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News of the Weird

by Chuck Shepherd

Brother Cesare Bonizzi, 62, of a Capuchin Friars monastery near Milan, Italyis the lead singer in a heavy-metal band that recently released itssecond album, Misteri (Mysteries), following a successful performanceat Italy’sGods of Metal festival (headlined by Iron Maiden and, ironically, JudasPriest). On stage, the white-flowing-bearded Brother Cesare booms outgritty but non-proselytizing lyrics while wearing his traditional brownrobe. He told BBC News in July that his superiors have never interferedwith his sideline and that he plans to send a copy of the new album tothe pope. “He’s a music lover, and metal is music.”

The entrepreneurial spirit!

• High Point University (just south of Greensboro,NC) is not quite Club Med (“Club Ed,” it was called by the Chronicle ofHigher Education) but provides free ice cream for students, a hot tubin the middle of campus, wake-up calls and a concierge service, all runby a cam pus “director of WOW,” whose job it is to thrill the “clients”and attract new ones. This is the strategy of President Nido Qubein, amotivational speaker and “customer comes first” businessman, and sofar, enrollment is way up (even at higher tuition), new construction istransforming the campus and $100 million is in the bank.

• Challenging New Products:

(1)stilettos for toddlers (though with soft heels), from Bel levue, Wash.designer Britta Bacon, selling recently in Toronto for $39.95 (Cdn) apair; and (2) a rotating ice cream cone on which the scoop gentlyrevolves counter-clockwise, so that lazy people merely stick theirtongues out and need not actively lick (sold by Kitchen Craft in the UK).

Leading economic indicators

•The US government’s $100 billion stimulus distributed to taxpayers thisspring achieved mixed results, according to economists, but at leastthe internet pornography industry flourished (according to a July tradeassociation spokesman). Adult Internet Market Re search Co. reportedthat “20 to 30 percent” of “adult” Web sites reported that sales roseduring the time checks were being issued. However, Nevada brothels weresuffering, even though Hof’s Bunny Ranch ran a stimulus-check special:Hand over your $600 check and get the usual $1,200 “party” (“threegirls and a bottle of champagne”). • A July Los Angeles Timesinvestigation revealed that professional fundraisers keep so much ofthe money donated to charity by conscientious, generous-minded peoplethat 430 different California charities over the last 10 years got not one penny of the contribu tions. Infact, in 337 cases, the charity paid an additional fee on top ofgetting nothing back (but did come away with the donors’ names andaddresses, for further solicitation). Phi lanthropy watchdogs sayfundraisers should never keep more than 35 cents on the dollar, but theTimes found the overall average was 54 cents, and for missing-childrencharities, fundraisers kept 86 cents. (Fundraisers for an organizationcalled Citizens Against Govern ment Waste kept 94 cents.)

Frontiers of science

•A 10-year-old British boy had such a severe obsessive-compulsivedisorder that he was overwrought with guilt that he had caused theSept. 11 World Trade Center attacks, in that he had not been able thatday to make his ritual step upon a particular mark in the street. Writingin June in the journal Neurocase, psychologists at University CollegeLondon said the boy recovered only when they convinced him that theattacks had already started by the time he would have made his usualstep.

•Many nations are exploring how to curb cattle’s release of thegreenhouse gas meth ane, including altering cows’ diets to reduceflatulence (which requires monitoring the gas compositions from the oldand new diets). To collect the gas for measurement (according to a Julyreport in London’s Daily Telegraph), researchers at Argentina’sNational Institute of Agricultural Technology rigged a large plastictank to the cow’s back, with a tube to the backside to directly captureeach emission. (The alternative, researchers pointed out, would requirea human to follow a cow around with plastic bags.)

• Higher-Order Animal Research:

(1)Britain’s Sea Life Centre announced a study in July that would giveoctopuses Rubik’s Cubes to play with, to ascertain whether they use acer tain tentacle for such activities, or any tentacle at random.

(2) Writing in the journal Nature in July, a team of University of Oregonbiologists showed that roundworms do “calculus” type computations,using chemosensory neurons, to determine how to find food or avoidtrouble.

One obsessive american

Sam Bloomfield, 58, grew up poor on Tongabut arrived here in 1976 and says he has tried to show his gratitudeever since, according to a July 4 profile in his hometown Herald ofEverett, Wash. He has tattooed “God Bless America” under his left eye, “Land of the Free” un der his right eye and a large “USA”across his forehead, and last year underwent another 15 painful hourswith the needle to cover the rest of his face with stars and stripesresembling an American flag so that he can toast his beloved country inthe mirror every morning.

Least competent corrections department

InJuly, convicted drug dealer Marcus Anderson opened the door of thecorrections de partment van taking him to court, climbed out and walkedaway into downtown Balti more. It was an ordinary van without aprisoner cage and whose driver had no gun, hand cuffs, phone or radio(because Anderson had arrived late at the pick-up point for the regularprisoner van). An exasperated Judge Charles Bernstein later askedwhether the driver had given him bus tokens, too. “If I were a youngenterprising criminal,” said the judge, “I’d come to Baltimore to setup my practice. This is the place to be. This is the Promised Land.”

Update

“Brainfingerprinting,” reported in News of the Weird in 2000 and 2003 fromthe experi mental work by former Harvard research associate LawrenceFarwell, achieved a break through in July in India,when two murder suspects were convicted based in part on thattechnology. Though Farwell’s theory is somewhat different, the “BrainElectrical Oscillation Signature” used in Mumbai operates on a similarprinciple, that a different brain area acti vates when one recalls anactual experience than when one recalls something he merely learnedabout. Thus, in the Indiacases, neurologists concluded that the defendants either were presentat the murder scene or had actually looked for or transported themurder weapon (and not that they had just read or been told about thosefacts).

News that sounds like a joke

(1)After complaints by neighbors, police went to an apartment inFramingham, Mass. in July to quell a raucous screaming match betweentwo women who, it turns out, are deaf.

(2)In Crawley, England in July, police were called to a supermarket tobreak up a fight between two grandmothers, who were ramming each otherin their mobility scooters.

The Aristocrats!

(1)Donald Seigfried, 55, and Diane Whalen, 54, were arrested in June andface several charges of having sex with various dogs. Police werealerted after Whalen’s son found the evidence of his mom in action.

(2)In June, a woman walking in a parking lot near Fort Walton Beach, Fla.with her two children was nearly struck by a car, but gently approachedthe driver to let her know the kids were unhurt. Inexplicably, thedriver erupted, and when the woman tried to calm her by offering her achurch brochure, the furious driver grabbed it, pulled her own pantsdown, and, according to a police report, “wipe[d] her female anatomy”with it (as the mother shielded her children’s eyes).

Copyright 2008 Chuck Shepherd Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate

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