News of the Weird: SWAT Called on Homeless Intruder

A June 2016 police raid on David Jessen’s Fresno County (California) farmhouse caused a $150,000 mess when sheriff’s deputies and Clovis Police Department officers “rescued” it from a trespassing homeless man — with the massive destruction leading to Jessen’s lawsuit announced in March. The misdemeanant helped himself to an ice cream bar, some milk and half a tomato, but was otherwise “unarmed.” However, by the time the police...

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News of the Weird: Swedish ‘Museum of Failures’ might succeed
Apr17

News of the Weird: Swedish ‘Museum of Failures’ might succeed

If at first you don’t succeed…Samuel West announced in April that his Museum of Failure will open in Helsingborg, Sweden, in June, to commemorate innovation missteps that might serve as inspiration for future successes. Among the initial exhibits: coffee-infused Coca-Cola; the Bic “For Her” pen (because women’s handwriting needs are surely unique); the Twitter Peek (a 2009 device that does nothing except send and receive...

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News of the Weird: The Jetsons in Dubai
Apr10

News of the Weird: The Jetsons in Dubai

Recently, in Dubai — the largest city in the United Arab Emirates — Dubai Civil Defense started using water jetpacks that lift firefighters off the ground to hover in advantageous positions as they work the hoses. Also, using jet skis, rescuers can avoid traffic altogether by using the city’s rivers to arrive at fires and, if close enough to a waterway, can pump water without hydrants. Even more spectacularly, as early as this summer,...

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News of the Weird: TP Goes High Tech
Apr03

News of the Weird: TP Goes High Tech

China’s public-park restrooms have for years suffered toilet-paper theft by local residents who raid dispensers for their own homes — a cultural habit, wrote Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, expressing taxpayer feelings of “owning” public facilities — but the government recently fought back with technology. At Beijing’s popular Temple of Heaven park, dispensers now have facial-recognition scanners beside the six toilets, with...

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News of the Weird: Location, Location, Location
Mar27

News of the Weird: Location, Location, Location

A highlight of the recent upmarket surge in Brooklyn, New York, as a residential and retail favorite, was the asking price for an ordinary parking space in the garage at 845 Union St. in the Park Slope neighborhood: $300,000 — also carrying a $240-a-month condominium fee and $50 monthly taxes. That’s similar to the price of an actual one-bedroom apartment in less ritzy Brooklyn neighborhoods like Gravesend — a few miles away....

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News of the Weird: Entrepreneurial Spirit
Mar20

News of the Weird: Entrepreneurial Spirit

Perhaps there are parents who, according to the Cinepolis movie chain, long to watch movies in theaters while their children, aged 3 and up, frolic in front in a jungle-gym playground inside the same auditorium. If so, the company’s two “junior” movie houses — opening this very week in San Diego and Los Angeles — may bring a new dimension to family entertainment. Another view, though, is that the noise — often screaming — plus the...

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News of the Weird: Exploiting Villains
Mar13

News of the Weird: Exploiting Villains

In February, two teams of South Korean researchers announced cancer-fighting breakthroughs by taking lessons from how two of medicine’s most vexing, destructive organisms — diarrhea-causing salmonella bacteria and the rabies virus — can access often-unconquerable cancer cells. In journal articles, biologist Jung-joon Min of Chonnam National University described how his team “weaponized” a cancer-fighting invader cell with salmonella...

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News of the Weird: Suspicions Confirmed
Mar06

News of the Weird: Suspicions Confirmed

Despite California’s 2015 law aimed at improving the fairness of its red-light cameras, the city of Fremont — population 214,000 — reported earning an additional $190,000 more each month last year by shortening the yellow light by two-thirds of a second at just two intersections. Tickets went up 445 percent at one and 883 percent at the other. In November 2016, for “undisclosed reasons,” the city raised the speed limit on the street...

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News of the Weird: U-S-A! U-S-A!
Feb27

News of the Weird: U-S-A! U-S-A!

