News of the Weird
The Newest Human Right
Perspective: Of the world’s 7 billion people, an estimated 2.6 billion do not have toilet access, and every day a reported 4,000 children die from sanitation-related illnesses. However, in May, in Portland, Ore., Douglas Eki and “Jason” Doctolero were awarded $332,000 for wrongful firing because they complained about being inconvenienced at work by not having an easily available toilet. Menzies Aviation had arranged for the men to use facilities at nearby businesses at their Portland International Airport site, but the men said they felt unwelcome at those places and continued to complain (and use buckets). One juror said afterward that having easy access to a toilet was a “basic human right,” citing the “dignity (of) being able to go to the bathroom within 30 seconds or a minute.” Said Doctolero, “Hopefully, no one will have to suffer what I went through.”
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
• When Sherry Bush returned home in Westlake, Ohio, in May, she found an “invoice” written on a napkin, left by “Sue Warren,” billing her $75 for a housecleaning that Warren had done while Bush was out. However, Bush never heard of Warren, and there had been reports by others in Westlake of Warren’s aggressive acquisition of “clients.” “Did you get the wrong house?” Bush asked Warren when she found “Sue Warren Cleaning” online. “No,” said Warren, “I do this all the time. I just stop and clean your house.” Warren was not immediately charged with a crime.
• Disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker still owes the IRS a reported $6 million and now sells a line of “survival” products to help true believers live through the coming apocalypse. (It is unclear whether believers need to “survive,” since the popular reading of the apocalypse casts it as a fast track to heaven for the faithful.) The Talking Points Memo blog did some comparative shopping and found many of Bakker’s items to be overpriced by as much as 100 percent. Bakker also offers the devout a $100 Silver Solution Total Body Cleanse Kit, which includes enemas.
• Medical Marvel: A 63-year-old woman in South Korea bit into a portion of squid and later felt “bug-like organisms” moving around in her mouth. According to doctors at the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Md., writing in a recent paper, the squid had probably expelled its spermatophores as if it were attempting insemination. (When squid is eaten in the West, the internal organs have been removed, but apparently not in South Korea.) A scientist who has worked with squid commented on the professional network Science 2.0, “I’ve probably had hundreds of spermatophores ejaculate on my fingers and never felt a sting.”
• A start-up venture in Singapore announced in June that it has developed an adult diaper made of “Sofshell,” a substance that hardens on contact and redistributes weight — so that if seniors fall on their rear ends, the impact will be absorbed with a lesser risk of broken bones. One of the developers demonstrated by dropping a bowling ball on a cellphone protected by the material, and the phone suffered not a scratch.
• Researchers at the National University of Singapore described, in a recent issue of the journal Biology Letters, how a certain species of male tropical spider seemingly improves its chances of successful mating by castrating itself after releasing sperm. The scientists hypothesize that testes-removal makes the male nimbler and better able to trick and outflank competitor males that attempt to reinseminate the same females. Improving their strategic mobility also enables the male to avoid being killed by the female, which is yet another hazard in the spider-mating process.
Leading Economic Indicators
• While top stars of World Wrestling Entertainment such as John Cena and Triple H earn several hundred thousand dollars in U.S. rings, pro wrestlers in Senegal can (in the wrestling variation called laamb) make almost that amount too. In May, the undefeated national “champion,” the “King of the Arena” Yekini, suffered his first defeat in 15 years at the hands of Balla Gaye 2, before a capacity crowd at Demba Diop Stadium in Dakar, earning the combatants a reported equivalent of $300,000 each. (Per capita income in the U.S. is about $40,000 and in Senegal, $1,900.)
• Hard Times: (1) In May, the Missoula (Mont.) Sheriff’s Office was investigating the theft of a car from the victim’s yard — a 1976 Ford Pinto (which, in addition to being a Pinto, had four flat tires). (2) In Mesa, Ariz., in May, Manuel Ovalle, 35, was charged with burglary after allegedly breaking into a home and taking a Playstation 3 and two bags of water from the home’s swimming pool. (Ovalle told police his own home had no water supply.)
• Suspicions Confirmed: Scientists from Lund University’s Primate Research Station Furuvik in Sweden announced in May that they had evidence that chimpanzees are able to delay using weapons they encounter, hide them and retrieve them later for use against “foes.” The weapons were stones and chunks of concrete, and the foes were visitors to the zoo who annoyed the chimps. According to the researchers, the 33-year-old chimp Santino also took pains to hide the weapons in locations where they could be accessed easily for the element of surprise against the visitors.
• Bullfighting may be on the wane in some countries because of complaints about cruelty, but in the village of Aproz, Switzerland, there is a replacement each May: cow-fighting contests. According to a Wall Street Journal dispatch, this is a serious business, especially for Alain Balet, whose cow Manathan has won the heavyweight title for three years running, and who “follow(s) training regimens worthy of professional athletes,” including engaging masseuses. The action, however, is mostly head-butting (plus “abundant slobber,” reported the Journal), and the “contest” is won when one of the cows loses interest and wanders away. Balet pointed out an obvious additional pleasure in raising championship cows: “It’s still a cow. I can eat her.”
(1) A pair of mated giant tortoises that had lived in harmony for 115 years in zoos in Klagenfurt, Austria, are a couple no more, and apparently things ended badly. In June, the female Bibi bit off part of the male Poldi’s shell, and efforts to reconcile the pair, including using aphrodisiacs, proved futile. (2) Daniel Collins Jr., 72, was charged with aggravated assault in Teaneck, N.J., in June after allegedly threatening to shoot a 47-year-old neighbor. Collins said he was reacting to the neighbor’s passing gas loudly outside Collins’ apartment after the two men had been discussing noise.