Chuck Shepherd Wednesday, March 5, 2014 0

The International New York Times in Kuala Lumpur recently carried a page-one story noting increased worldwide demand for pigs raised in the fresh air rather than in pens. The piece was illustrated by a photograph of a cluster of pigs feeding in an outdoor stall. But the Malaysian printer had added black boxes to cover the face of each pig in the photo. “If there is picture of nudes or (the) like, this we will cover (up),” a publisher’s spokesman told the Malay Mail. “This is a Muslim country.” The story, headline and photo were otherwise identical to the versions that appeared elsewhere in the New York Times.


The Entrepreneurial Spirit 

— The Oregon-based Union Wine Co. recently announced it would soon sell its Underwood pinot gris and pinot noir in 12-ounce cans. In similar beverage news, the London department store Selfridges unveiled a champagne vending machine. The French bottler Moet & Chandon offered bottles for the machine for a price of $29 each.

— “Does Germany really need a gourmet restaurant for dogs?” asked Berlin’s Bild newspaper in a recent feature story. The Pets Deli in the Grunewald neighborhood of Berlin offers servings for $4 to $6, both take-out and in metal bowls on Pets Deli’s floor. Said owner David Spanier, “Junk food is bad for animals.”

— Around Tokyo, “idle boredom is an impossible option,” wrote a reporter, who described a resort just out of town where one could swim in a pool of green tea, coffee, sake or — the most popular — wine. “A giant bottle of merlot” spilled into a pond the size of a minivan, he wrote. Though both-sex nudity is tolerated in Japan’s hot springs spas, the operators of the wine pool discourage it. Guests are warned not to drink from the pool.


Weird Science 

— A team of Czech Republic researchers led by Vlastimil Hart report that dogs and some other few mammals eliminate waste by aligning their body’s axis with the Earth’s magnetic field. To reach that conclusion, the researchers observed 70 dogs of 37 breeds over a two-year period.

— has introduced the Tactical Laser-Guided Pizza Cutter, priced at $29.95, for help in making precise straight-line cuts in pizza.

— From the Japanese lingerie manufacturer Ravijour comes a bra whose front clasp will stay locked unless its built-in heart-rate monitor signifies that the heartbeat is characteristic of “true love.” Ravijour says it is still testing the bra.


The Kingdom 

— The Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in Fulham, England, admitted that a rescued Staffordshire bull terrier, Barney, had a habit of eating ladies’ underwear and that potential adopters should keep him away from laundry baskets. In his first days at Battersea, officials say, he passed knickers three times.

— The Cairns (Australia) Veterinary Clinic warned of several reports of dogs who had become addicted to the licking of cane toads, which protect themselves with a venomous secretion that can be hallucinogenic. One vet told Brisbane’s Courier-Mail of individual “serial lickers” who were treated for cane toad poisoning several times a year.

— The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals condemned a Pet Expo in Greenhithe, England, after reports that a trainer had showcased a raccoon who rides a bicycle-like device, apparently to great acclaim. An RSPCA statement denounced the expo for “degrading” a “wild animal” in a “demeaning light.”


Least Competent Criminals

Two 16-year-olds tried to pull off a street robbery at a housing complex in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. One was arrested and the other died of a gun wound. According to police, the victim cooperated fully with the two thieves. But one of the muggers fired his gun at the victim anyway. The bullet struck the victim (who was hospitalized, but will survive), ricocheted off his face and hit the shooter’s partner, who died at the scene.


Leading Economic Indicators 

— In November, the Army of Islam (Syrian rebels) announced through its website that it had job vacancies in the fields of graphic design, photography, printing, journalism, reporting and media promotion and programming. The anti-Assad force also has a Facebook page featuring videos of military victories.

— Somalia’s coastal pirates may be laying low because of the familiar business problem of “inventory management.” An analysis by Quartz ( showed the pirates had such a surplus of hijacked vessels that they would likely wind those down before taking to the seas again.

— Mumbai, India, has its share of Western-style financial advisers who use computer programs. But their programs take into account information from “financial astrologers” who forecast successes and failures based on the alignment of the planets. According to a Business Week report, the GaneshaSpeaks service has 1,200 subscribers who pay $80 a year. Said one astrologer, “Fund managers used to laugh at me.” During crises, he said, “I’m constantly crunching market and planetary data.”

— A group of prostitutes in the Netherlands began a campaign in December to have their occupation declared so dangerous that they be allowed (as soccer players in the Netherlands are) to save in tax-free pension funds. They carry out “difficult physical work,” their lawyer said, and their careers are short-lived. Furthermore, he pointed out, prostitutes are not able to earn money by coaching or by making endorsements after their careers end.

— American health-care reformers routinely decry the inability of patients to compare prices of services to drive down the costs. In an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, two doctors illuminated the problem by surveying 20 hospitals in the Philadelphia area. Nineteen fully disclosed the prices for parking in the hospital garage, but only three of the 20 disclosed their prices for routine electrocardiograms ($137, $600, $1,200).



In public relations announcements in Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) pointed to its 52,000-person workforce. However, when the government sought to collect payroll taxes on UPMC, the company claimed it owed nothing because not a single employee actually works for UPMC. All 52,000 are, technically, on the books of UPMC’s 40-plus subsidiaries. A UPMC spokesman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he not only did not know which subsidiary the UPMC CEO worked for but which one he himself worked for. He also said he didn’t know how many of the subsidiaries paid payroll taxes. A UPMC attorney said its arrangement is “widely practiced throughout the business community.”