Although discouraging the marriage of children in developing nations has been U.S. foreign policy for years, a data-collecting watchdog group in America disclosed in February that 27 U.S. states have no minimum marriage ages and estimates that an average of almost 25,000 children age 15 and under are permitted to marry every year — “estimates” because some states do not keep records by age. Compelling Explanations 1.) Glenn...

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News of the Weird: The Man With the Golden Mop
Feb20

News of the Weird: The Man With the Golden Mop

San Francisco’s best-paid janitor earned more than a quarter-million dollars cleaning stations for Bay Area Rapid Transit in 2015, according to a recent investigation by Oakland’s KTVU. Liang Zhao Zhang cleared almost $58,000 in base pay and $162,000 in overtime, and other benefits ran his total income to $271,243. He worked at San Francisco’s Powell Street station, a hangout for the homeless, who notoriously sullied the station 24/7...

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News of the Weird: EWWWWW!
Feb13

News of the Weird: EWWWWW!

On Jan. 31, doctors at Stanley Medical College and Hospital in Chennai, India, removed a live, full-grown cockroach from the nasal cavity of a 42-year-old woman whose nose had been “itchy” earlier in the day. Two hospitals were unable to help her, but at Stanley, Dr. M N Shankar, chief of ear-nose-throat, used an endoscope, forceps, and, for 45 minutes, a suction device — because, he said, the roach “didn’t seem to want to come out.”...

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News of the Weird: Work of a Researcher
Feb06

News of the Weird: Work of a Researcher

Field work is always challenging, explained Courtney Marneweck of South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal in a recent journal article, but studying the sociology of a white rhino’s dung meant developing a “pattern-recognition algorithm” to figure out “smell profiles” of 150 animals’ feces — after tracking them individually to observe them in the act. Wrote Marneweck, “I think my record for waiting for a rhino to poo was 7½ hours.”...

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News of the Weird: Suspicions Confirmed
Jan30

News of the Weird: Suspicions Confirmed

Schools’ standardized tests are often criticized as harmfully rigid, and in the latest version of the Texas Education Agency’s STAAR test, poet Sara Holbrook said she flubbed the “correct” answer for author motivation — in two of her own poems that were on the test. Writing in Huffington Post in January, a disheartened Holbrook lamented, “Kids’ futures and the evaluations of their teachers will be based on their ability to guess the...

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News of the Weird: Post-Truth Society
Jan23

News of the Weird: Post-Truth Society

In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals finally pulled the plug on Orange County, California, social workers who had been arguing in court for 16 years that they were not guilty of lying under oath because, after all, they did not understand that lying under oath in court is wrong. The social workers had been sued for improperly removing children from homes and defended their actions by inventing “witnesses” to submit made-up testimony....

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News of the Weird: Leading Economic Indicator
Jan16

News of the Weird: Leading Economic Indicator

The salary the Golden State Warriors pay to basketball whiz Stephen Curry may be a bargain at $12 million a year, but the economics is weirder about the prices Curry’s fans pay on the street for one of his used mouthguards retrieved from the arena floor after a game. One used, sticky, saliva-encased teeth-protector went for $3,190 at one August auction, and SCP Auctions of California is predicting $25,000 for another, expelled during...

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News of the Weird: Too-Much-Reality TV
Jan09

News of the Weird: Too-Much-Reality TV

Russian producers are planning the so-far-ultimate survivors’ show — in the Siberian wilderness for nine months with temperatures as low as minus-40-degrees Fahrenheit, with 30 contestants selected after signing liability waivers that protect the show even if someone is raped or murdered. Police may come arrest the perpetrators, but the producers are not responsible for intervening. The show, Game2: Winter, will be telecast live,...

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News of the Weird: Oh-So-Sweet Dreams
Jan03

News of the Weird: Oh-So-Sweet Dreams

The Hastens workshop in Koping, Sweden, liberally using the phrase “master artisans” recently, unveiled its made-to-order $149,900 mattress. Bloomberg News reported in December on Hastens’ 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...

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News of the Weird: Holes Against Humanity 
Dec27

News of the Weird: Holes Against Humanity 

The rebellion against the absurdities of Black Friday this year by the organization Cards Against Humanity came in the form of raising money to dig a pointless hole in the ground. During the last week of November, people “contributed” $100,573, with Cards digging initially for 5.5 seconds per donated dollar. In 2015, according to an NPR report, Cards raised $71,145 by promising to do “absolutely nothing” with it, and the year before,...

