. He was held for extradition on a 30-year-old Michigan warrant.                

 

Readers’ Choice

(1) A self-described “devil”-possessed Stephanie Hamman, 23, was arrested in Church Hill, Tenn., in March after driving her car through the front door of the Providence Church, then summoning her husband on the phone, and when he arrived, stabbing him in the chest for “worshipping the NASCAR race” that he had been devoted to on TV that day. (2) Police were called to a Taco Bell in Tega Cay, S.C., in March after one customer became irate that another had audibly belched in the dining area yet had not said “excuse me.” The enraged man struck the burper with a chair and grabbed at his throat, but no arrest was made.             

 

© 2014 CHUCK SHEPHERD