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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chuck Shepherd's News of The Weird

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San Francisco’s No. 1 Problem       

The ecology-conscious city (having recently encouraged routine composting of dinner leftovers) is now considering environment-friendly public urinals such as the P Planter created by engineer Brent Bucknum. Users urinate into a ceramic basin and flush the waste with run-off hand-washing water into a bed of bamboo plants. Bucknum claims minimal maintenance and an odor-free experience, but on the other hand, only a user’s midsection area is blocked from public view—a concession necessitated by San Francisco’s sour experience with lockable public toilets, which shielded sex acts and crime. (A less-elaborate structure—the open-air, similarly privacy-challenging “pPod”— is currently being readied for deployment in the city’s Dolores Park.)                                            

 

The Entrepreneurial Spirit            

 ■  Branko Bogdanov, 58, his wife, Lela, 52, and daughter Julia, 34, were arrested in March and charged in a 10-year shoplifting enterprise run out of their upscale Northbrook, Ill., home, which they allegedly used as a base while prowling stores in states as far away as Florida, stealing high-end toys and jewelry, which they resold on eBay and to their fences. Police estimate the Bogdanovs swiped as much as $7 million worth on their forays—many items being stashed in Lela’s customized flowing skirts with hidden pockets.        

 A trauma victim arriving at a hospital emergency room but requiring specialized intensive care would usually be transferred promptly to a qualified “trauma center,” whose success rate with such patients is believed to be 25% better than that of ordinary hospitals. However, a recent study from Stanford University researchers found that, among 636 hospitals observed, there was a greater reluctance to make the transfer—if the patient was fully insured. (That is, the authors suggest, there is a tendency for hospitals to hang onto insured patients, even though their outcomes might be worse, but not to similarly hang onto the uninsured—who are more likely to be properly transferred.)  

 ■  Latest Female Beauty Products: Cosmetic surgery is expensive, but beauty-conscious Japanese girls and women (especially those obsessed with a more “Western” look) have low-priced workarounds to choose from—as uncovered in January by the fashion blogger Liz Katz: (1) the $63 Face-Slimmer Exercise Mouthpiece (insert it for three minutes a day, make vowel sounds and watch a “saggy” mouth turn taut); (2) the Beauty Lift High Nose nostril clip, which emits electronic vibrations to raise the proboscis’s profile; (3) an altogether different but similarly painful-looking Nose Straightener (insert for 20 minutes a day for added “perkiness”).                                                                       

 

Leading Economic Indicators          

 With property values sky high in posh London boroughs like Chelsea and Kensington, some super-wealthy residents desiring to expand—and who might ordinarily be forced to build up higher—are building down, constructing elaborate, multistory basements instead. CNN reported in January that additions are underway (one covering five floors below ground) for subterranean home theaters, gyms, golf simulators, bowling alleys and even swimming pools.   

 ■  Costs of Spain’s Economic Collapse: London’s Daily Mail reported in March that Spain might have as many as 2,900 recently abandoned “villages” (swaths of land with clusters of houses) deserted by owners forced into cities to find work during the current recession—and that speculators were buying entire villages at single-house prices and turning them into vacation retreats.                                                                                            

 

The New Normal               

(1) A plaintiff in an auto-accident lawsuit, who is claiming an injury that has impaired her inclination for “social activities,” was ordered by a judge in Nova Scotia to prove her loss by showing a reduction in the time she spent on Facebook. Justice Glen McDougall ruled that Joanne Conrod must disclose her log-in and log-out information but need not reveal her complete Facebook profile. (2) Arizona-based Christian “exorcist” Bob Larson, who claims to have performed more than 20,000 demon-expulsions, recently branched out by allegedly (in front of CNN’s Anderson Cooper) cleansing a client in Norway—via the Internet-enabled phone application Skype.

 

© 2014 CHUCK SHEPHERD