Weirdnuz M508, January 1, 2017

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Chuck Shepherd

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WEIRDNUZ.M508 (News of the Weird, January 1, 2017)
by Chuck Shepherd
    
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd.  All rights reserved.

Lead Story                                  
              
* The Hastens workshop in Koping, Sweden, liberally using the
phrase "master artisans" recently, unveiled its made-to-order
$149,000 mattress.  Bloomberg News reported in December on
Hastens's use of superior construction materials such as pure-steel
springs, "slow-growing" pine, multiple layers of flax, horsehair
lining (braided by hand, then unwound to ensure extra spring), and
cotton covered by flame-retardant wool batting.  With a 25-year
guarantee, an 8-hour-a-day sleep habit works out to $2 an hour.
(Bonus:  The Bloomberg reviewer, after a trial run, gave the
"Vividus" a glowing thumb's-up.)  [Bloomberg News, 12-2-2016]

The Job of the Researcher

* Humans are good at recognizing faces but exceptionally poor at
recognition when the same face's features are scrambled or upside
down.  In December, a research team from the Netherlands and
Japan published findings that chimpanzees are the same way--when
it comes to recognizing other chimps' butts.  That suggests, the
scientists concluded, that sophisticated recognition of rear ends is as
important for chimps (as "socio-sexual signaling," such as
prevention of inbreeding) as faces are to humans.  [Washington
Post, 12-6-2016]

Suspicions Confirmed

* Humanity has accumulated an estimated 30 trillion tons of "stuff,"
according to a research by University of Leicester geologists--
enough to fit over 100 pounds' worth over every square meter of the
planet's surface.  The scientists, writing in the Anthropocene
Review, are even more alarmed that very little of it is ever recycled
and that buried layers of technofossils that define our era will clutter
and weigh down the planet, hampering future generations.  (Don't
just think of "garage sale" stuff, wrote Mother Nature News; think
of every single thing we produce.)  [Mother Nature News, 12-7-
2016]

Finer Points of the Law

* A federal appeals court agreed with a jury in December that Battle
Creek, Mich., police were justified in shooting (and killing) two
hardly-misbehaving family dogs during a legal search of a house's
basement.  Mark and Cheryl Brown had pointed out that their dogs
never attacked; one, an officer admitted, was "just standing there"
when shot and killed.  The officers said that conducting a thorough
search of the premises might have riled the dogs and threatened
their safety.  (Unaddressed was whether a dog might avoid being
shot if it masters the classic trick of "playing dead.")  [Battle Creek
Enquirer, 12-21-2016]

Sounds Like a Joke

* (1) Spencer Hanvey, 22, was charged with four burglaries of the
same MedCare Pharmacy in Conway, Ark., in October and
November, using the same modus operandi each time to steal drugs.
(Bonus:  Oddly, the drugs were not for Obsessive-Compulsive
Disorder.)  (2) If You See Something, Say Something:  Hamden
(Conn.) High School was put into lockdown for an hour on
December 15th when a student was seen running in the hallway,
zig-zagging from side to side, swinging an arm, and leaping into the
air.  Police were called, but quickly learned that it was just a 12th-
grade boy practicing a basketball move and pretend-dunk.
[Arkansas Online, 12-7-2016] [New Haven Register, 12-15-2016]

The Aristocrats!

* Low-Tech Pervs:  (1) A camera-less Alan Ralph, 62, was arrested
in Sarasota, Fla., in December after being seen on surveillance
video in October in a Walmart stooping down to the floor to peer up
the skirt of a woman.  (2) John Kuznezow, 54, was charged with
invasion of privacy in Madison, Wis., in November after he was
discovered, pants down, up a tree outside a woman's second-floor
bedroom window.  [WFLA-TV (Tampa), 12-6-2016] [WMTV
(Madison), 11-8-2016]

Bright Ideas

* The Immigrants Wanted to Believe:  For about 10 years,
organized crime rings operated a makeshift U.S. "embassy" in a
rundown pink building in Accra, the capital of Ghana, issuing
official-looking identification papers, including "visas" that
theoretically permitted entry into the United States.  The U.S. State
Department finally persuaded Ghanian officials to close it down, but
it is unknown if any purchasers were ever caught trying to
immigrate.  The "embassy," with a U.S. flag outside, had well-
spoken "consular officers" who reportedly collected about $6,000
per visa.  [Ghana Business News, 12-2-2016]

