Wednesday, May 5, 2010

News of the Weird

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Helping the Wealthy

Anybody can help those in need. The Florida Legislature, under the guise that business is faltering in the yacht industry, decided to cap the sales tax on purchases of yachts. Rather than tax the entire selling price, the sales tax would be capped after $18,000 (the amount currently paid for a $300,000 yacht). As an example, this tax cap would give a “beleaguered” yacht buyer a $42,000 break on the overall price of a $1 million boat.

Least Competent Criminals

(1) Police in Berwick, Maine, made an easy collar in April—and likely solved four residential burglaries in the process. The two suspects (ages 33 and 32) wear GPS monitoring bracelets due to previous arrests in New Hampshire. Police in Maine allege that the movements of the suspects perfectly coincide with the burglars' routes. (2) In April, a burglar managed to escape from his crime at the Drug Warehouse in Tulsa, Okla., but not before surveillance video captured his many mishaps. Video shows the perp, apparently hearing sirens, grabbing his ladder and scrambling up through the ceiling to find the passage he used to get into the store. However, as he scrambled, he kept falling through the ceiling and crashing back to the floor. He fell to the floor six times, but apparently escaped on the seventh try.

Leading Economic Indicators

  • In March, Swiss clockmaker Artya announced the creation of a wristwatch set in fossilized dinosaur feces (and featuring a strap made from the skin of an American cane toad). Designer Yvan Arpa told the Associated Press the watch would sell for about $12,000.


  • The spa Ten Thousand Waves near Santa Fe, N.M., is the latest facility to offer a treatment known as the "Japanese Nightingale Facial" (named after an alleged centuries-old treatment used by Japanese geishas for skin rejuvenation). Nightingale droppings are dried and sanitized, then spiced with oils and used as a face scrubber.


  • Jimmy Choo stores in New York City quickly sold out of their blinking women's shoes with 5-inch heels. The shoes, which light up with every step, cost $2,495 a pair (even though the battery, which cannot be replaced, dies after about 100 hours).


Continued Outsourcing

American companies continue to outsource work overseas—even when it comes to grading papers. In April, TheChronicle of Higher Education reported on the University of Houston (UH) business school's contract to have student papers uploaded to "teaching assistants" (mostly residing in India, Singapore and Malaysia) who read the papers, mark them up and offer constructive advice. UH professor Lori Whisenant, who initiated the university's contract with the firm EduMetry, said she is pleased with the results.

Capitalizing on Misfortune

When stroke victims recover, they sometimes acquire bizarre behaviors, like one by David Stopher of North Tyneside, England, who found himself unable to say no to salespeople. According to a March Daily Mail report, the biggest beneficiary of Stopher's condition has been a wireless telephone network called 3, whose marketers had registered Stopher for six different phones and plans at the same time (and paid all on time until his brothers stepped in to persuade 3 to restructure the account).

Haul Queens

Blair Fowler, 16, has found fans as a "haul queen," someone who goes "shopping for glory" and then displays and describes her purchases on Internet videos. A March Times of London dispatch from Los Angeles noted Fowler's acclaim "for her ability to deliver a high-pitched 10-minute lecture on the merits of skinny versus low-riding jeans, apparently without drawing breath." According to The Times, at least 100,000 "haul" videos are available on YouTube, mostly from "amateurs." Fowler's videos have been viewed 75 million times by "haul" wannabes.

2010 Chuck Shepherd