Crash Notes: Freaky Friday News

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Professional Stress Research

The job of determining stress levels in whales is itself apparently stressful. The most reliable information about tension lies in hormones most accurately measured by researchers’ boarding a boat, sidling up to a whale and waiting until it blasts snot out of its blowhole. By catching enough of it (or wiping it off of their raincoats), scientists can run the gunk through chemical tests. However, a team of engineering researchers at Olin College in Needham, Massachusetts, told The Boston Globe in September that they were on the verge of creating a radio- controlled, mucus-trapping drone that would bring greater civility to the researchers’ job (and reduce the add-on stress the whales must feel at being stalked by motorboats). [Boston Globe, 9-10-2014]

Bionic Shoes

Police in Japan’s Kyoto Prefecture raided a shoe manufacturer in July and commandeered a list of about 1,500 purchasers of the company’s signature “tosatsu shoes” — shoes with built-in cameras. Investigators have begun visiting the purchasers at home to ask that they hand in the shoes (but, out of fairness, said they would not cause trouble for customers who could produce a legitimate reason for needing to take photographs and video by pointing their shoe at something). The seller was charged with “aiding voyeurism” and fined the equivalent of about $4,500 under a nuisance-prevention law. [United Press International, 9-23-2014]

War Is Hell

(1) The newly inaugurated “Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent” (a project of Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri) failed spectacularly in its maiden mission in September when it attempted to commandeer an American “aircraft carrier” in port in Karachi, Pakistan. Actually, the ship was a misidentified Pakistani naval vessel that did not even vaguely resemble an aircraft carrier, and Pakistani forces killed or captured all 10 jihadists. (2) A September raid on an ISIS safe house in Syria turned up, among other items (according to Foreign Policy magazine), a Dell laptop owned by Tunisian jihadist “Muhammed S.,” containing (not unexpectedly) recipes for bubonic plague and ricin, and (less likely) a recipe for banana mousse and a variety of songs by Celine Dion. [Daily Telegraph (London), 9-12-2014] [Foreign Policy, 9-9-2014]

Latest Religious Messages

— In September, the Seattle-based Mars Hill megachurch announced it would close several branches as founding preacher Mark Driscoll takes personal leave to contemplate over-the-top messages he’s made in the past about women. Among the most striking statements (as gathered by the “Wenatchee the Hatchet” blog in Wenatchee, Washington) were those expressing certainty that women exist solely to support men. A man’s penis “is not your (personal) penis,” he told men. “Ultimately, God created you, and it is his penis.” “Knowing that his penis would need a home … God created a woman (who) makes a very nice home.” Driscoll added, helpfully, “But, though you may believe your hand is shaped like a home, it is not.” [Salon.com, 9-8-2014]

— Catholic priest Gerald Robinson passed away in July, and many around the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, were shocked to learn that his body was buried with full priestly rights. Wrote the diocese, Father Robinson “was a baptized member of the body of Christ, and he was, and remains, an ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church.” In 2006, Robinson was convicted of murdering Sister Margaret Ann Pahl years earlier. [WNWO-TV (Toledo), 7-11-2014]

— Recurring Theme: Another rogue Muslim cleric enraged mainstream Islamic scholars recently. Egyptian Salafist preacher Osama al-Qusi proclaimed via fatwa in August that men could properly spy on women bathing, but only if they have “pure intentions.” For example, he wrote, if a man intended to marry the woman, he might learn some things otherwise unrevealed before the ceremony. Egypt’s minister for religious affairs, Mohamed Mokhtar, has already banned “tens of thousands” of “unlicensed” preachers from working in Egypt’s mosques because of their embarrassing fatwas. [The Guardian (London), 8-22-2014]