Weird Old World

* (1) Wu Jianping, 25, from China's Henan province complained in
November that he had been denied home loans at several banks for
not providing fingerprints--because he has no arms (following a
childhood accident) and "signs" documents by holding a pen in his
mouth.  He was not allowed to substitute "toeprints."  (2) Classes
were canceled in early December in the village of Batagai in the
Yakutia region of Siberia when the temperature reached minus 53C
(minus 63F)--but only for kids 15 and under; older children still had
to get to school.  Yakutia is regarded as the coldest inhabited region
on the planet.  [China Daily, 11-22-2016] [The Sun (London), 12-8-
2016]

Sex Toys in the News

* (1) The government in Saxony, Germany, chose as 2016 third-
place winner of its prize for innovation and start-up companies the
inventor of the ingenious silent vibrator (leading to shaming of the
economy minister Martin Dulig, now known as "Dildo Dulig").  (2)
An unknown armed robber made off with cash at the Lotions and
Lace adult store in San Bernardino, Calif., in December--although
employees told police they angrily pelted the man with dildos from
the shelves as he ran out the door. [The Local (Berlin), 11-25-2016]
[KNBC-TV (Los Angeles), 12-14-2016]

Least Competent Criminals

* Not Ready for Prime Time:  (1) Leonard Rinaldi, 53, was arrested
in Torrington, Conn., in November following his theft of a rare-coin
collection belonging to his father.  The coins were valued at about
$8,000, but apparently to make his theft less easily discoverable, he
ran them through a Coinstar coin-cashing machine--netting himself
a cool $60.  (2) James Walsh was arrested in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on
December 12th at a Walmart after carting out an unpaid-for big-
screen TV.  Walsh said he had swiped a TV on December 11th with
no problem--but failed to notice that, on the 12th, the store had a
"shop with a cop" event at which St. Lucie County deputies were
buying toys for kids. [WTIC-TV (Hartford),  11-16-2016] [WPEC-
TV (West Palm Beach), 12-12-2016]

Recurring Themes

* Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation remains the most storied, but
Venezuela is catching up.  In mid-December, the government
declared its largest-currency bill (the 100-bolivar note) worthless,
replacing it with larger denomination money (after a brief cash-in
period that has ended and which some drug dealers were likely shut
out of).  The 100-bolivar's value had shrunk to 2 cents on the black
market.  Stacks of it were required to make even the smallest food
purchases, and since wallets could no longer hold the notes, robbers
feasted on the "packages" of money people carried around while
shopping.  [Wall Street Journal, 12-13-2016]

The Passing Parade

* (1) In October, Chicago alderman Howard Brookins Jr. publicly
denounced "aggressive" squirrels that were gnawing through trash
cans and costing the city an extra $300,000.  A month later,
Brookins was badly injured in a bicycle collision (broken nose,
missing teeth) when a squirrel (in either a mighty coincidence or
suicide terrorism) jumped into one of his wheels, sending Brookins
over the handlebar.  (2) In October, officials of Alaska's Iditarod
reaffirmed an earlier decision to allow mushers to use mobile
phones during the 2017 race; "purists" maintain that phones destroy
the "frontier-ness" of the event.  [Chicago Tribune, 11-22-2016]
[Alaska Dispatch News, 10-28-2016]
                             
A News of the Weird Classic 
                                  
* Update: Every several years, News of the Weird helpfully reminds
readers of what is one of planet's most bizarre local customs:  the
Christmas tradition in Spain's Catalonia region of decorating
Nativity scenes with figurines, of traditional Catalonians and
famous people, each squatting to answer nature's calls.  The update
this year, of course, is the availability of squatting Hillary Clinton
and Donald Trump, joining past presidents (including the all-time
best-seller, President Obama), Queen Elizabeth, and Pope Francis.
(Perhaps the least-tone-deaf explanation for the tradition is that if
the manger is fertilized, the coming year's crops can be expected to
flourish.)  [New York Times, 12-6-2016]

     Thanks This Week to Stan Kaplan, Rob Zimmer, and Alan
Magid, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors. 
                     *****
NewsoftheWeird.com, weirdnews at earthlink dot net, and P. O.
Box 18737, Tampa FL 33629
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