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News of the Weird: Radical Dentistry
Dec19

News of the Weird: Radical Dentistry

Radical DentistryRadical dentistry was on display in November in London’s Science Gallery, where installations offered “art-science collaborations” — including Taiwan artist Kuang-Yi Ku’s “Fellatio Modification Project.” Former dentist Ku, complaining that textbooks on mouths tragically under-regard their value in sex, created (the ordinary way) a custom retainer for the client’s mouth but then added rubber “bumps” and “cones” and...

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Scene Here: Decorations Not Included
Dec12

Scene Here: Decorations Not Included

When Mike McCusker and Polly Anderson finished sawing down their Christmas tree, McCusker held the saw up to his nose. The heavy scent of fresh pine from the just-cut tree was just part of the appeal for the two from Shelburne Falls, who had been coming to the Cranston Christmas Tree Farm in Ashfield for decades.“This is really the place to be,” he said.The Farm was busy last weekend, something owners Thomas and Cynthia Cranston...

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News of the Weird: Ecret-Say Ode-Kay
Dec12

News of the Weird: Ecret-Say Ode-Kay

American gangsters traditionally use euphemisms and nicknames (“Chin,” “The Nose”) to disguise criminal activities, but among details revealed at a November murder trial in Sydney, Australia, was that members of the “Brothers 4 Life” gang might have used “pig latin.” In a phone-tapped conversation played in court, one of the men on trial was overheard cunningly telling a henchman that a colleague had been “caught with the un-gay in...

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News of the Weird: Even Baking Soda is Dangerous
Dec05

News of the Weird: Even Baking Soda is Dangerous

Almost all law enforcement agencies in America use the Scott Reagent field test when they discover powder that looks like cocaine, but the several agencies that have actually conducted tests for false positives say they happen up to half the time. In October, the latest victims — husband-and-wife truck drivers with spotless records and Pentagon clearances — were finally released after 75 days in jail awaiting trial for baking soda...

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News of the Weird: The Future of Travel
Nov28

News of the Weird: The Future of Travel

Australian aviator David Mayman has promised investors that his personal jet packs will hit the market by mid-2017, though early adopters will pay about $250,000 for one, to fly a person at up to 60 mph for 10 minutes. The JB-10, developed by Mayman and designer Nelson Tyler, has made about 400 test runs in Monaco and over downtown London and New York City, but the partners realize that ultimate success will require that the fuel...

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News of the Weird: Democracy in Action
Nov21

News of the Weird: Democracy in Action

While “democracy” in most of America means electing representatives to run government, on Nov. 8 in San Francisco it also expected voters to decide 43 often vague, densely worded “issues” that, according to critics, could better be handled by the professionals who are, after all, elected by those very same voters. Except for hot-button issues like tax increases or hardened legislative gridlock, solutions on these “propositions” (e.g.,...

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News of the Weird: The Nanny State
Nov14

News of the Weird: The Nanny State

New York City officially began licensing professional fire eaters earlier this year, and classes have sprung up to teach the art so that the city’s Fire Department Explosives Unit can test for competence and issue the E29 certificates. In the “bad old [license-less] days,” a veteran fire eater told The New York Times in October, a “bunch of us” performed regularly for $50 a throw, largely oblivious of the dangers — though some admit...

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News of the Weird: Can’t Possibly Be True
Nov07

News of the Weird: Can’t Possibly Be True

Kids as young as 6 who live on a cliff top in China’s Atule’er village in Sichuan province will no longer have to use flexible vine-based ladders to climb down and up the 2,600-foot descent from their homes to school. Beijing News disclosed in October, in a report carried by CNN, that a sturdy steel ladder was being built to aid the 400 villagers after breathtaking photographs of them making the treacherous commute surfaced on...

