A court in Buenos Aires, Argentina, granted a petition in ordering the freedom of a Sumatran orangutan from Buenos Aires Zoo. Sandra, age 29, is a “non-human person” and thus sufficiently advanced in “cognitive function” to be not merely an object that humans can own without obligation. A Reuters report found no similar judgment on record. In fact, there were contrary rulings in New York (regarding Tommy the chimpanzee) and San Diego (finding against orca whales).
Man’s Other Best Friends
A British man paid a veterinarian $500 to perform delicate surgery on a sick office goldfish. Vet Faye Bethell of North Walsham, England, told the Eastern Daily Press in December that there was “nothing special” about the fish, but that the customer “just liked it a lot.” In fact, the goldfish likely did not even have a pet name. Bethell spoke of another patient who did have a name — Cadbury, the skunk. For the fish, Bethell’s procedure involved removing the patient from the bowl, flooding its gills with anesthetic-fortified water, and using a tiny scalpel to remove lumps that were causing it constipation, with the surgery guided by a miniature heart-rate monitor.
Iraqi TV Goes Jerry Springer
Iraq’s government-run channel, Iraqiyya TV, broadcasts a reality show designed to force captured ISIS fighters to acknowledge the pain they’ve created. One episode of In the Grip of the Law showed family members of car-bombing victims on a street corner in Baghdad haranguing one of the men convicted of the crime. A young man in a wheelchair, who had lost his father in the attack, faced off against the convict, screaming until the jihadist “began weeping.”
Wait … What?
— On Nov. 6, a couple aged 68 and 65 were hospitalized after spending almost 13 hours locked in their car inside their garage in Alexandra, New Zealand. The night before, they had been unable to remember the details of a salesman’s tutorial on how to unlock their new Mazda 3 from the inside. They had spent the night assuming they were trapped because they had forgotten to bring along the battery-operated key. The wife was unconscious when neighbors finally noticed them, and her husband was struggling to breathe. The door unlocks manually, of course.
— Undersheriff Noel Stephen of Okeechobee County, Fla., acknowledged that among the public services his office performs is that of supervising parents’ spanking of their children. After two sisters argued on Dec. 29, their father decided to administer a whipping to one. He asked Deputy Stephen to drop by and make sure he stayed within the law. That’s “not something we advertise to do,” said the deputy. But he estimates he has monitored about a dozen spankings.
Government In Action
— The Government Accountability Office recently issued an emphatic ruling that the National Weather Service could not legally give its workers disposable cups, plates and utensils on the job. Such items are “personal,” GAO declared. Most NWS facilities are in remote locations and are staffed by two-person shifts that almost force employees to eat on the premises. “You can’t run out” and “grab a burger,” one employee said. Nonetheless, after a lengthy deliberative process, GAO said its decision is final.
— In a November ruling, France’s minister of housing and minister of ecology jointly announced streamlining of law books, which would remove bulky, out-of-date regulations. Among the regulations eliminated is the ban on installing toilets in kitchens.
Best Recent Foreign News
China’s Gxnews.com.cn reported the arrest of a man in Yulin City who was accused of stealing more than 2,000 items of underwear from women in his neighborhood. They were taken within the last year. He hid his stash above ceiling tiles in stairwells in his apartment building. He drew attention when one of the ceiling spaces caved in from the weight of the garments, showering the stairs in an array of colorful lingerie. Within a month of that event, two other men, in Zhejiang and Hubei provinces, were detained for similar crimes.
— British makeup artist Jordan James Parke, 23, told London’s The Sun how he had fallen in love with the look of U.S. celebrity Kim Kardashian and, as a result, had spent $150,000 on “more than 50” cosmetic procedures that would give him her “pouty” look. Parke made use of lip and cheek fillers, eyebrow tattoos and laser hair removal. “I love everything about Kim … the most gorgeous woman ever,” he said. “Her skin is perfect, her hair, everything about her.”
— Police in Phoenix estimate gunfire into the air on New Year’s Eve was down 22 percent from last year. The department received reports on only 206 guns being discharged without concern for where the bullets would land.
— Authorities in Paris estimated that 12 percent fewer cars were set on fire in France on New Year’s Eve. Only 940 strangers’ vehicles were torched, instead of last year’s 1,067.
