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9/14/2006

Columns > News of the Weird

NEWS OF THE WEIRD

 

Charity begins at sea

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.

Hip (replacement) vacations

Employees who need expensive surgery under their U.S. employers’ health-insurance plans may soon be asked to go overseas for the operation, because 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.

Didn’t have it his way

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 has a little-known 4-minute delay before notification). Hungry on Aug. 12, Bailey thought he could race to the Burger King (nearly a mile away) and get back in time. Unfortunately, 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.

Every time i see your face

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 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 chlorophyll reduce the stink, according to an August ABC News report).

Cavemom

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).

Smells like the future

The Tokyo Institute of Technology said in July that it is building a database of 96 scents that will be machine-reproducible, with uses ranging from helping online shoppers smell a product before buying to helping doctors diagnose illnesses by sniffing a patient’s bile. Sensors will trigger a library of chemicals to accurately reproduce “almost any odor, from old fish to gasoline,” according to one researcher, and that recipe of chemicals would remotely re-create the scent.

Jesus Christ supersize

The Christian Retail Show in Denver in August, said a Los Angeles Times report, demonstrated 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 Book22.com, a Christian sex-toy website that sells condoms, vibrators and lubricants to married couples, but stocks no toys or pornography that encourage multiple-partner scenes.

Hot monkey love

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.

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