— Televangelist Jim Bakker no longer runs the Praise The Lord ministry, but still operates a church near Branson, Missouri, with a website selling a staggering array of consumer goods denominated as “love gifts” for worshippers who donate at certain levels via the website’s shopping cart. Featured are clothing, jewelry (some “Tiffany-like”), bulk foods, “Superfood” legacy seeds, fuel-efficient generators (and a “foldable solar panel”), vitamins and supplements, “Jim’s Favorite” foods (like ketchup), “survival” equipment and supplies, water filtration products, and a strong commitment to the supposed benefits of “Silver Solution” gels and liquids ($25 for a 4-ounce tube), even though the FDA has long refused to call colloidal silver “safe and effective”. Of course, books, CDs and DVDs (and a digital download) of Bakker’s inspirational and prophetic messages are also available. [Daily Mail (London), 9-15-2014] [JimBakkerShow.com]

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

— Doris Carvalho of Tampa, Florida, is raising venture capital to expand her hobby of crafting high-end handbags from groomed, recycled dog hair (two pounds’ worth for each bag). With investors, she could lower her costs and the $1,000 price tag, since it now takes 50 hours’ labor to make the yarn for her haute couture accessory. [BayNews9.com (St. Petersburg), 9-9-2014]

— Among the suggestions of the Brisbane, Australia, company Pets Eternal for honoring a deceased pet (made to a reporter in September): keeping a whisker or tooth or lock of hair, or having the remains made into jewelry or mixed with ink to make a tattoo. Overlooked was a new project by the Houston space-flight company Celestis, known for blasting human ashes into orbit (most famously those of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry). Celestis, working with a California company, will soon offer to shoot pets’ remains into orbit ($995) or perhaps even to the moon ($12,000). [News.com.au (Sydney), 9-23-2014] [Associated Press via KRLD-TV (Dallas-Fort Worth), 7-30-2014]

First-World Dilemmas

(1) Ten parking spaces (of 150 to 200 square feet each) one flight below the street at the apartment building at 42 Crosby St. in New York City have been offered for sale by the developer for $1 million each — nearly five times the median U.S. price for an entire home. (2) New York City plastic surgeon Dr. Matthew Schulman told ABC News in September of an uptick in women’s calf liposuction procedures — because of ladies’ frustration at not being able to squeeze into the latest must-have boots. (The surgery is tricky because of the lack of calf fat, and recovery time of up to 10 months means surgery now will not help the fashion plates until next fall.) [New York Times, 9-10-2014] [ABC News, 9-17-2014]

The Continuing Crisis

– Order in the Court: Signs went up in August in the York, Pennsylvania, courtroom of District Judge Ronald Haskell Jr. addressing two unconventional problems. First, “Pajamas are not (underlining ‘not’) appropriate attire for District Court.” Second, “Money from undergarments will not be accepted in this office.” Another judge, Scott Laird, told the York Daily Record that he’d probably take the skivvy-stored money anyway. “The bottom line is, if someone’s there to pay a fine, I don’t see how you can turn that away.” [York Daily Record, 8-13-2014]

– Ontario’s top court rejected Bryan Teskey’s complaint in August over how Roman Catholics continue to be discriminated against by the laws of British royal succession. Even though Ontario (along with many Commonwealth countries) recently removed some aspects of bias (ending the ban on the royal family’s marrying Catholics), Teskey pointed out that Canadian Catholics still do not have a fair shot at becoming king or queen (although Teskey did not claim that he, personally, had been a candidate). [Canadian Press, 8-27-2014]

– Venezuela, already in a recession, suffered a particularly cruel blow (according to a September Associated Press dispatch from Caracas) with the recent shortage in availability of breast implants for its beauty-obsessed senoritas. Restrictive currency controls are limiting enhancement surgeries from the 85,000 performed last year and, according to a local joke, will force Venezuelan women to start developing their personalities. (However, according to leading surgeon Dr. Daniel Slobodianik, when potential patients are told their preferred size implant is back-ordered, many merely choose the next-largest available size.) [Associated Press via CTV News (Toronto), 9-15-2014]

– But It’s About “Safety,” Not “Money”: On the same day in September, Washington, D.C., and New York City made traffic-camera announcements, with Washington declaring a revenue crisis and New York revealing that just one speed camera in Brooklyn had earned the city $77,550 in a single day. The District of Columbia had projected $93 million in annual camera income, but estimated it would collect only $26 million, while New York City, which has many fewer cameras, was marveling at the 1,551 tickets the Brooklyn camera zapped on July 7. [Washington Post, 9-29-2014]