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News of the Weird: Religion Adapts to Technology
Oct31

News of the Weird: Religion Adapts to Technology

A network of freelance Buddhist priests in Japan last year began offering in-home, a la carte services for those adherents who shun temples through Amazon in Japan, quoting fixed fees and bypassing the usual awkward deliberation over “donations.” And in September, Pastor David Taylor of Joshua Media Ministries International (St. Louis, Missouri) announced, to great fanfare, that he had “resurrected” a diabetic woman, 40 minutes after...

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News of the Weird: Pot for Pets
Oct24

News of the Weird: Pot for Pets

As nine states next month ask voters to approve some form of legalization of marijuana, a “new customer base” for the product — pets — was highlighted in an October New York Times report. Dogs and cats are struck with maladies similar to those that humans report in cannabis success stories: seizures, inflammation, anxiety, arthritis, and other pain and subsequent social withdrawals. The “high”-producing THC element cannot...

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News of the Weird: Extreme Hobbies
Oct17

News of the Weird: Extreme Hobbies

John Weigel and Olaf Danielson are engaged in a frenzied battle of “extreme birdwatching,” each hoping to close out 2016 as the new North American champ of the American Birding Association, and a September Smithsonian piece had Weigel ahead, 763 to 759. Danielson is perhaps better known for doing much of his birding in the nude — and is the author of the provocatively titled volume, Boobies, Peckers and Tits — all common names of...

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News of the Weird: Frontiers of Science
Oct10

News of the Weird: Frontiers of Science

Large kidney stones typically mean eye-watering pain and sudden urinary blockage until the stone “passes” (often requiring expensive sound-wave treatment to break up a large stone). Michigan State University urologist David Wartinger told The Atlantic in September that he had recently happened upon a pain-free — even exciting! — way to pass stones before they become problems: the centripetal force from a roller coaster ride. In a...

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News of the Weird: Insanity Defined
Sep26

News of the Weird: Insanity Defined

Police and prosecutors in Dallas, appropriately sensitive at having been the site of the 1963 killing of President Kennedy, have apparently taken out their shame on assassination buff Robert Groden. As the Dallas Observer reported in September, Groden has been ticketed by police dozens of times for operating book sales booths near the “grassy knoll” — the site of the alleged “second shooter” of the president — and yet he prevails in...

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News of the Weird: These Shoes Weren’t Made for Walkin’
Sep12

News of the Weird: These Shoes Weren’t Made for Walkin’

The upscale clothier Barneys New York recently introduced $585 “Distressed Superstar Sneakers” from the high-end brand Golden Goose that were purposely designed to look scuffed, well-worn and cobbled-together, as if they were shoes recovered from a Dumpster. The quintessential touch was the generous use of duct tape on the bottom trim. Critics were in abundance, accusing Barneys of mocking poverty. News That Sounds Like a...

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News of the Weird: Outstanding in Their Fields
Sep06

News of the Weird: Outstanding in Their Fields

The recently concluded Olympics included a few of the more obscure athletic endeavors — such as dressage for horses and steeplechase for humans — but U.S. colleges compete in even less-heralded “sports,” such as wood chopping, rock climbing, fishing, and broomball. University of Alabama, 2015 national football champions, dominates also in the 280-school bass-fishing competition, and New York’s Paul Smith College’s...

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News of the Weird: Virtual Fandom
Aug29

News of the Weird: Virtual Fandom

The phenomenal Japanese singer Hatsune Miku — 100 million YouTube hits — is coming off of a sold-out, 10-city North American concert tour with high-energy audiences — blocks-long lines to get in; raucous crowd participation; hefty souvenir sales — except that “she” isn’t real. Hatsune Miku is a projected hologram on stage singing and dancing, but her band is human, and her May show in Dallas, according to a Dallas Observer...

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News of the Weird: New World Order
Aug22

News of the Weird: New World Order

India has supposedly outlawed the “baby-tossing” religious test popular among Hindus and Muslims in rural villages in Maharashtra and Karnataka states, but a July New York Times report suggested that parents were still allowing surrogates to drop their newborn infants from 30 feet up and awaiting the gods’ blessing for a prosperous, healthy life. In all cases, according to the report, the gods come through, and a...

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