Wednesday, June 18, 2008

For the Birds

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Given the rising costs of synthetic fertilizers and organic foods, the collection of bird droppings (for use as organic fertilizer) has intensified on 20 islands off the coast of Peru, where 12-inch-thick seabird guano coats the land. In the 19th century, China fought with Peru on the high seas for the right to mine the guano, which at that time was 150 feet high in places. In May, an official of the Peruvian company that controls guano production said to a New York Times reporter, “Before there was oil, there was guano, so of course we fought wars over it.” The exceptionally dry climate yields 12,000 to 15,000 tons of guano annually.

Government in Action
In April, the Los Angeles Police Department announced that it had investigated 320 complaints against its officers last year for alleged racial profiling—and claimed that not a single one was valid. The Los Angeles Times reported that it was at least the sixth consecutive year that the LAPD gave itself a perfect record on racial profiling.

The Government Accountability Office revealed in April that some 60,000 contractors for the federal government owe a total of $7.7 billion in unpaid federal taxes, and that health care providers who take Medicare payments owe an additional $1 billion in late taxes. One unnamed company owes $10 million in back taxes, yet the Pentagon still paid the company $1 million for work.

Great Art!
Worth Every Penny: (1) At an April auction in Beijing, artist Liu Xiaodong’s large oil painting (8 feet by 30 feet), part of his Three Gorges series, brought the equivalent of about $8 million. The work, Breeding Ground No. 1, depicts 11 men in their underwear playing cards. (2) In May in New York City, a buyer spent $15.2 million at a Sotheby’s auction to acquire sculptor Takashi Murakami’s My Lonesome Cowboy, which is of a naked man holding his penis and creating a long, curly lasso out of his ejaculate.

The Continuing Crisis
In May, eighth-grader Michael Avery of Thousand Oaks, Calif., told the hometown newspaper The Acorn that he remained undecided about which area high school he would attend next fall. This was a matter of interest because Avery, 15, is a basketball prodigy and, even though he’s undecided on high school, he knows exactly where he will go to college: He had just accepted a full scholarship at the University of Kentucky, beginning in 2012. The follow- ing week, Kentucky offered another scholarship, this time to ninth-grader Jeremiah Davis III, who will enroll in 2011.

Fetishes on Parade
(1) Martin Turner, 39, of Blackpool, England, pleaded guilty to four counts of harassment in May. Specifically, he pestered several workmen over a three-year period by calling them and asking them to stand on his face, fingers and genitals while wearing their heavy boots. His lawyer said it had “something to do with domination.”

(2) Jeremy Pope, 26, was arrested in April in Madison, Wis., for allegedly urinating on women’s underwear on the shelves at a Target store (Pope is said to have performed the same act at a ShopKo in December). Police said Pope was quick to confess: “Yeah, I have a problem.”

Least Competent Criminals
Police in Mesa, Ariz., chased driver Christopher Psomas, 38, in May after his companion, Ashley Strahan, 20, allegedly tried to pass a forged check at a business. The pair’s car ran red lights at high speeds to get out of town, then left the road near the Salt River Reservation.

When their car became disabled, they ran away on foot. However, they ran smack into a bed of cholla cactus, becoming virtual pincushions. At Banner Desert Medical Center, as nurses plucked the needles from his body, Psomas allegedly said, “I am so stupid. This is what I get for trying to run from the police.”

Update
In March, News of the Weird reported the bratty behavior of two Boynton Beach, Fla., high school girls who not only swiped money from a Girl Scout selling cookies at a supermarket, but then told a TV station on camera that they were “pissed” because they got caught and had to give the money back. One of the girls, Stefanie Woods, 18, chose to go to trial on the theft charge in May. She was quickly convicted and will be sentenced in June. A week after the conviction, she also pleaded no-contest for allegedly skipping out on a $25 dinner tab at a Denny’s. She said she was sorry for the theft, but added, “I still don’t think it gives (the public) the right to be screaming things at me… People scream things at me every single day, and it’s getting really, really hard.”

2008 Chuck Shepherd

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