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News of the Weird 4/26/12

by Chuck Shepherd

In April, a research ship will begin surveying the Atlantic Ocean floor off of Nova Scotia as the first step to building, by 2013, a $300 million private fiber-optic line connecting New York and London financial markets so as to speed up current transmission times—by about five milliseconds. Those five milliseconds, though (according to an April report in Bloomberg Business Week), will enable the small group of firms that are underwriting the project (and who will have exclusive use of it) to earn millions of dollars per transaction by having their trade sales arrive five milliseconds before their competitors’ sales would have arrived.

Cultural Diversity Brazil’s Safety Net for the Poor: Dr. Ivo Pitanguy, the most celebrated plastic surgeon in the country, apparently earned enough money from well-off clients that he can now “give back,” by funding and inspiring more than 200 clinics to provide low-income women with enhancement procedures (face lifts, tummy tucks, butt lifts) at a reduced, and sometimes no, charge. A local anthropology professor told ABC News, for a March dispatch, that “(i)n Brazil, plastic surgery is now seen as something of the norm” (or, as the reporter put it, “(B)eauty is (considered) a right, and the poor deserve to be ravishing, too”).

Latest Religious Messages Two lawsuits filed in Los Angeles recently against the founding family of the religious Trinity Broadcasting Network allege that televangelists Paul and Jan Crouch have spent well over $50 million of worshippers’ donations on “personal” expenses, including 13 “mansions,” his-and-hers private jets, and a $100,000 mobile home for Mrs. Crouch’s dogs. The jets are necessary, the Crouches’ lawyer told the Los Angeles Times, because the Crouches receive more death threats than even the president of the United States. Allegedly, the Crouches keep millions of dollars in cash on hand, but according to their lawyer, that is merely out of obedience to the biblical principle of “ow(ing) no man anything.”

Fine Points of Florida Law (1) In April, the Tampa Police Department issued preliminary security guidelines to control areas around August’s Republican National Convention in the city. Although the Secret Service will control the actual convention arena, Tampa Police are establishing a zone around the arena in which weapons will be confiscated (including sticks, rocks, bottles and slingshots). Police would like to have banned firearms, too, but state law prevents cities from restricting the rights of licensed gun-carriers. (2) South Florida station WPLG-TV reported in March that vendors were openly selling, for about $30, verbatim driver’s license test questions and answers, on the street in front of DMV offices. However, when told about it, a DMV official shrugged, pointing out that test-takers still had to memorize them to pass the closed-book exam.

Least Competent Criminals Relentless: (1) In the early hours of Jan. 31, police in Gaston, N.C., were alerted to five burglaries in a two-block area that left shattered glass, broken doors and other damage, but no missing property. There was also a blood trail leading from one store, likely from a break-in boo-boo. (2) In March, England’s Canterbury Crown Court heard the evidence against a gang of five who in August and September 2010 attempted to break into seven ATMs, using fancy power tools, but came away empty-handed each time. Brick walls were smashed around three machines, and twice explosives were used, resulting in fires. In each case, alarms were triggered, sending the men away prematurely, including once from an ATM that contained the equivalent of $223,000. {in}