Tuesday, June 15, 2010

News of the Weird 13 June 2010

WEIRDNUZ.M166 (News of the Weird, June 13, 2010)
by Chuck Shepherd

Copyright 2010 by Chuck Shepherd.  All rights reserved.

Lead Story

* It's clear, based on a May Time magazine dispatch, that Norway's
felons and miscreants are of a superior class than America's.  When
Norway's brand-new Halden prison opened in April, the country's
King Harald V headlined a glitzy gala that celebrated what has been
called the world's "most humane" lockup.  Among the facilities:  a
sound studio, jogging trails, a guest house for inmates' visitors, and
a scrumptious-smelling "kitchen laboratory" where murderers and
bandits can learn to cook.  Guards are unarmed (half are women)
and intermingle with the rapists, drug dealers, and others, dining
with them and joining them in intramural sports.  The recidivist rate
for Norwegian prisoners in general is only 20 percent (versus 50-60
percent in the United States), but it is still early to tell whether
Halden's prisoners will find life behind bars so pleasant that they
don't mind risking another stretch there by returning to crime.
[Time, 5-10-10]

Leading Economic Indicators

* Cutting-Edge Products:  (1) A Portland, Ore., inventor recently
began offering a colorful patch designed to cover the area just below
a dog's tail.  The "Rear Gear" is featured on the handmade-crafts'
site, Etsy.com.  (2) Tyrone Henry and Fermin Esson, of Opa Locka,
Fla., near Miami, told reporters they were recently granted a patent
for "saggy pants" that they say will satisfy young men's street-
fashion sense yet not run afoul of municipal laws around the country
banning exposed underwear. [Portland Mercury, 3-29-10] [WCBS-
TV-WFOR-TV (Miami), 2-1-10]

* Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission, On Edge:
Last November, the government of North Korea made an ultimately
disastrous decision to radically devalue its currency, overnight
making 100 North Korean won worth 1 North Korean won, and the
country's citizens (as well as, reportedly, the Dear Leader himself)
were not pleased.  Three months later, without much fanfare, came
the official announcement that the government's (i.e., the Workers'
Party's) chief finance minister, Pak Nam-gi, had been executed by
firing squad. [The Guardian (London), 3-18-10]

* In May, the German manufacturer Ex Oriente Lux AG set up its
"Gold To Go" vending machine in the lobby of Abu Dhabi's
Emirates Palace Hotel, offering gold coins and one-, five-, and ten-
gram bars of gold, based on the current world price at the time of
the transaction. [Agence France-Presse, 5-13-10]

Transcendent Science

* Intelligent Design:  Among the new species first reported this year
are a "nose" leech, a "Dracula" fish, a "psychedelic" frogfish, and a
"bombardier" worm, according to scientists at the University of
Arizona and medical school researchers Lima, Peru.  The Peru-
based leech, which is fanged and probably has been around since
the time of dinosaurs, prefers nasal mucus as a habitat.  The
"Dracula" fish of Myanmar, with "canine-like fangs," has an
extraordinarily flexible mouth.  The multi-colored frogfish has
apparently adapted to live among the colorful, venomous coral off
Bali, Indonesia.  The "bombardier" worm, found in California's
Monterey Bay, releases glow-in-the-dark projectiles when
threatened. [Discovery Channel-MSNBC, 4-15-10;
LiveScience.com, 5-23-10]

* Until recently, researchers were certain that at least one ability
separated humans from higher-functioning apes:  the creation and
use of tools for sex.  However, primatologists writing in a recent
issue of Science described a male chimpanzee's repetitive use of a
dried leaf in the same way that a male human of a certain class
might employ a fast car.  In the presence of a female chimp, the
male carefully crinkles the leaf until she--seemingly accustomed to
such leaf-crinkling--notices the male, along with his generous
erection, and may then choose to join him. [New York Times, 5-4-

* Too Much Information:  British and Australian researchers,
writing in a journal article in March, concluded that the world's
strongest insect (relative to body weight) is the male dung beetle,
which can lift more than 1,100 times its weight (equivalent for an
average male human:  80 tons).  Since the beetles mate inside dung
patties, their every move is a struggle against the resistance posed
by the feces. (On the other hand, the researchers also found weaker
dung beetles that mated just fine--helped not by their strength but by
unusually large testicles.)  [Agence France-Presse, 3-24-10]

