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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

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The Entrepreneurial Spirit

  • One of Britain's most famous "madams" announced in January that she was coming out of retirement to set up a brothel exclusively catering to disabled people and the terminally ill. An ordinary brothel would be illegal in the town of Milton Keynes (about 50 miles from London), but Becky Adams insists that the government could not shut hers down without illegally discriminating against the disabled.
  • Advances in the Service Sector: (1) In January, the Japanese marketing firm Wit Inc. began hiring "popular" young women (judged by the extent of their "social network" contacts), at the equivalent of $121 a day, to walk around with advertising stickers on their thighs. (The stickers would be placed on the erotic "zettai ryouiki"—the Japanese mystical area between the hem of a short skirt and the top of long socks.) The women must be prepared to endure men hovering closely to read the ads. (2) According to news reports in November, New York City physician Jack Berdy was doing a brisk business administering Botox injections (at up to $800 per treatment) to poker players who were hoping to prevent facial expressions that might tip their hands.
  • Ingenious: (1) London's The Independent reported in January that Dean Kamen (who famously invented the Segway, a standing, battery-powered scooter) had developed, along with a Pennsylvania medical team, what appears to work as a "reverse feeding tube" that will vacuum out up to 30% of any food in the stomach before it is digested and converted into calories. After installation of the stomach "port," the diner could operate the device without daily medical help. (2) The Polish cosmetics company Inglot announced in January a nail polish ideal for Muslim women, in that it can withstand the five-times-daily hand-washing required for prayers. (Normally, devout women wear nail polish only during their menstrual periods, when the hand-washing is not required, but polish thus signals menstruation and therefore embarrasses modest women.)

Advances in Animal Research

Scientists from Sweden's Lund University, reporting in a recent issue of Current Biology, explored the burning question of why dung beetles appear to be "dancing" on the tops of the dung balls they roll away. The answer is that the beetles need to roll their treasures away from the heap as quickly as possible (lest competitors swipe them) and that they can best maintain a straight line away by celestial navigation. To test the hypothesis, researchers actually outfitted some beetles with tiny visors to block their view of the sky, and those beetles mostly rolled their balls in irregular routes, whereas the sky-searching beetles moved in straight lines.

Leading Economic Indicators

  • In the Czech Republic, per-capita beer consumption is twice that in the United States, and competition is such that some beers are priced lower than any other beverage, including water. (The brewery Plzensky Prazdroj delivers beer in tanker trucks that in the U.S. might deliver gasoline, and deposits it in storage tanks comparable to U.S. gas station tanks.) Recently, concerned about overconsumption, the country's health minister proposed to prohibit restaurants and bars from offering a beer as the lowest-priced drink, per ounce.
  • In January about 1,000 workers at Shanghai's Shinmei Electric Co. held 18 managers captive at the plant from Friday morning until nearly midnight on Saturday in protest of recent employee rules. The workers dispersed when parent company officials promised to reconsider the policies, which included a fine of the equivalent of about $8 for being late and a limit of two minutes per toilet break.

Religious Symbolism

(1) On Jan. 27, Pope Benedict XVI released a dove in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican's end-of-prayers ceremony, but almost immediately, a gull flew over and attacked it. (The faithful were rewarded, though, as the dove, though wounded, managed to elude the irreligious predator.) (2) On Feb. 11, only hours after Pope Benedict had announced his imminent retirement, a rare winter thunderstorm hit Vatican City, and an Agence France-Presse photographer snapped a photo of one powerful lightning bolt from the heavens appearing to strike St. Peter's Basilica (as if offering a dissenting opinion to the pope's decision).

© 2013 CHUCK SHEPHERD