Spidey Sense Fashion
Among the breakthroughs demonstrated by the computer chip company Intel’s RealSense system is a cocktail dress from Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht that not only senses the wearer’s mood, but also acts to repel or encourage strangers who approach the wearer. Sensors (including small LED monitors) measure respiration and 11 other bodily functions. If the wearer is stressed, spider-leg epaulets extend menacingly from the shoulder to suggest that intruders keep their distance. If the wearer feels relaxed, the legs wave invitingly. The experimental “spider dress” was showcased at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Government In Action
— Because Congress and presidents often change their minds, NASA continues to build a $349 million rocket testing tower in Mississippi for a “moon project” that was canceled in 2010. The tower sits down the road from a second rocket testing tower being built for its replacement mission — an “asteroid project.” Critics blame senators who believe it’s best to keep contractors at work even when the work is pointless because Congress and the president might change their minds about the work. Said a high-profile critic, “We have to decide … whether we want a jobs program or a space program.” NASA’s inspector general in 2013 identified six similar mothballed projects that taxpayers continue to maintain.
— A total of 240 of the 351 police departments in Massachusetts claim their SWAT and other specialty operations are not “government” services, but are not-for-profit corporate groups and are thus free from certain government obligations. These “law enforcement councils” refuse to comply with government open-records laws for civilian monitoring of SWAT activities. The latest refusal, by the 58 police agencies of the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, was filed in state Superior Court in December.
— A Seattle Times columnist suffered a “smash-and-grab” break-in of his car in October, 2014. But he was brushed off by the Seattle Police Department and told to file an insurance claim. He and his energetic 14-year-old daughter located the perpetrators themselves by GPS. They then called for police help, only to be chastised by the dispatcher, who warned that they could get hurt. Only when a local crime-fighting TV show covered the case was the gang of thieves finally pursued and apprehended. They are now suspects in hundreds of smash-and-grab thefts. One of the alleged perpetrators was quoted as saying the thefts were undertaken “because we knew the police wouldn’t do anything.”
When Connie Lay died in Aurora, Ind., in November, she left a will that called for her German shepherd, Bela, to be promptly buried with her, even though Bela was still alive. Lay preferred sending Bela to a certain shelter in Utah, but stated that if a friend decided that was “not possible” or involved “too much expense,” Bela was to be euthanized. At press time, the friend still had not decided.
After 15 months of faulty diagnoses, Pam Pope, 65, got the news that she had a rare, slow-moving cancer of the appendix, “pseudomyxoma peritonei.” The malignancy was so advanced that her only hope was the removal of all organs that she could possibly do without. In a six-surgeon, 13-hour operation in Basingstoke, England, Pope parted with her appendix, large bowel, gall bladder, spleen, womb, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix and most of her small bowel. She has endured massive chemotherapy, is on a nightly drip for hydration, and still remains frail, according to a report in London’s Daily Mail.
Least Competent Criminals
— A robber was turned away from a store on East Harry Street in Wichita, Kan., after he demanded cash, explaining to the clerk that he “had six children and needed the money.” The clerk told the man he had too many kids. The man, apparently chastened, fled the store empty-handed.
— A masked man approached a clerk at Sam’s Mart in New Haven, Conn., and passed a note demanding money while pointing his finger at the clerk. According to police, the clerk grabbed the finger and threatened to break it, sending the man fleeing into the night.
Jared Walter, 27, returns to News of the Weird after a four-year hiatus. In December, 2014, he was charged with snipping a woman’s hair while he was in line behind her at a Dollar Tree store in Oregon City, Ore. In 2010, he was imprisoned for cutting the hair of three female passengers on municipal buses in the Portland area. After being released in 2011, he was sentenced again for a similar incident. Walter’s inexplicable history with female hair actually extends back to grade school, reports Portland’s The Oregonian.
What Researchers Do
— The natural enemy of the “hawkmoth” is the bat. Thanks to a recent study by biologists at Boise State University and the University of Florida, we know the reason so many hawkmoths are able to avoid their predator. They signal each other by rubbing their genitals on their abdomens. In this way, they mimic bats’ high-frequency sounds, thus jamming the bats’ aural ability to detect the hawkmoths’ locations. Professors Jesse Barber and Akito Kawahara, tethered a hawkmoth to a wire and then tracked a bat, using slow-motion cameras and high-definition microphones, painstakingly examining the results.
— A team from Britain’s University of Nottingham and Queen Mary University of London found that cows make two “distinctly different” call sounds to their calves, depending on whether the calves are nearby (low-frequency mooing, with mouth closed) or separated (higher frequency). The team said it spent 10 months digitally recording cow noises, then a year analyzing them by computer.