News of the Weird


■ The Transportation Security Administration announced in May that it had collected $765,000 in loose change left behind in airport scanner trays during 2015 — an average “haul” for the agency of $2,100 a day (numbers assuming, of course, that TSA personnel turn in all of the money they find). Los Angeles and Miami airports contributed $106,000 of the total. [WTOP Radio (Washington, D.C.), 5-17-2016]


■ Scientists at the University of Cambridge, writing in May in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, claimed to have figured out how to construct a “motor” a “million times” smaller than an ant. (It apparently involves lasers, gold particles and “van der Waals forces,” and the object is to bind the gold particles and then cause them to automatically “snap” apart with, according to author Jeremy Baumberg, “10 to a hundred times more force per unit than any known other machine.”) [Washington Post, 5-3-2016]

■ CEO Michael Pearson told a Senate committee in April that he “regret(s)” the business model he instituted in 2015 for Valeant Pharmaceuticals –the one that, for example, allowed a drug (Cuprimine) that treats liver failure and formerly cost a typical user out-of-pocket about $3 a pill (120 per month, $366) to, overnight, cost the user $15 a pill. (The insurance company’s and Medicare’s cost went overnight from about $5,000 per 100 tablets to $26,000.) (A Deutsche Bank analysis of the industry tallied Valeant’s all-drug average price spike at more than five times the average of any competitor’s.) Pearson told the senators he had no idea that such a pricing strategy would turn out to be so controversial. [New York Times, 4-28-2016, 10-4-2015]


■ The Japanese branch of the intimate apparel maker Genie is currently advertising, in Japanese and English, a handy guide for bras that emphasizes the hardship women bear by having to lug around breasts of certain sizes in ill-fitting garments. The Genie chart reveals weight in ounces of typical A-cup chests (11.5 ounces) through F-cup (41.7 ounces, or 2.6 pounds). To assist any innumerate Japanese shoppers, the chart also shows practical comparisons, such as A-cup pairs weighing as much as “two chipmunks,” C-cups as “one newborn polar bear cub,” and F-cups as “one 3-month-old Persian kitten.” [Genie’s press release via RocketNews24. com, 7-6-2016]


■ (1) Mark Herron, 49, of Sunderland, England, was arrested again in May — his 448th arrest on alcohol-related charges. The year started “well” for Herron, with only 14 collars through March, and he cleaned up briefly before a “family bereavement” sent him spiraling downward again. His current lawyer admitted that his client has been in court more often than he himself has.

■ (2) Austrian Hans Heiland vowed in June to assist a needy family in Oberholz by donating to a charity fundraiser sponsored by the local fire department. He has been collecting bottle tops through the years and figures he could sell his “treasure” now, as scrap metal, to help the family. He has at least 10,000, no, make that 10 million caps, weighing “several tons.” [Sunderland Echo, 5-30-2016] [The Local (Vienna), 6-10-2016]


■ In May, the federal government finally shut down a long-running international scam that had sold psychic assurances (prosperity! winning lottery numbers!) to more than a million Americans. In personalized form letters, two French psychics had guaranteed success and riches to clients if they would only buy their $50 books (and massive upselling usually followed). The Justice Department estimated that during the spree, the sellers earned upward of $180 million on at least 56 million pieces of postal mail. [Reuters, 5-9-2016]

■ In a June verdict still reverberating through the telemarketing industry, a jury in Utah found that three companies run by Forrest Baker III had illegally made 99 million phone calls to consumers on the Do Not Call Registry and an additional 18 million calls telling people they were merely doing surveys when the purpose was hawking their family-friendly movies. Both charges are violations of the Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule. Although the total fine and damages have not been decided, the law provides that the most serious offenders could be assessed $16,000 per phone call (for a maximum of almost $1.9 trillion). [FTC press release, 6-22016] [NetworkWorld.com, 6-2-2016]

■ A recent study by a Harvard University data scientist estimated that the government of China funds the creation of at least 488 million bogus social-media posts a year. The report refers to a rumored government-sponsored arrangement that pays people the equivalent of 8 U.S. cents per post of “news” for the purpose of distracting socialmedia users and channeling them to subjects preferred by the government (such as successes of the Communist Party). [CNN Money, 5-20-2016]

■ The family of a Virginia Tech student missing since 1998 was notified in March that the man’s remains and ID had been found in a wooded ravine 700 feet below the New River Gorge bridge near Beckley, West Virginia — in an area the man’s vehicle tracker had long identified for potential searching. A West Virginia State Police sergeant told reporters that in the years since the student disappeared, the remains of 48 other bodies had been found underneath the bridge. [Roanoke Times, 3-11-2016] RECURRING THEMES:

■ Fernando Estrella, 41, was arrested in Franklin County, Vermont, in March and charged with making the foolish error of running a stop sign while carrying a heroin haul. Estrella was rectally packing three condoms stuffed with enough heroin, said police, to fill 1,428 street-retail-size baggies.

■ Esteysi Sanchez Izazaga, 29, was arrested for DUI, hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter in Oceanside, California, in June after driving three-fourths of a mile (3,960 feet) with a pedestrian’s corpse firmly lodged in her windshield after she struck the man. (The drive ended up at her home, where her horrified husband noticed the body and called police.) [Fox News, 3-302016] [KGTV (San Diego), 6-28-2016]

■ As typical of many pervert suspects in News of the Weird, Roger Marsh, 65, of Cowling, England, was a prodigious collector/hoarder of his indecent images. He was caught with a camera attached to his shoe following skirted women around an Ikea store, and in May was ordered to jail for 18 months by Leeds Crown Court, covering six offenses. However, police had also discovered a trove of 709,376 images and videos at his home, and preliminary perusal of the collection showed 1,600 live files of voyeurism and about 9,000 indecent images of children. [Keighley News, 5-25-2016]