News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
Very Personal Hygiene
• Orestes De La Paz’s exhibit at the Frost Art Museum in Miami in May recalled Chuck Palahniuk’s novel and film “Fight Club,” in which lead character Tyler Durden’s principal income source was making upscale soap using discarded liposuctioned fat fetched from the garbage of cosmetic surgeons (thus closing the loop of fat from rich ladies recycled back to rich ladies). De La Paz told his mentor at Florida International University that he wanted only to display his own liposuctioned fat provocatively, but decided to make soap when he realized that the fat would otherwise quickly rot. Some visitors to the exhibit were able to wash their hands with the engineered soap, which De La Paz offered for sale at $1,000 a bar.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
• As recently as mid-May, people with disabilities had been earning hefty black-market fees by taking strangers into Disneyland and Disney World using the parks’ own liberal “disability” passes (which allow for up to five relatives or guests at a time to accompany the disabled person in skipping the sometimes-hours-long lines and having immediate access to the rides). The pass-holding “guide,” according to NBC’s “Today” show, could charge as much as $200 through advertising on CraigsList and via word-of-mouth to some travel agents. Following reports in the New York Post and other outlets, Disney was said in late May to be warning disabled permit-holders not to abuse the privilege.
• After setting out to create a protective garment for mixed martial arts fighters, Jeremiah Raber of High Ridge, Mo., realized that his “groin protection device” could also help police, athletes and military contractors. Armored Nutshellz underwear, now selling for $125 each, has multiple layers of Kevlar plus another fabric called Dyneema, which Raber said can “resist” multiple shots from 9 mm and .22-caliber handguns. He said the Army will be testing Nutshellz in August, hoping it can reduce the number of servicemen who come home with devastating groin injuries.
• “Ambulance-chasing” lawyers are less the cliche than they formerly were because of bar association crackdowns, but fire truck-chasing contractors and “public adjusters” are still a problem—at least in Florida, where the state Supreme Court tossed out a “48-hour” time- out rule that would have given casualty victims space to reflect on their losses before being overwhelmed by home-restoration salesmen. Consequently, as firefighters told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in May, the contractors are usually “right behind” them on the scene, pestering anxious or grief-stricken victims. The Sun-Sentinel found one woman being begged to sign up while she was still crying out for her dog that remained trapped in the blaze.
• Researchers writing recently in the journal PLoS ONE disclosed that they had found certain types of dirt that contain antimicrobial agents capable of killing E. coli and the antibiotic-resistant MRSA. According to the article, medical “texts” back to 3000 B.C. mentioned clays that, when rubbed on wounds, reduce inflammation and pain.
• Researchers writing in May in the journal Pediatrics found that some infants whose parents regularly sucked their babies’ pacifiers to clean them (rather than rinsing or boiling them) developed fewer allergies and cases of asthma. (On the other hand, parental-cleansing might make other maladies more likely, such as tooth decay.)
Leading Economic Indicators
• Until recently, apparently, gene mutations were considered merely freaks of nature, but that was before Myriad Genetics obtained binding U.S. patents for mutations it discovered—now known as BRCA-1 and BRCA-2. Those mutations were in the news in May when actor Angelina Jolie announced that she had chosen to have a double mastectomy based on the presence of the cancer-causing mutations, which she had learned of through a Myriad Genetics test costing about $4,000. There is no price competition for the test, due to the patent, and Jolie, along with oncologists and OB-GYN doctors, fret that the test is too expensive for tens of millions of women around the world whose lives could be saved by knowing their status.
• Archeologists discovered in May that a construction company had bulldozed 2,300-year-old Mayan ruins in northern Belize—simply to mine the rocks for road fill to build a highway. A researcher said it could hardly have been an accident, for the ruins were 100 feet high in an otherwise flat landscape, and a Tulane University anthropologist estimated that Mayan ruins are being mined for road fill an average of once a day in their ancient habitats. Said another, “(T)o realize” that Mayans created these structures using only stone tools and then “carried these materials on their heads” to build them—and then that bulldozers can almost instantly destroy them—is “mind-boggling.”
Fine Points of Law
• A woman in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood reported to a local news blog in May that she had seen (and her husband briefly conversed with) a man who was operating a “drone” from a sidewalk, guiding the noisy device to a point just outside a third-floor window in a private home. The pilot said he was “doing research” and, perhaps protected by a 1946 U.S. Supreme Court decision, asserted that he was not violating anyone’s privacy because he, himself, was on a public sidewalk while the drone was in public airspace. The couple called for a police officer, but by the time one arrived, the pilot and his drone had departed, according to a report on the Capitol Hill Seattle blog.
• Army Major Nidal Hasan went on trial in June for killing 13 and wounding another 32 in the notorious November 2009 shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, but his 43 months in lockup since then have been lucrative. WFAA-TV (Dallas-Fort Worth) reported in May that Maj. Hasan has earned $278,000 (and counting) in salary and benefits because his pay cannot be stopped until he is convicted. By contrast, some of the 32 surviving victims complain of difficulty wrenching money out of the Army for worker compensation and disability treatment—because the Army has refused to classify the spree-shooting as a combat-similar “terrorist attack” (in favor of terming it the politically correct “workplace violence”).
People With Issues
• (1) John Allison, 41, who was arrested inside a Hannaford’s grocery store in Massena, N.Y., in May, first aroused suspicion as an anticipated shoplifter, but it turns out that all he wanted to do was to remove a pepperoni from the meat case, rub it on his penis and put it back. He was charged with criminal mischief. (2) David Beckman, 64, was charged in DuPage County, Ill., in May with misdemeanor animal cruelty after he allegedly sexually abused his pet peacock, “Phyl.”
Least Competent Criminals
• Three men committed home invasion of a Houston residence on May 14 and, although two escaped, one wound up in the hospital and under arrest. The three men kicked in a door and shut the resident in an upstairs closet while they ransacked the home, but they failed to inspect the closet first and thus did not realize that it was the resident’s handgun-storage closet. A few minutes later, the resident emerged, locked and loaded, and wounded one of the men in the shoulder and leg.
• (1) Bryan Zuniga, 20, was (according to a deputy) weaving in traffic in his SUV in May near the St. Petersburg, Fla., city limit, but instead of submitting to the deputy, he fled on foot and eventually climbed a fence to a water-treatment plant—and apparently disturbed an alligator residing in a pond. Zuniga was treated at St. Petersburg General Hospital for bites to his face and arm. (2) In Albuquerque in May, Luis Briones, 25, became the most recent person arrested for distracted driving—after he crashed into another car while engaged in sexual intercourse in the driver’s seat. (His naked lady-friend was thrown from the car, but not seriously hurt.)blog comments powered by Disqus
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