Chuck Shepherd Wednesday, January 8, 2014 0

When Franco Scaramuzza saw two men pepper-spraying a couple in a shopping center parking lot in Nashville, Tenn., he bravely responded in the only way he knew how. Scaramuzza, who teaches the art of fencing, drew his fencing sword (“epée”) and challenged the men. With his epee held high, he aimed and chanted fencing-type yells as he charged at the men. As he said later, “They completely panicked and dropped everything … and really took off.” Michael Butt and Zachary Johnson were arrested nearby and charged with robbery.


Family of Man

The notorious white separatist Craig Cobb is soliciting like-skinned people to move to his tiny town of Leith, N.D. (pop. 16), to create a Caucasian enclave. At the urging of a black TV host, Cobb submitted to a DNA test in November to prove his lineage was purely white. In fact, in DNA tests, it turned up 14 percent black (“Sub-Saharan African”). Cobb has vowed to try other DNA tests before confirming those results. Bobby Harper, who was previously Leith’s only black resident, was gleeful: “I knew there was one other black person in town.” In mid-November, Cobb was charged with seven counts of terrorism for walking through Leith wielding a long gun.


Government In Action

— The Environmental Protection Agency was revealed to have allowed a contractor to maintain taxpayer-funded “man caves” (with TVs, appliances, couches, videos, etc.) in a Washington, D.C.-area warehouse. In September, former high-level EPA executive John Beale pleaded guilty to defrauding the agency of $900,000 in salary, expenses and bonuses by claiming work orders that no one at the EPA appears to have verified.

— In October, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro created a Vice Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness to coordinate the welfare programs begun by the late President Hugo Chavez. Critics charged that there is much to be unhappy about given the country’s annual rate of inflation (near 50 percent). An Associated Press dispatch quoted one critic who said she would be happy enough if stores weren’t constantly out of milk and toilet paper. Another skeptic said he looked forward to a Vice Ministry of Beer.

— Leaders in China’s Yungai village (pop. 3,683), in Hunan province, raised the bar for government squander when they borrowed $2.4 million and built a seven-story building with 96 front windows. There is no activity above the first floor. According to an October London Daily Telegraph report, the only occupants of the building are the village government’s eight employees.

— Though many people might agree with blind musician Stevie Wonder that it’s “crazy” to let people like him carry guns, federal and state laws seem ambiguous. This is the conclusion of a lengthy analysis of Iowa’s laws by the Des Moines Register. Some Iowa sheriffs believe federal anti-discrimination law limits their discretion to forbid gun permits to the blind. However, they can deny permits for lack of physical or mental ability to handle the gun. Iowa activist Michael Barber for the blind emphasized his right to shoot. “You take it out and point and shoot,” he said, “and I don’t necessarily think eyesight is necessary. … For me, the inspiration is just to see if I run into any difficulties.”


Sight To Behold

In a courthouse lobby in Kelso, Wash., a woman brought a cake in through security. Robert Fredrickson was in the building on business. Without warning, Fredrickson attacked  the cake, feeding himself with his hands before washing them off at a drinking fountain. “Stand right there. Don’t move,” yelled a deputy, attempting to bring Fredrickson to justice. As soon as the officer looked away, however, Fredrickson again started clawing at the cake and stuffing it in his mouth. Finally, several deputies arrived to subdue Fredrickson and charge him with theft and resisting arrest.


Great Art

Leandro Granato, 27, said that as a kid in Argentina he learned to suck liquids up through his nose then squirt them out of his eye. Granato’s “eye paintings” in various ink colors that are splattered out as tears on canvas are offered for sale at a top-end price of $2,400 each.


Police Report

— Sheriff’s deputy Darrell Mathis of Newton County, Ga., a five-year veteran, was arrested and charged with selling marijuana from his squad car while he was in uniform. A confidential informant convinced FBI agents to do a by-the-book sting of Mathis, who agreed to cooperate with the agents. In their final meeting before Mathis’ arrest, Mathis took pains to assure the agents, saying, “Don’t worry. I’m on your side.”

— Rachel Gossett blew a .216 alcohol reading in Loganville, Ga., in November. But that was probably a formality after an officer saw her try to put a cheeseburger from a Waffle Shop onto her foot as if it were a shoe. And Rashad Williams, 38, was charged with DUI in Atlanta in October after he crashed through the front of a Walgreens drugstore, and then calmly left his vehicle, which was sticking halfway into the building. He tried to resume his drinking next door to the Walgreens at the Anchor Bar.


A News Of The Weird Classic (February 2009)

Among the medical oddities mentioned in a December (2008) Wall Street Journal roundup was “Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Disorder,” in which a person, when startled, may “jump, twitch, flail their limbs, and obey commands given suddenly, even if it means hurting themselves or a loved one.” The syndrome was first observed in 1878 among lumberjacks in Maine, but has also been reported among factory workers in Malaysia and Siberia. It’s believed to result from a genetic mutation that blocks the calming of the central nervous system. But it could be psychological, developing from the stress of working in close quarters.


Least Competent Criminals

Derek Codd, 19, left his cellphone at a house in Lake Worth, Fla., that he had burglarized. Just as investigating officers were arriving, the phone rang. “Who is this?” an officer asked. The caller answered innocently, “Derek Codd’s mother.” Derek was arrested a short time later.