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News of the Weird
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The Power of Two

The “indecent” CBS drama “Without a Trace” for which the Federal Communications Commission is proposing a $3.3 million fine of the network and affiliates was apparently complained about by only two (at most) actual viewers of the estimated 8.2 million who watched it that December 2004 night, according to FCC records that CBS cited in a June filing to the commission. Those two (and 4,209 complaints from people who apparently only heard about the show) did not start arriving at the FCC until 12 days afterward, which coincidentally was the day that a family watchdog organization began alerting its members about the show. The same CBS program had aired in 2003, with no complaints.


The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Indispensable Devices: (1) Audio software programs whose sole purpose is to re-create the hubbub and screaming of orders on an active stock-exchange floor are coveted by some traders who formerly worked such floors but now buy and sell in quiet offices. Those traders, according to a June Wall Street Journal story, say they miss the energy and wisdom they get from trading-floor chaos. (2) In May, Lester Clancy was awarded a U.S. patent for a ropeless jump rope (a handle that electronically duplicates the feel of a jump-rope handle), which he said would be practical for, among other places, mental institutions and prisons where actual rope is banned.

The San Diego firm Allerca Inc. announced in June that it is accepting advance orders (at $5,000 each) for hypoallergenic cats it intends to create by cross-breeding species that lack the noxious bacteria that most cats produce that are so dangerous to asthmatics and others. A competitor, New York’s Transgenic Pets, is after the same result by modifying the actual gene that produces the cat saliva bacteria. (Transgenic is expecting to beat Allerca to market, at a price of around $1,000.)


The March of Science

Progress With Flavors: (1) Researchers at England’s University of Birmingham announced in May that they had powered a fuel cell by giving chocolate waste to Escherichia coli bacteria, which converted the sugar into hydrogen. (The bacteria are also expected to produce precious metals from discarded automobile catalytic converters.) (2) Researcher Mayu Yamamoto of Japan’s International Medical Center said her team had succeeded in extracting vanilla from ordinary cow dung, although she conceded the flavoring could only be commercially used in non-food products like shampoos.


Leading Economic Indicators

Zimbabwe’s world’s-worst inflation officially reached 1,042 percent in April, with prices doubling every three or four months and unemployment rising to 70 percent. Only the unsophisticated fail to spend any money they have promptly, even though, for example, toilet paper sells for $145,000 a roll (about 69 U.S. cents). According to an April New York Times dispatch, President Robert Mugabe’s remedy is simply to print trillions of dollars in new money (which he needs to keep his government workers loyal, to prop up his dictatorship).



As Congress debates whether to retain the federal estate tax, two advocacy groups released evidence in April that 18 super-rich families (including the owners of Wal-Mart, Gallo wine, Campbell’s soup and the Mars candy company) spent as much as $500 million in the last 10 years through industry and trade associations to urge abolition of the tax, and if their campaign is successful, the families will have saved themselves an estimated $71 billion in taxes, a return of 142 times the investment. (Polls show that around 70 percent of Americans favor abolition, even though only one taxpayer in 400 owes any tax.)


Still More Challenges to Christianity

In May, The Times of London reported on Japan’s Shingo Village, which is well known to locals, and practically no one else, as the burial place of Jesus Christ. According to documents written in ancient Japanese, Jesus supposedly moved to Shingo from Jerusalem as a young man, married Miyuko, became a farmer, and died at age 106. However, that cannot be true, according to Katherine Jhawarelall, 35, a Hindu woman with a criminology degree, living in Durban, South Africa, because she is certain that she herself is Jesus Christ (after awakening one day in 2004 with a swollen arm containing a miracle-producing stigmata), according to a report in Durban’s Post.



Cities feel fortunate to have even one dependable group of dedicated volunteer caretakers for a public park, but Boston’s Ringer Park has two. However, they hate each other. According to an April Boston Globe story, Ringer Park Partnership Group and Friends of Ringer Park spread nasty rumors about each other, compete ruthlessly for new members, resist mediation more fiercely than some street gangs do, and, allegedly, commit park vandalism in order to embarrass the other group. The origin of the feud appears to be differences in aggressiveness and in attitudes toward dogs, and according to the Globe, peace is not in sight.

Weirdo-American Community

In June, another client who did her own lawyering, eccentric Susan Polk, was convicted of murdering her husband, after a long trial in Martinez, Calif., in which she spent two weeks on the witness stand as both questioner and witness (and in a judge-allowed departure, as her deep-voiced husband, as she re-created their conversations). Polk also told the jury that she is psychic, that she called the Sept. 11 attacks in advance, that her husband was an Israeli intelligence agent, that she once foiled an assassination attempt on the pope, and that Colin Powell is the Antichrist.


Least Competent Criminals

James Otis Denham, 49, was arrested in May after trying to sell a 375-year-old etching by Rembrandt (“The Raising of Lazarus”) that police learned had been stolen. Denham was unsuccessful, largely because he said he’d take just $1,500 for it and because his sales venue was the trunk of his car, to a potential customer he met in Torchy’s Legends bar in Broken Arrow, Okla.

Not Cut Out for a Life of Crime: (1) Paul Wendell Gunn was arrested in May, sitting on a sofa in the reception area at the First State Bank in Round Rock, Texas, minutes after he had allegedly robbed it. According to Austin’s American-Statesman, Gunn, for reasons he has not yet disclosed, chose to remain in the bank and read magazines until police arrived. (2) In Kumagaya, Japan, in May, a 58-year-old unemployed man commenced a robbery of the Saitama Resona Bank, but then asked a teller for suggestions on bank-robbing. When the teller angrily ordered the man out, he left, but in his haste, cut himself on the leg with his knife.



The 13-year-old blond, blue-eyed, twin white-supremacist singers, Lynx and Lamb Gaede (“Prussian Blue,” mentioned here in December), might lower their profile while their divorced parents fight over custody in Fresno, Calif. Though mom April Gaede is still a white supremacist (“I’m a racist ... Everybody’s a racist”), dad Kris Lingelser said he has renounced his ways and would like to soften the girls’ views, too, but so far, he has only limited visitation rights.


The Only Way Out

It Worked Out, After All: In May, a 30-year-old man from Waterfoot, England, attempted suicide by tying a rope around his neck and the other end to a telephone pole, and then drove off in his car. However, the rope quickly broke. The impact, however, jarred the driver, causing him to lose control and crash into a tree, fatally. And in June, a man attempted suicide in Huntington Beach, Calif., by hanging himself off the side of the Adams Avenue Bridge, but he accidentally came loose, fell to the dry riverbed below, and was killed. č