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News of the Weird 7/5/12

by Chuck Shepherd

Chinese High-Tech Answer to Red Bull Chinese media reported that on May 4th, at the Xiaogan Middle School in Hubei province, high school students studying for the all-important national college entrance exam worked through the evening while hooked up to intravenous drips of amino acids to fight fatigue. A director of the school’s Office of Academic Affairs reasoned that before the IVs were hung, weary students complained of losing too much time running back and forth to the school’s infirmary for energy injections. After the media reports, there was a public backlash, but less against the notion that China was placing too much importance on the exams than against reports that the government was subsidizing the cost of the injections.

Can’t Possibly Be True Desmond Hatchett, 33, was summoned to court in Knoxville, Tenn., in May so that a judge could chastise him for again failing to make child-support payments. Official records show that Hatchett has at least 30 children (ages 14 down to “toddler”) by at least 11 women. He said at a 2009 court appearance that he was “through” siring children and apparently has taken proper precautions since then. (In Milwaukee, Wis., in April, Sean Patrick was sentenced to 30 years in prison for owing more than $146,000 for 12 children by 10 mothers, and the city’s Journal Sentinel newspaper reported that, before being locked up, two convicted pimps, Derrick Avery and Todd Carter, had fathered, respectively, 15 kids by seven women and 16 children with “several” mothers.)

• The Associated Press reported in May that Kentucky prison officials were working behind the scenes to resolve the thorny question of whether inmate Robert Foley deserves a hip replacement. Normally, a prisoner in such extreme pain would qualify. However, Foley, 55, is on death row for killing six people in 1989 and 1991, and since he has exhausted his appeals, he is still alive only because a court has halted all executions while the state reconsiders its lethal-injection procedure. Furthermore, all local hospitals queried by the prison to perform the procedure have declined to take Foley because the prison considers him dangerous.

• Chilean artist Sebastian Errazuriz recently created “Christian popsicles” made from wine that Errazuriz obtained by trickery after a priest consecrated it into “the blood of Christ.” The popsicle’s stick is actually a figure of Jesus on the cross, as sort of a reward for finishing the treat. (Also, The Icecreamists shop in London, England, recently began offering a popsicle made with absinthe—and holy water from a spring in Lourdes, France, which many Catholics revere for its healing powers. The “Vice Lolly” sells for the equivalent of about $29.)

• The official class photo of Eileen Diaz’s second-grade kids at Sawgrass Elementary School in Sunrise, Fla., was distributed this spring with the face of the front-and-center child replaced by a dark-on-white smiley face. Apparently there was miscommunication between the school and the photographer about redoing the photo without the child, whose parents had not given permission for the shot. (Another child without parental authorization was easily edited out of the photo, but the front-and-center student could not be.)

Fine Points of the Law In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled, 3-0, that it is not necessarily improper under federal law for Minute Maid to name a beverage “Pomegranate Blueberry” even though those two ingredients constitute only 0.5 percent of the contents. A competing seller of pomegranate juices had sued in 2008, pointing out that 99.4 percent of the Minute Maid beverage was merely apple and grape juices. Minute Maid’s owner, Coca-Cola, called the competitor’s complaint “baseless.”

• Almost all companies that collect customer data publish their policies on how they keep the data “private” (even though those “privacy” policies almost always explain just precisely the ways they intend not to keep the data “private”—and are not required to by law). Researchers writing in the journal I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society (summarized in an April post on the blog TechDirt.com) found that if typical consumers bothered to read all of the detailed privacy policies they encountered, it would take from 181 to 304 hours per year (22-38 workdays), depending on shopping habits. (If every consumer in America did it, it would take from 40 billion to 67 billion hours a year, or 5 billion to 8.3 billion workdays a year.)

Unclear on the Concept In April, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it was fining Google for deliberately impeding the agency’s investigation into the company’s collection of wireless data by its roaming Street View vehicles and that the agency had decided, based on Google’s “ability to pay,” that it needed to double its staff-proposed fine in order to “deter future misconduct.” Hence, it raised Google’s fine from $12,000 to $25,000. (As pointed out by ProPublica.org, during the previous quarter year, Google made profits of $2.89 billion, or $25,000 every 68 seconds.)

• In April, police in Newtown Township, Pa., searched (unsuccessfully, it turns out) for a “skinny” black male, between ages 35 and 45, wearing a black tracksuit. He had indecently exposed himself at a place of business—the offices of the Bucks County Association for the Blind (although, obviously, at least one sighted person reported his description). {in}