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News of the Weird

Find That Genius!

Beijing Genomics Institute scientists are closing in on a technology to allow parents to choose, from several embryos, the one most likely to yield the smartest offspring. London’s Daily Mail (in January, referencing recent work in Wired, The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker) explained that BGI will have identified high-potential mathematics genes (by mapping the cells of geniuses) so that researchers can search for those among a couple’s array of embryos. (Most embryos will yield gene arrays resembling their parents’, but one embryo is likely “better”— and maybe much better.) One Chinese researcher acknowledged the “controversial” nature of the work, “especially in the West,” but added, “That’s not the case in China.” The parental price tag on finding the smartest kid? Expensive, said a supporter, but less than upgrading an average kid via Harvard, or even a private prep school.

Can’t Possibly Be True

• “This (was) my life,” said musician Boujemaa Razgui in December, referring to the 13 handmade flutes that he played professionally, “and now they’re gone.” Arriving in New York City from Madrid with the 13 woodwinds in his checked luggage, he was shocked to discover that U.S. Customs had destroyed them without notice because “wood” is a restricted “agricultural” import. (Unsophisticated agents had apparently regarded them as mere bamboo.) Razgui plays all over the world including, since 2002, with the Boston Camerata ensemble staged by the city’s Museum of Fine Arts.

• A Georgia Regents University’s dental school official acknowledged in December that the school would likely continue to conduct research on the mouths of stray dogs solely to test a coating that might inhibit infections in humans’ dental implants. The work is controversial because the only way to study the installed implants is to remove them, after euthanizing the dogs. (Also, the research is sponsored by commercial dental-implant companies for a market dominated by elective cosmetic patients.) (However, a GRU professor noted that implants are also functional, as they inhibit infections that might reach the heart’s lining and other locations.)

• Saved by the Blimps: Americans who have grown accustomed to hearing that the U.S. is militarily without peer might have been shocked to learn in January (as CBS News reported from a Pentagon interview) that America has “practically zero capability” either to detect enemy cruise missiles fired at Washington, D.C., from offshore, or even worse, to “defend against (them).” The Pentagon’s interim makeshift solution to protect the U.S. capital, said an official, is to launch two blimps, soon, to float two miles up over a base in Maryland to try to spot any such missiles.

• In February, a California Highway Patrol officer handcuffed and threatened to arrest a firefighter performing an emergency roadside rescue along Interstate 805 in Chula Vista, Calif., because the rescuer would not move his truck from the fast lane, where it was “impeding” traffic. Firefighters are required to block lanes during rescues, specifically to “impede” traffic for their own protection and that of victims nearby. CHP and the Chula Vista firefighters later jointly called the incident a “miscommunication.”

Unclear on the Concept

• Oregon inmate Sirgiorgio Clardy, 26, filed a handwritten $100 million lawsuit in January against Nike for inadequately marketing its Air Jordans. Clardy, a convicted pimp, had received an “enhanced” penalty for using a “dangerous weapon” to maim the face of a john, i.e., he had stomped and kicked a man after accusing him of skipping out on a payment, and the “dangerous weapon” was apparently his shoe. Clardy said Nike bears at least some responsibility for his incarceration because it failed to label the shoe a “dangerous weapon.”

• Ed Forchion sits in a jail in Burlington County, N.J. (where he will reside for a few more months), serving a term for possession of marijuana. However, for 10 days each month until his release, the same judge who sentenced him has promised to allow him to go smoke medical marijuana in California to relieve pain from his bone cancer. (Forchion was convicted of possession before New Jersey legalized medical marijuana.) (Update: Four days after a Trentonian columnist’s story about “Weedman” Forchion, and the subsequent Internet frenzy it wrought, Forchion’s judge commuted the final 130 days of his sentence and freed him.)

• In a December letter to the University of Minnesota president, a coalition of black student organizations demanded an end to racial profiling, especially in light of recent campus crime incidents. “(C)ampus safety should be of the (university’s) utmost importance,” they acknowledged, but among the organizations’ complaints was that when “be on the lookout” alerts were issued (usually based on victims’ descriptions of their attackers), innocent black students feel “discomforting,” “negative psychological effects”—because the alerts so often describe black attackers.

• Officials at the Emu Plains Correctional Center near Sydney, Australia, announced in January that they had pre-empted a planned escape by two female inmates, ages 32 and 21, after finding a 60-foot length of tied-together sheets in a cell. Nonetheless, the officials said they were puzzled, in that Emu Plains is a one-story facility, enclosed, wrote the Daily Telegraph, by a “not particularly high” fence.

Perspective

• Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings have made clear that only in the case of murder can a juvenile be given a life sentence “without possibility of parole” (and never a death sentence). Under-18s, the court said, must get a “meaningful opportunity” to mature and redeem themselves behind bars. The U.S. Constitution aside, apparently some Florida judges disagree and have subsequently sentenced juveniles to 50 years or longer for non-murders, in some cases assuring that the release date will be beyond the inmate’s natural life expectancy. In one case found by a Barry University law school program, a juvenile convicted of gun robbery and rape had his earlier life-without-parole sentence “reduced” to consecutive sentences totaling 170 years. Critics said the Supreme Court should recognize that some juveniles are already “thoroughly incorrigible.”

People With Issues

• Christopher Pagano, 41, was finally arrested in January as police identified him as the man who had apparently been roaming the Mayfair neighborhood of Philadelphia for several weeks exposing his genitals while lovingly fondling a hunk of Swiss cheese (“cheese-accessorized” genitals, wrote a Philadelphia Daily News reporter). The case was broken when a 2012 victim recalled a “Swiss cheese pervert” in the Philadelphia area and searched for him on the Internet, locating a man who rhapsodized as much about cheese as about having sex. “I started to compare girls to cheese due to their milky (complexions),” the man (Pagano) wrote. “(G)irls are soft, smooth-feeling, and tend to like dairy products more.”

Least Competent Criminals

• Perps Who Need to Be in a Different Line of Work: “Victim” Joseph Torrez, 27, was at home in Las Cruces, N.M., on New Year’s Day with his fiancee and young son when four men barged in (after threatening Torrez on the telephone with “I’m big Eastside,” “I’ll kill you and your family,” “I will go to your house”). Torrez is a mixed-martial arts fighter, and by the time it was over, he and his family were safe, but one home invader was dead, another was in the hospital, and the other two (including the telephoner) under arrest.

Readers’ Choice

• (1) Ryan Bensen, 40, and Erica Manley, 37, were arrested in Seaside, Ore., in January, shortly after they expressed their gratitude to a waitress at the Twisted Fish by leaving, as a tip, a plastic bag of methamphetamine. (Police said Manley had still more in her purse when they searched her.) (2) A week apart in January, Pope Francis’ pair of “peace doves” released in Vatican City were almost immediately attacked by a seagull and a crow, and a 31-year-old nun in Rieti, Italy, “unaware” that she was pregnant, gave birth to a boy whom she named “Francis.” No details were released.

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