News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
Donating for Dollars
• Already, healthy people can donate blood, sperm and eggs, but now the nonprofit OpenBiome offers donors $40 for bowel movements—to supply “fecal transplants” for patients with nasty C. difficile bacterial infections. (“Healthy” contents are transplanted into the infected gut via endoscope or frozen swallowed capsules so that the good bacteria drive out the antibiotic-resistant bad.) Over 2,000 transplant units have been shipped to 185 hospitals so far, and OpenBiome allows daily “donations” so that, with bonuses, a donor could earn $13,000 a year. However, extensive medical questioning and stool-testing is required, and only about 4 percent of potential donors have exquisite-enough feces to qualify.
The Job of the Researcher
• California State University Los Angeles researcher Marc Kubasak spent about 2,500 hours (sometimes 12 hours a day) training 40 brain-damaged rats to walk on a treadmill, after sewing little vests to tether the critters, suspended, to a robotic arm. His work paid off, though, according to the February Popular Science magazine, as doctors in Poland and University College London used his procedures to help a man with a damaged spine. (In the middle of the project, Kubasak developed a rodent allergy and was forced to wear a body suit every day with a respirator.)
• U.K.’s Bedfordshire Police were searching in April for the thief who ran off without paying for his Jesus arm tattoo at the RedINC Luton studio (to go with his “Only God Can Judge Me” inking on the other arm.) In fact, the shopkeeper also believes the man swiped the equivalent of $1,548 from a cash drawer when he was momentarily alone in the studio.
• Former Virginia state Delegate Joseph Morrissey, already scheduled for trial for submitting false documents in one case, was foiled in March qualifying for a state Senate primary because 750 of the 972 voter signatures he submitted were found to be bogus. (Morrissey was sworn in as delegate in January while wearing an ankle monitor as part of his sentence for having sex with an underage girl, but resigned to run for the Senate.)
• In March, the U.S. patent office approved Google’s application covering robot software that mimics human personalities (voice, mannerisms) using a variety of moods (happiness, fear, surprise) with a notable use that family members might employ it to continue to “interact” with a loved one after he has passed. One disquieting possibility might allow a deceased person to be directed to act in ways that the person never acted while alive.
• Entrepreneurship: (1) A curious woman, inspired by her own mother’s attachment to her unlaundered pillowcases following the death of her dad, has partnered with France’s Universite du Havre to produce a person’s bottled scent by processing old clothing. A September rollout is planned, with the probable retail price of about $600. (2) Artist Mark Sturkenboom has described plans for an even more remarkable remembrance device (if the deceased is male): a dildo that holds 21 grams of cremated ashes (accessorized, perhaps for non-sexual “cover,” by a necklace and music player). “After passing,” Sturkenboom explained, “the missing of intimacy” is “one aspect of the pain and grief.”
Democracy in Action
• Just west of Ferguson, Missouri, is Kinloch (pop. 299), where newly elected mayor Betty McCray was unable to start work on April 23 because the losing incumbent administration merely locked her out of City Hall (“impeaching” her for “voter fraud” in the April 7 election, despite St. Louis County election officials having already certified her victory). Of McCray’s two predecessors, one was once also locked out of office by police, and the other had to go to court to get his mayoral job back after admitting that he had missed child-support payments.
• The controversial ex-Greenpeace campaigner who years later turned against the environmental group’s program walked out of an interview in March for a French documentary in which he assured viewers that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer was safe for humans. “You can drink a whole quart of it, and it won’t hurt you,” Patrick Moore told the interviewer for Canal Plus. The interviewer then offered Moore a swig of Roundup he had on hand. “I’d be happy to, actually,” Moore reportedly said on camera, but then quickly changed his mind. “No, I’m not an idiot.” At that point, Moore declared, the interview was “finished.”
Is This a Great Country or What?
• The owner of a New York City condominium apartment that sold for $100.5 million recently received a property tax reduction of $360,000 last year—and is likely to keep receiving reductions over as many as 25 years, based on “Section 421-a” benefits the state enacted to encourage “affordable” housing in the most desirable parts of New York City. The tax abatements are available to developers that promise to create “affordable” units in the same zones (“affordable” to families making under about $40,000 annually), but in recent years, the new “millionaire” units (with tax breaks) have outnumbered the new affordable units by about 11-to-1, according to a February New York Times report, costing the city over $1 billion a year in revenue.
• Prison breaks in Latin American countries are often staged with cooperative, corrupt guards. However, the escape by 28 inmates in February from the Nova Mutum prison near Cuiaba, Brazil, was engineered by three make-believe “dominatrixes” (in police costumes), who playfully handcuffed the guards, knocked them out with sedatives and unlocked the cells. (The guards were found the next day, still handcuffed and naked.)
• Wall Street Miracle: Two March instances of gleaning insight and using it to buy stock “options” were executed so quickly (1 to 3 seconds each) that experts consulted for a Slate.com analysis said they couldn’t possibly have been made by human securities traders. Their conclusion: A robot so intelligent exists that it can “read” a news wire report, “analyze” it for hints whether to place bets on a company’s future price, and execute the order—before human traders even finish reading the news report. Profits on the seconds-long trades: $2.4 million on one and “between $1 million and $2 million” on the other.
News of Interest to Immature Readers Only
• (1) England’s Tavistock Town Council hastily changed the wording in March of its help-wanted ad seeking a general maintenance person (a “hand,” in local jargon); thus, it is no longer wording the offering as a “general hand job.” (2) Alaska’s Juneau Empire newspaper announced on February 26 a rededication ceremony for the local homeless facility, long known as the Glory Hole Shelter. (3) In April, the Tisdale, Saskatchewan, town council finally decided, after 60 years, to alter the widely used and inspiring town slogan (honoring the canola oil’s parent, the rapeseed)—“Land of Rape and Honey.” (4) A Brazilian student-athlete enrolled at Medicine Hat (Alberta) College announced he would play the basketball season under his real Brazilian-German name, Guilherme Fuck (which he insists is pronounced foo-kay).
A News of the Weird Classic (February 2011)
• David Morice, of Iowa City, Iowa, a teacher at Kirkwood Community College, was best known for a series of “Poetry Comics” until he decided (in 2010) to write 100-page poems (not prose—poems!) every day for 100 days, until he had a book totaling 10,000 pages (actually, 10,119). The University of Iowa Libraries published the finished book online, but for some reason, also in a two-foot-high hardcopy stack. (Strangely, in a 480-word article describing Morice’s feat, the Iowa City Press-Citizen included not even a hint about any of the poems’ subject matter.)
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