CHUCK SHEPHERD’S NEWS OF THE WEIRD
by Chuck Shepherd
The collapse of the economy in 2008 might have reached the far corners of Earth, but evidently not to Planet Calypso, the make-believe asteroid containing make-believe real estate in the multiplayer online game Entropia Universe, where resort entrepreneur Jon Jacobs recently cashed out his properties for $635,000 — in real (not make-believe) U.S. dollars. Since Jacobs’ original 2005 investment was $100,000 (a record at that time), he thus has earned an average 35 percent annual return. As players landed on Jacobs’ properties, to hunt or to mine precious substances, they paid fees, and Jacobs’ buyers are obviously optimistic they can maintain that income stream. A recent study by the marketing firm In-Stat estimated that online players will spend $7 billion in 2010 on make-believe property and goods.
Government in Action
In September, the U.K.’s coalition government announced the imminent consolidation of anti-discrimination laws known as the Equality Act — despite critics’ warnings that it could stunt economic growth by tying up the workplace in a morass of lawsuits in which workers could sue for almost any perceived offense. Under the new concept of “third-party harassment,” for example, an employee who merely overhears another person — even a customer of his employer — say something he finds offensive could sue the employer. Critics also complained that the law adds to the traditional group of specially protected, oppressed people the minorities vegans, teetotalers, Gypsies and “travelers” (grifters).
In October, Freddie Mac (the government-sponsored but privately owned home mortgage financier — whose massive debts have been assumed in a federal “bailout” administered by the Treasury Department) filed a claim in Tax Court against the Internal Revenue Service, denying IRS’s claim that it owes $3 billion in back taxes from 1998-2005. Should taxpayers care? If Freddie Mac wins, IRS (which is also housed in the Treasury Department) loses out on the $3 billion in alleged back taxes. If IRS wins, it gets its $3 billion, which will undoubtedly be paid with taxpayer bailout money. Lawyers for both sides seem to think that pursuing the lawsuit is important.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, Congress underwrote $7.9 billion in tax-free bonds that Louisiana could sell in order to rehabilitate the area. According to an August status report in Newsweek, $5.9 billion in bonds have been sold by the state, but only $55 million of that (1 percent) is for projects inside New Orleans (and none in the devastated Lower Ninth Ward). By contrast, $1.7 billion (about 29 percent) is going to projects that benefit the state’s oil industry.
One of New York City’s (midtown Manhattan’s) favorite meet-up spots, according to an October report in The New York Times, is Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s 12-foot-tall “Adam” statue at Time Warner Center. However, since Adam is nude and the statue is so pedestrian-friendly, maintaining it has become a problem, according to the center’s general manager. As the Times described it, “Most of Adam is deep dark brown,” but the easily-accessible penis “is worn golden from extensive handling.” (The Times also noted that “(a)t the Botero” is a less-popular meet-up suggestion than “(u)nderneath the penis.”)
Artist Noam Braslavsky’s life-size sculpture honoring the great Israeli army general and prime minister Ariel Sharon went on display in Tel Aviv in October. However, Braslavsky chose to depict Sharon (who he said is “kind of an open nerve in Israeli society”) not in battle nor as a international statesman — but in his hospital bed, where he has been confined, in a medically induced coma, since suffering a massive stroke in January 2006.
Sheriff’s deputies in Manatee County, Fla., arrested two men in October after a traffic stop when, following a thorough search of the car’s trunk, they found marijuana. In fact, the search of the messy trunk was so thorough that they also turned up a bong, which driver Mark Fiasco said he had lost and been looking for for seven years.
Responding to a domestic-dispute call at the I-77 Motor Inn in Fairplain, W.Va., in October, sheriff’s deputies encountered Melissa Williams naked from the waist down and holding a knife. Two men in the room (one, her estranged husband) said Williams had threatened them. “(S)omebody,” she reportedly said, “is going to eat my (vulgar anatomical reference) or I’m going to cut your (expletive) throat.” The sheriff’s report also noted that one of the men approached Williams to comply but was repelled by Williams’ “horrible vaginal odor.” In November, Williams was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Irresistible: In September, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing appointed Ralph Godbee police chief — a job he had held on an interim basis for several months. Godbee had ascended to the job when Warren Evans was fired for, among other things, having an affair with a subordinate, Lt. Monique Patterson. Before turning to Evans, Patterson had had an affair with Godbee, also.
COPYRIGHT 2010 CHUCK SHEPHERD
DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL UCLICK