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Saturday November 1st 2014

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News of the Weird 6/13!3

by Chuck Shepherd

Very Personal Hygiene Orestes De La Paz’s exhibit at the Frost Art Museum in Miami in May recalled Chuck Palahniuk’s novel and film “Fight Club,” in which lead character Tyler Durden’s principal income source was making upscale soap using discarded liposuctioned fat fetched from the garbage of cosmetic surgeons (thus closing the loop of fat from rich ladies recycled back to rich ladies). De La Paz told his mentor at Florida International University that he wanted only to display his own liposuctioned fat provocatively, but decided to make soap when he realized that the fat would otherwise quickly rot. Some visitors to the exhibit were able to wash their hands with the engineered soap, which De La Paz offered for sale at $1,000 a bar.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit As recently as mid-May, people with disabilities had been earning hefty black-market fees by taking strangers into Disneyland and Disney World using the parks’ own liberal “disability” passes (which allow for up to five relatives or guests at a time to accompany the disabled person in skipping the sometimes-hours-long lines and having immediate access to the rides). The pass-holding “guide,” according to NBC’s “Today” show, could charge as much as $200 through advertising on CraigsList and via word-of-mouth to some travel agents. Following reports in the New York Post and other outlets, Disney was said in late May to be warning disabled permit-holders not to abuse the privilege.

• “Ambulance-chasing” lawyers are less the cliche than they formerly were because of bar association crackdowns, but fire truck-chasing contractors and “public adjusters” are still a problem—at least in Florida, where the state Supreme Court tossed out a “48-hour” time- out rule that would have given casualty victims space to reflect on their losses before being overwhelmed by home-restoration salesmen. Consequently, as firefighters told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in May, the contractors are usually “right behind” them on the scene, pestering anxious or grief-stricken victims. The Sun-Sentinel found one woman being begged to sign up while she was still crying out for her dog that remained trapped in the blaze.

Unconventional Treatments Researchers writing recently in the journal PLoS ONE disclosed that they had found certain types of dirt that contain antimicrobial agents capable of killing E. coli and the antibiotic-resistant MRSA. According to the article, medical “texts” back to 3000 B.C. mentioned clays that, when rubbed on wounds, reduce inflammation and pain.
• Researchers writing in May in the journal Pediatrics found that some infants whose parents regularly sucked their babies’ pacifiers to clean them (rather than rinsing or boiling them) developed fewer allergies and cases of asthma. (On the other hand, parental-cleansing might make other maladies more likely, such as tooth decay.)

Leading Economic Indicators Until recently, apparently, gene mutations were considered merely freaks of nature, but that was before Myriad Genetics obtained binding U.S. patents for mutations it discovered—now known as BRCA-1 and BRCA-2. Those mutations were in the news in May when actor Angelina Jolie announced that she had chosen to have a double mastectomy based on the presence of the cancer-causing mutations, which she had learned of through a Myriad Genetics test costing about $4,000. There is no price competition for the test, due to the patent, and Jolie, along with oncologists and OB-GYN doctors, fret that the test is too expensive for tens of millions of women around the world whose lives could be saved by knowing their status.

•  Archeologists discovered in May that a construction company had bulldozed 2,300-year-old Mayan ruins in northern Belize—simply to mine the rocks for road fill to build a highway. A researcher said it could hardly have been an accident, for the ruins were 100 feet high in an otherwise flat landscape, and a Tulane University anthropologist estimated that Mayan ruins are being mined for road fill an average of once a day in their ancient habitats. Said another, “(T)o realize” that Mayans created these structures using only stone tools and then “carried these materials on their heads” to build them—and then that bulldozers can almost instantly destroy them—is “mind-boggling.”

Fine Points of Law A woman in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood reported to a local news blog in May that she had seen (and her husband briefly conversed with) a man who was operating a “drone” from a sidewalk, guiding the noisy device to a point just outside a third-floor window in a private home. The pilot said he was “doing research” and, perhaps protected by a 1946 U.S. Supreme Court decision, asserted that he was not violating anyone’s privacy because he, himself, was on a public sidewalk while the drone was in public airspace. The couple called for a police officer, but by the time one arrived, the pilot and his drone had departed, according to a report on the Capitol Hill Seattle blog.  {in}