Trafficking Tides, 18 Human
Heads & the Criminal Lennons
It’s Thursday, so this must be file-clearance day. And we get a big kick out of it. There’s always a taste of the unexpected, the gory, and the slightly jocose in those files, and we’re glad to share them with you. As for whatever happened to our sense of decorum, the hell with it.
Who knew, for instance, that there’s a black market for Tide, the laundry detergent? Or that heads are routinely shipped around the country, heaven forbid if they’d lack proper documentation. Plus: guess how many John Lennons have been busted by the Brazilian police?
There’s a reason why we insist in collecting and highlighting these news of the weird, these reports from the bowels of weary precincts, these tales of fellow comrades, caught red-handed doing what any of us could, or have in the past, or, brace yourself, may still have in store ahead of us.
Our method for this madness is simple: whenever the world threatens to drown us all yet again in heartbreak and grief, look desperately for a relief, not necessarily comic or charitable, to lay our eyes on for just a minute. Escapism? You bet, but hey, who can stare unblinkingly at the human misery without flinch and clasp their hands?
If you can, all the power to you. What follows may sound shallow and alien and you’ve obviously mastered a higher level of coolness that most of us will hardly ever experience. For everybody else, though, step right this way; there’s a three-ring circus below the fold, ready to welcome your sore mind.
STEALING CHEESE & TIDE
According to the U.K.’s Center for Retail Research, in 2011, the most shoplifted food item in the world was cheese. In case you thought you could’ve died without knowing this obscure piece of trivia, the center offers a roster of reasons why that’s so, starting by the fact that cheese is easy to resell it.
You’ll find a shipload of information about retail and its greatest vulnerability (no, not next year’s fashion), theft by nicely dressed consumers just like someone you know. They even have a term for it: shrinkage. Some countries have more than others, but basically retailers go through heaven and hell to prevent it, without much success.
No to justify it, but it’s understandable that a protein-rich food item has such a high demand among price-paying consumers and shoplifters, given levels of hunger in the world and all that. But then there’s something else that seems to be attracting growing attention from criminals too: laundry detergent.
Specially Tide, that orange-colored powder used throughout the world. Since there’s no news about people using it for sustenance, retail experts figured that there must be a new black market for it. Why Tide? no one seems to know. What’s been determined, though, is that it’s been used as a street currency.
Apparently, some people steal large quantities of the detergent (no, cheaper substitutes simply won’t do it, even though their composition is similar), and resell it or exchange it for illegal drugs or goods. Somehow, the packages get resold a couple of times, until being repurchased by established retailers.
That process is estimated to represent about $40 billion losses to the industry, with possibly a couple of times that amount in untraceable wealth in the streets, with plenty of profits pocketed by organized crime. It probably involves a lot of very nicely clean clothes too, but you’re advised to proceed with caution, before thinking about storing the stuff.
18 HUMAN HEADS IN A BAG
At first glance, this sounds like a reality upgrading of the 1997 movie, including the unrealistic multiple on the headline. But while Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag was just another not particularly funny Joe Pesci vehicle, cranked out by Hollywood, the incident at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, right before last Christmas, was very much real.
They came from Rome, all properly embalmed and neatly wrapped and labeled, and no foul play seemed to be involved. They must have given the custom agents who opened the package a shock to their system, but to prove that they were not completely intimidated by the finding, they quickly recovered and found that there was something missing about those heads.
Again, no, not particularly bodies, if you’d ask them. Paperwork, that holy grail of any border agent, which can make or break a career in the exciting world of U.S. airports’ sub-standard careers. Yes, proper paperwork can be more important than a head being short of, well, its body. That’s probably common. But no stamp, no go.
As it turned out, the heads were on their (final) trip to the crematorium, after having undergone some kind of undisclosed medical research at the Eternal City. Naturally, that made no difference to whom they once belonged. After all, there are many ways of losing your head. What’s unusual is to lose all 18 at the same time.
THE JOHN LENNONS OF BRAZIL
We earn no originality kudos here when we say that John Lennon’s life and death has inspired many parents to name their kids after him. They’re obviously betting that some of the brilliance of the late Beatle will rub off on their own kin, perhaps even rescuing the family from a future of obscurity and mediocrity.
Not the case with these three that the Brazilian police arrested within the past month, all in Belo Horizonte city. John Lenon Gomes Camargos, caught on murder charges, and alleged robbers John Lennon Fonseca Ferreira, and John Lennon Ribeiro Siqueira, share more than the famous name. Most likely, they all have also in common the profound disappointment of their parents.
The body of a fourth, John Lennon Sebastiao da Silva, was also discovered in the same period, inside his car, in what detectives believe was ‘a revenge attack.’ Whatever. None of them would be mistaken by their songwriting talents, working-class hero stature, or the unforgettable love from their fans.
Believe us, we’re no proud of sounding particularly harsh here, kicking these unfortunate souls while they’re down. After all, perhaps in an ideal world, they too would’ve chosen a more productive and exemplary life, or would even have had a better chance. Maybe there was a point in their lives when they all believed that could pull it through.
But that wasn’t to be. Name never assured a particularly glorious destiny to anyone, and besides, who do we think we’re fooling? This is a police blotter, after all, and we should be using the proper jargon, calling them ‘the individuals in point,’ and in the case of Sebastião da Silva, the stiff.
As for their parents, they probably got it. Just in case you’re still unsure, it may not be a good idea to name your kids after people that meant something to you. Hey, we don’t even recommend naming them after you. For what? So besides having to struggle to strike on their own, they also have to emulate somebody else’s dreams too?