The relatively recent creation of almost-obscene wealth has precipitated a crisis in Britain and New York City because the resulting demand for professional butlers far exceeds the supply. Longstanding butler schools in both countries are running at capacity, turning out debonair, refined manservants at salaries that may exceed $100,000 (plus, in the U.S., an extra $20,000 or so for one who speaks "British"), but fortunes are being created at an even faster pace, so that, increasingly, multimillionaires are just having to make do without one, according to recent reports in The Wall Street Journal and The Independent of London.
-- The Good Hope Hospital in Sutton, England, apparently had an official policy in recent years of reusing sheets from one patient to the next to reduce its laundry bill (estimated at the equivalent of $1 million a year), according to an April report in London's Daily Mail. The policy coincided with a period in which the hospital's reported cases of clostridium difficile infections doubled. (A hospital official said the policy had been discontinued, though some posters announcing it were on display.)
-- A Hall-of-Fame Lawyer: Kenneth Glenn Hinson, 48, who had served time for raping a 12-year-old girl, was arrested last year after two teenage girls reported that they had been kidnapped from their bedroom and dragged into a tiny, dungeon-like hole in Hinson's backyard, bound with duct tape and repeatedly raped. Despite the evidence, defense lawyer Rick Hoefer managed to convince a jury in Darlington, S.C., to find Hinson not guilty on all charges in April (based on the girls' inconsistent testimony), and Hinson remains in jail today only on an unrelated gun charge.
-- Years ago, officials on the Torres Martinez Indian reservation (about 40 miles southeast of Palm Springs, Calif.) decided that the tribe could make more money as a toxic dump than with casinos and luxury hotels, but now faces millions of dollars in federal fines as an out-of-control Superfund site, according to a June Los Angeles Times report. In addition to pits and piles laden with arsenic, dioxin and chromium, there is an area about 1,000 feet by 300 feet by 40 feet high consisting only of human sewage. The site's problems are not easily resolvable, said a UCLA professor who has studied Torres Martinez factions, in that "intertribal relationships" make it "complicated" to change policy.
In May, a curious Joe Heckel of Cincinnati and his son took apart the heavy punching bag Joe had bought for their boxing practice and to their surprise found it full of, not sand or plastic pellets, but men's and women's underwear (some used). According to a May report on WLWT-TV, the manufacturer, Technical Knockout Inc., eventually contacted the Heckels and admitted that it had experienced a "quality" problem and that the people who had thought up the bag-stuffing idea had been fired.
-- New-Age Ethics: (1) Texas A&M's business school punished 24 students in May for cheating on a business ethics exam (and investigated 27 others, but could not meet the school's legal standard of "irrefutable" proof against them). The offense was that some students took exams for others. (2) During the spring term at New Jersey's Kean University, former governor James McGreevey taught a course in "ethics, law and leadership," with the "ethics" part raising eyebrows, in that in 2004, he had hired an alleged potential lover, with almost no security experience, to be his homeland security adviser. (Said a political opponent, "Jim McGreevey teaching law and ethics is ... like Dr. Kevorkian teaching health maintenance.")
-- Community activist Therese Mallik testified against a crematorium's expansion plans in 2005 in Cessnock, Australia, reportedly saying that the building was already a disaster for the neighborhood and that she had seen a "ghostlike figure" above it at one point. After the Cessnock Independent newspaper reported her remarks, she sued the publisher for defamation, claiming that her statements, when published, made her appear "demented" or "irrational." (In June 2007, a jury ruled against her.)
In early March, highway patrol officers near Ontario, Calif., came upon an unlocked rental truck whose engine was still warm and which contained marijuana worth an estimated $20 million, with the driver undoubtedly on the run, and not just from police. And in April, the driver of a cocaine delivery truck took a curve too sharply in Medellin, Colombia, and spilled its 1-ton cargo on the highway. The driver (perhaps luckily for him) was arrested.
(1) In April, Marilyn Devaney, who is one of eight elected Massachusetts officials with authority over certain actions taken by the governor, was accused of assault in Waltham, Mass., after she allegedly hit a beauty-shop clerk with a curling iron when the employee declined to take Devaney's personal check. Devaney had allegedly, indignantly pointed out her status and yelled, "Don't you know who I am?" (2) In May, Philadelphia-area socialite Susan Tabas Tepper was accused of assaulting a domestic employee and then, when the employee threatened to call the police, Tepper allegedly intervened. "I will call the police. I'm important; you're nothing."
(1) In March, police in Ann Arbor, Mich., were called to the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Michigan after a female trespasser entered during the dinner hour and ignored repeated attempts to get her to leave (even though she merely sat down, removed her clothes and masturbated). Fraternity members said later they would throw out the two sofas she touched. (2) In March, Israel recalled Tsuriel Raphael, its ambassador to El Salvador, after he was found tied up, drunk and naked in the front yard of his residence, with several sadomasochistic sex toys nearby.
Howard Mayfield, 47, and Valerie Lester, 36, were arrested at his trailer home near Damascus, Va., in March as the two, according to police, nearly burned down the home while trying to destroy counterfeit money that Mayfield had printed. Police had served arrest warrants at 5:15 a.m., found the trailer smoky, and upon entering saw Lester near a bed (under which the fake currency was burning, with smoking pouring out), pretending to knit a sweater and to wonder about the commotion.
(1) Michael Wiley of Port Richey, Fla., in News of the Weird last year for his maniacal driving despite having lost both arms and half a leg in a childhood accident, was back in trouble in May, leading police on (and winning) a high-speed chase (but they recognized the notorious Wiley behind the wheel and arrested him the next day). Said an acquaintance, to the St. Petersburg Times, "He's one of the best drivers I've ever seen in my life." (2) In May, countries on the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development elected as its chairman the representative from Zimbabwe (noted in News of the Weird in recent months for its almost comical rate of inflation, which was 1,593 percent in January and 3,731 percent in May).
Recurring Themes: (1) An 18-year-old man intent for some reason on spray-painting graffiti in an electrical substation in Santa Fe, N.M., jumped the concrete wall and razor wire in May and started to work, but soon burned himself badly and died days later. (2) A 29-year-old man from Downers Grove, Ill., deciding for some reason to set off fireworks in his yard, was killed when he picked up an unexploded missile and peered down the tubing to see why it hadn't gone off yet (and the obvious happened).
(Visit Chuck Shepherd daily at http://NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com or www.NewsoftheWeird.com. Send your Weird News to WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)