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News of the Weird 6/30/11

By Chuck Sheppard

Somehow, upscale restaurateurs believe that diners will soon willingly pay more for a beef dish if it comes with disclosure of the DNA of the actual cow being eaten, according to a May Associated Press report. “People want to know where their food is coming from,” said one excited chef, lauding the knowledge to be gleaned from a calf’s upbringing. (A more practical beef-supply executive added that DNA can help identify the “multiple animals” whose parts were used in hunks of ground beef — a 10-pound package of which may include contributions from “hundreds” of different cows.)

Can’t Possibly Be True It was not difficult to find critics when the Orlando-area government job-service engine Workforce Central Florida said it was spending more than $70,000 of federal stimulus money to help the laid-off by handing out 6,000 satiny capes for jobless “superheroes” to “fight” “Dr. Evil Unemployment.” (“Absolutely absurd” was the reaction of a laid-off customer-service representative.) Several critics interviewed by the Orlando Sentinel noted that such an awkward program further erodes the unemployed’s fragile self-respect. WCF, though, remained convinced. In the words of a spokeswoman, “Everyone is a superhero in the fight against unemployment.”

Oops! Oswind David was convicted of “first-degree assault” in a 2006 trial in New York City, but unknown to him, his lawyer and the judge, the charge had already been dismissed by another judge due to prosecutorial error. Nonetheless, David has been in prison since his conviction, serving a 23-year term, and was freed only in May when the error came to light. (However, the New York City district attorney still resisted releasing David, arguing that only the “first-degree” part had been dismissed. A judge finally freed David on bail while prosecutors ponder reopening the case.)

Unclear on the Concept In May, a federal appeals court reinstated the Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit filed in 2007 by Darrell Miller after he was fired as a bridge maintenance worker by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Miller had been medically diagnosed with a fear of heights, and could not work on many projects, but a lower court dismissed his lawsuit, concluding that working at heights was an unavoidable condition of bridge maintenance. (The appeals court said that a jury “might” find that bridge maintenance could be done in “teams” with one worker always on the ground.)

News That Sounds Like a Joke (1) Night club singer Simon Ledger was arrested following a performance at the Driftwood Beach Bar on Britain’s Isle of Wight in April after a patron complained to police. Ledger was covering the 1974 hit “Kung Fu Fighting,” and two customers of Chinese descent reported that they felt victims of illegal “racially aggravated harassment.” (2) Leslie Clarke, 29, turned himself in to police in Darwin, Australia, in May after authorities released surveillance tape of a break-in and vandalism at the Hidden Valley Tavern. Clarke, a large man, confessed to going on a drunken prowl with friends, but said he remembered the break-in only when he saw the video and recognized his distinctive image from the back, including several inches of his butt crack.

Inexplicable (1) An April Associated Press story, citing federal government sources, reported that 247 people on the terrorist “watch list” were nonetheless legally permitted to purchase guns in 2010 — about the same number who did so legally in 2009. (2) In May, Oklahoma judge Susie Pritchett, receiving guilty pleas from a $31 drug-deal raid in 2010 that netted a mother and her two grown children, sentenced the mother and son to probation, but the 31-year-old daughter to 12 years in prison (just because the daughter showed “no … remorse”).

The Redneck Chronicles (1) Zachary Woody, 21, of Calhoun, Ga., was charged with aggravated assault in May after stabbing a friend. Allegedly, Woody had escalated what was initially just a fistfight over whether Fords are better than Chevrolets. (2) Joseph Hayes, 48, was arrested in South Memphis, Tenn., in June after allegedly threatening (with a gun in his waistband) the hostess of a birthday party to which his kids had been invited but which ran out of cake and ice cream. “Y’all didn’t save my kids no damn ice cream and cake,” he was heard to say, and “I ain’t scared to go to jail.”

People With Issues Stanley Thornton Jr., 30, and his “nurse”-roommate, Sandra Dias, featured on a May edition of the TV show “Taboo” (National Geographic Channel), are both drawing federal Supplemental Security Income as disabled persons, even though Thornton builds his own “adult baby” furniture (cribs and high chairs large enough to accommodate his 350-pound body) and operates a website where people living as adult babies can communicate. U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn asked the Social Security Administration to investigate whether Thornton is abusing the system (and Dias, too, since if she can “nurse” Thornton, she can “nurse” for a living). Thornton subsequently told The Washington Times that if his SSI checks were discontinued, he would kill himself.