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News of the Weird
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Gratitude for Ya

Just before the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, John M. Lyons Jr. filed a lawsuit in New Orleans against Mark Morice, who admits to commandeering Lyons’ 18-foot pleasure boat during the chaos after Katrina hit in order to rescue more than 200 people (according to his count), including a 93-year-old dialysis patient whose wife praised Morice for a Times-Picayune story. Nonetheless, said Lyons, Morice (who voluntarily identified himself to Lyons for taking the boat) didn’t have permission to use it, and since it was ultimately lost (Morice said he abandoned it for other rescuers to use), and insurance covered less than half of its replacement, Lyons says Morice should pay him $12,000.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

(1) Salon facials available in New York City now include one (at the Nabi Med Spa) that uses stem cells from pregnant cows to rejuvenate damaged skin ($250) and another (from La Prairie) that firms the face through direct application of caviar ($270), according to a June United Press International report. (2) And the British Egg Information Service announced the imminent availability of a “smart egg” to solve the surprisingly contentious issue of when are soft-, medium- and hard-boiled eggs properly boiled. (An invisible ink on the shell turns the egg black at supposedly precisely the right moment.)

The Christian Retail Show in Denver in August demonstrated, said a Los Angeles Times report, nearly a parallel commercial universe, with hundreds of “Christian” versions of products and services, such as sweatbands, pajamas, dolls, health clubs, insurance agencies, tree trimmers and fragrances (“Virtuous Woman” perfume). One Retail Show visitor, though, was dismayed at the efforts to just “slap Jesus on (merchandise).” (Among the tougher sells would appear to be, a Christian sex-toy Web site that sells condoms, vibrators and lubricants to married couples, but stocks no pornography or toys that encourage multiple-partner scenes.)

Bright Ideas

In August, zookeepers at Apenheul ape park in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, said they had arranged with counterparts at a park in Borneo to establish a live Internet video connection to provide companionship to their respective rare orangutans, treating the connection as sort of a visual dating site. An Apenheul spokeswoman suggested the apes might learn to push buttons to transfer food to each other, creating a mutual fondness that might lead (if transportation can be arranged) to mating.

Randy Bailey was on house arrest in St. Paul, Minn., with an ankle monitor that alerts police if he strays more than 150 feet (but also with a little-understood 4-minute delay before notification). Hungry on Aug. 12, Bailey thought he could race to the Burger King (nearly a mile away), yet get back in time. However, the drive-through line moved slowly, and an irate, impatient Bailey allegedly kicked in the restaurant’s window before he sped away. Employees got his license-plate number and alerted police, but since Bailey had made it back home in just under four minutes, he claimed to be house-bound and never to have left. However, police soon figured it out and charged Bailey with felony destruction of property.

Science on the Cutting Edge

Weird disorders in the news recently included prosopagnosia, the inability of a person to remember people by their faces, even one’s immediate family, and trimethylaminuria, the inability to process a chemical that, left in the body, causes a putrid odor. Researchers will soon declare that prosopagnosia (which also, obviously, inhibits sufferers’ ability to enjoy movies) is less rare than previously believed, according to a June Boston Globe story. Trimethylaminuria remains basically untreatable (although bathing several times a day and ingesting chlorophyl reduce the stink, according to an August ABC News report).

A Connecticut company (454 Life Sciences) and Germany’s Max Planck Institute have made recent breakthroughs in developing the genome of a Neanderthal man, which shows a 99 percent-plus similarity with that of humans, according to a July New York Times report. If they succeed, it might be possible to bring the species back to life by implanting the genes into a human egg (provided, of course, that some woman volunteers to bear a Neanderthal baby).

Latest Economic Indicators

In July, India’s Medical Association began investigating three doctors who appeared on television to promote their amputation services specifically to beggars, whose income prospects grow with the more sympathy they engender. One doctor said he would remove a leg below the knee, leaving it fairly easy to fit a prosthetic, for the equivalent of about $200.

Employees who need expensive surgery under their U.S. employers’ health-insurance plans may soon be asked to go overseas for the operation, in that surgeries in India, Thailand and Indonesia typically cost about 20 percent of the U.S. prices, according to an August report in the Christian Science Monitor. However, employers may share part of their savings with the worker, who might turn the trip into an exotic family vacation before or after the surgery.


By the Way, What Stories Have Been No-Longer-Weirded? (Part VI)

Eighty such themes have occurred so frequently that they have been “retired from circulation” since News of the Weird began publishing in 1988, and here are more of them:

Sometimes, bank robbers are stuck for getaway vehicles and wind up on municipal buses or in taxis. And sometimes, dogs (“man’s best friend”) jump on rifles lying on the ground, hit the trigger and “shoot” someone. Increasingly, when an elderly person dies at home, the relatives can’t bring themselves to notify anyone (and sometimes they just don’t want the Social Security checks to stop). And remember the first time you got outraged that school officials actually expelled a student for a minor violation of one of those “zero tolerance” rules? All those stories used to be weird, but you won’t read them here anymore. ƒç