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Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014

Chuck Shepherd's News of The Weird

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It’s Facebook’s World Now              

(1) Up-and-coming Sicilian mobster Domenico Palazzotto, 28, was outed in August by Italy’s L’Espresso magazine as the owner of an ineffectively pseudonymous Facebook page showing off his muscled, bare-chested body and perhaps recruiting members. One fan asked, “Do I need to send a [resume]?” “Yes, brother,” came the reply. “We need to consider your criminal record. We do not take people with clean records.” Palazzotto operates out of Palermo and listed among his “likes” the singer Kenny Loggins. (2) Similarly young, body-obsessed Egyptian jihadist/gym member Islam Yaken, according to his postings on Facebook-type social media sites, is a law school graduate fluent in English, French and Arabic, allowing him to describe the particular viciousness that he and his brothers and sisters will wreak upon infidels.                                    

 

Can’t Possibly Be True    

A jury’s murder conviction, and the 15-to-life sentence it carried, against Daniel Floyd in Brooklyn, N.Y., for a 2008 killing went for naught in July when the Brooklyn Supreme Court ordered a retrial (with witnesses forced to testify all over again). The sole reason the court cited was a decision by the trial judge on the first day—to seat the potential jury pool and not Floyd’s mother, who, because she was temporarily left standing that first day, argued successfully that her son’s right to a “public” trial had been violated.           

I (Heart) Strangers: Two age-30ish men knocked on the door of a Sebastian, Texas, woman at 12:30 a.m. on Aug. 3, asking for water and if they could please come inside to charge their cellphone—and the woman apparently cheerfully invited them in, later offering them use of her backyard shed to grab some sleep. She did not learn until a short time later, when a law enforcement manhunt widened into her neighborhood, that they were wanted for murdering a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Officers arrested the pair inside the shed.            

A team of researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington announced recently that they had developed a prototype of a wind turbine that might deliver electricity in tiny bursts to devices like smartphones—since it is about half the size of a grain of rice. (Tiny solar backpacks already exist.)                                          

 

The New Normal

One of the emerging occupational skills for Emergency Medical Technicians, according to first responders interviewed in a June Wall Street Journal feature, is merely holding up blankets at accident scenes—to block onlookers from their apparently uncontrollable urge to take gruesome photos to send to their friends.                                                                                                                            

 

New World Order              

Who Knew? Researchers from England’s University of Lincoln revealed in July that red-footed tortoises are not only “inquisitive” but make decisions in their brains’ medial cortex region, associated with “complex cognitive behavior” (because they have no hippocampus, which is a typical decision-making area). The tortoises thus pecked-out (and learned) touch-screen decisions (for rewards of strawberries), and in fact, said researcher Anna Wilkinson, learned as quickly as rats and pigeons and faster, actually, than dogs.                                       

 

Movies Come to Life         

In July, officials at the Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham, England, broke up an attempt by five students (aged 11 to 14) attending a daytime-locked-down school to escape by tunneling under a security fence. They had discovered the boys’ metal cutlery hidden at the scene. (A World War II tunneling escape from a Nazi prison was partially successful and became the story for the 1963 movie The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen.)                        

 

Readers’ Choice

Ironies: (1) An airborne banner being towed by an airplane came loose in Fremont, Calif., in July and floated down, landing on a house, frightening the residents. The sign advertised GEICO insurance. (2) A 10-foot-tall pine tree in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, dedicated in 2004 with a plaque to the late musician George Harrison, was recently destroyed by an infestation, and another will be planted in its place, according to a city councilman. The infestation was by beetles.     

 

© 2014 CHUCK SHEPHERD