* Sounds Like a Joke:  University of Michigan computer engineer
Wei Lu revealed in April that he and colleagues were working on a
new supercomputer design that is a radical departure from current
computer architecture.  Wei Lu's design breakthrough (which has
piqued the interest of the Pentagon's DARPA think-tankers) is to
model the operating system like the brain of a cat, he said, even
though his supercomputer could never actually outperform the cat's
brain.  [New York Daily News, 4-19-10]

The Aristocrats!

* Last September, James Jones, 33, and a friend were issued
disorderly-conduct citations by police after witnesses reported that
the pair, inebriated, had placed their genitals on a vegetables'
weighing scale in a supermarket in Edinburgh, Scotland.  (They
were acquitted in April 2010 when the only witness admitted that
she only saw the men zipping up after claiming to have weighed
themselves.) [STV News (Edinburgh), 4-22-10]

* Fluids Festivals:  (1) A 44-year-old man was charged with battery
in Crestview, Fla., in April as a result of a fight with his girlfriend,
during which he pinched off one of his nostrils and blew mucus and
blood out of the other (with contents landing on her "face, chest,
arms, and pants").  (2) Madison, Wis., neighbors Nina Bell, 56, and
Arnessa Battles, 38, were cited for disorderly conduct in March in a
dispute over Battles's dog's winter-long output of droppings that had
just been revealed by melting snow.  According to the police report,
by the time an officer arrived on the scene, both of the women had
smeared each other's cars with large quantities of dog poop.
[Northwest Florida Daily News, 4-23-10] [Wisconsin State Journal,

People Different From Us

* World-class sword-swallower Chayne Hultgre, 32, is a veteran of
such exhibitions as Scotland's Kamikaze Freakshow, as well as this
year's Psycho Sideshow in Australia, and he holds the Guinness
Book record by downing 18 swords simultaneously.  Part of his
skill, he told Sydney's Daily Telegraph in April, is learning to relax
his body, but he also credited his five-inch-longer-than-normal
stomach and his decision to implant a row of magnets along his
breastbone that he says ever-so-slightly diverts the metal swords
away from vital organs.  Reminiscing, Hultgren noted that once,
during a show's run in Belgium, an average of seven spectators a
night were fainting (known in the trade as "falling ovations").  What
does Hultgre's future hold?  "I've never had another job." [Daily
Telegraph (Sydney), 4-3-10]

Least Competent Criminals

* Not Ready for Prime-Time Crime:  (1) Jacob Collins, 28, was
arrested in April and charged with burglary of Matlack's Hometown
Pharmacy in Landisville, N.J., despite the fact that the medicine he
stole was probably by mistake.  Police said they were almost certain
Collins was after the painkiller "Oxycontin" but instead swiped a
supply of "Oxybutynin," which treats overactive bladder.  (2) On the
other hand, Sean Almond, 43, was charged on the same day as
Collins for allegedly robbing the Kangaroo Mart on Wilroy Road in
Suffolk, Va., and could have used some Oxybutynin.  Almond was
caught immediately after the robbery because his getaway was
delayed.  He was spotted in a nearby alley, where he had been
overcome by a sudden urge to relieve himself. [Press of Atlantic
City, 4-22-10] [Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk), 4-23-10]

A News of the Weird Classic (April 1995)

* In March [1995], after the president of the Puerto Rico House of
Representatives accused him of illegal drug use, Sen. Freddie
Valentin denied the charge and led reporters into a restroom in the
Capitol building in San Juan, where he yielded a urine sample that
he later submitted to the Senate leadership.  A TV cameraman shot
over Valentin's shoulder, and journalist Sonia Salgado's play-by-
play radio report ended, "I have just transmitted, for the first time
ever, a senator taking a pee before the media." [Austin American-
Statesman-AP, 3-18-95] .378

    Thanks This Week to Matt Rushing, Gerald Sacks, Sandy
Pearlman, Jim Kane, and Jon Doughtie, and to the News of the
Weird Senior Advisors and Board of Editorial Advisors.

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