Compelling Explanations

— Habitual petty offender Todd Bontrager, 47, charged with trespassing for probing various locked doors at a church in Broward County, Florida, in August, admitted skirting the law a few times, but said it was only “to study.” “Incarceration improves your concentration abilities,” he told skeptical Judge John “Jay” Hurley, who promptly ordered him jailed to, he said, help him “further concentrate.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8-8-2014]

— American Matthew Miller, 24, told the Associated Press that he had a “wild ambition” when he entered North Korea in April that he wanted to experience prison life there in order to secretly investigate the country’s human rights stance. In September, he was convicted of espionage in a 90-minute trial and will be conducting his investigation amidst hard labor over a six-year period, beginning immediately. [Associated Press, 9-14-2014]

American Scenes

The Miracle of Meth: Three terrified people screaming out of an upper-story window at a house outside Dothan, Alabama, on Aug. 24 drew police in a hurry. They were trapped, they yelled — unable to escape because intruders were still inside, shooting at them. One “victim” said she had been stabbed — and the blade broken off inside her. With their own shotgun, the three had blown out several windows and walls defending themselves. They had even ripped out an upstairs toilet and sink and dropped them on an intruder outside. Police calmed the situation and later told reporters that there never were intruders — that the “hostages” had imagined the whole thing, except for the estimated $10,000 damage and the woman’s superficial, “defensive” stab wounds. (The home’s methamphetamine lab apparently remained intact.) [Dothan Eagle, 8-25-2014]

(1) Staci Anne Spence, 42, was hauled to jail for assault in Sandpoint, Idaho, in September, but when the squad car arrived at the station, officers learned that during the ride, she had completely gnawed through the back seat — foam padding and seat cover. (2) A 38-year-old man was taken, unconscious, to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, in August. After allegedly choking his mother-in-law and refusing to cooperate with police, who used a stun gun and chemical spray on him to no effect, he dramatically KO’d himself with an empty beer bottle. [KXLY-TV (Spokane, Wash.), 9-23-2014] [Post Bulletin (Rochester), 8-25-2014]

Least Competent Criminals

(1) Mr. Roma Sims, 35, of Westerville, Ohio, was sentenced to just over eight years in prison in August for stealing the identities of more than 500 people between 2009 and 2013 — before he was done in by having misspelled the names of several cities in various documents while working the scheme. (For example, the largest city in Kentucky is not “Louieville.”) (2) In Sebastopol, California, Dylan Stables, 20, already on probation, was arrested again mid-morning on July 22 when, with stolen credit cards in his possession, he decided to drive his car, even with transmission problems. Police noticed him as he slowly drove through town in reverse gear. (3) Police in West Valley City, Utah, searched for an exceptionally unintimidating man in August after reports that the man tried to rob a Subway sandwich shop and a Family Dollar. In each episode, an employee told the man to wait while the employee went to a back room, but then simply failed to return, leading the “robber,” eventually, to walk away empty-handed. (4) In Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in August, Kevin Clarence, 20, was arrested for an inept attempt to rob a supermarket. He entered the store, and only then, according to witnesses, put a plastic garbage bag over his head and decided to wait in line for his opportunity to address a cashier. He quickly got tired of waiting and said, “I’ll be back,” but was caught by police minutes after leaving the store. [Columbus Dispatch, 8-22-2014] [Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 7-23-2014] [KSTU-TV (Salt Lake City), 8-30-2014] [BBC News, 8-14-2014]

Names in the News: (1) One of the three suspects in an August arrest for making fraudulent purchases at a Jupiter, Florida, shop: Ms. Cherries Waffles Tennis, 19. (2) The president of the Alabama Public Service Commission (who invoked prayer in July as the most effective way to fight federal restrictions on coal-fired power plants): Ms. Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. (3) The investigator for the Ohio state auditor’s office who was ordered by his supervisor in July to end a romantic relationship with another government official: Jim Longerbone. [Palm Beach Post, 8-21-2014] [Al.com (Birmingham), 7-28-2014] [Columbus Dispatch, 7-30-2014]

Thanks for reading – have a GREAT weekend!

Crash

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