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News of the Weird 9/5/13

by Chuck Shepherd

Spreadsheet parenting Loco Parentis:
First-time mother Amy Webb proudly notates dozens of data points about her child each day and obsessively tracks their detailed progression by computer on spreadsheets, according to the provocative first-person account she wrote for Slate.com in July. In categories ranging from ordinary vital signs, to the kid’s progress in sound-making, to dietary reactions, to quantity and quality of each poop, stats are kept 24/7 (even with a bedside laptop to facilitate nighttime entries). She began tracking her own health during pregnancy, but then decided, “Why stop now?” when her daughter was born. Webb’s pediatrician rated the kid’s health as “A-minus,” but the parents’ as “C,” adding: “You guys need to relax. Leave the spreadsheets (out).” Webb and her husband remain confident that their extreme tracking optimizes their chances of raising a healthy daughter.

Perspective Researchers can accurately estimate a person’s economic status just by learning which environmental toxins are in his body, concluded a University of Exeter (England) research team recently, using U.S. data. Although “both rich and poor Americans are walking waste dumps,” wrote the website Quartz, reporting the conclusions, poorer people’s typical food leaves lead, cadmium and the banned bisphenol-A, whereas richer people more likely accumulate heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, thallium) from aquatic lean protein (and acquire oxybenzone from the active ingredient in sunscreens). Previous research was thought to show that richer Americans ate healthier (for example, eating fruits and vegetables instead of canned foods), but the Exeter research shows they merely house different toxins.

Compelling Explanations Dr. Timothy Sweo said later that he was only trying to make his diagnosis of lumbar lordosis “less technical” for patient Terry Ragland when he described her condition as “ghetto booty.” The shape of her spine makes her buttocks stick out more, he said, and he prescribed pain medication as there is no cure, per se. Nonetheless, Ragland felt insulted and filed a complaint against Dr. Sweo with the Tennessee Department of Health in July. Said she, “I couldn’t believe he said that.”

• An Anglican parishioner complained in August about the “blasphemous” bumper sticker she saw on the car of Rev. Alice Goodman of Cambridge, England, but Rev. Goodman immediately defended it as not irreligious (although, she conceded, perhaps “vulgar”). The sticker read “WTFWJD?” which is a play on the popular evangelical Christian slogan “WWJD?”—”What Would Jesus Do?” (“WTF” is a vulgar but omnipresent acronym on the Internet.) Rev. Goodman pointed out that even Dr. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, seemed not to be shocked by her sticker when he saw it.

• The wife of Valentino Ianetti was found dead in Stanhope, N.J., in 2010 with 47 stab wounds, leading police to immediately suspect her husband, who was at home with her. However, after three years’ incarceration, Ianetti, 63, won release in August by finally convincing prosecutors that his wife actually committed suicide. Although the case is still officially “under investigation,” the medical examiner concluded that 46 of the wounds were superficial – - “hesitation” cuts perhaps self-inflicted as the wife built up the courage to administer a final thrust. Also, the wife was found with a heavy dose of oxycodone in her system and likely felt little pain from any of the 47 wounds.

Strange Old World In May, a Brazilian cancer-fighting foundation, AAPEC, published a series of photos of its new mascot that it hopes will call attention to the dread of testicular cancer, and the initial worldwide reviews demonstrate that, indeed, people may never, ever forget their first glance at “Mr. Balls.” AAPEC described its character as a “friendly snowman in the shape of testicles”—friendly in the sense of a buck-toothed humanoid with a puffy-cheeked smile and the body of a huge scrotal sac dotted with small curly hairs and rough skin. As photos of the genial “Senhor Testiculo” circulated in June, he was variously described as “disturbing,” “horrifying,” “terrifying” and “a nightmare.”

Least Competent Criminals Recurring Themes: (1) Vade Bradley, 39, was arrested on arson charges in Hayward, Calif., in August after burning down an apartment house carport, totally destroying six vehicles. He was siphoning other people’s gasoline in the carport when he decided to light a cigarette. (2) Richard Boudreaux was charged in January with burglarizing Kenney’s Seafood (where he previously worked) in Slidell, La., when he became the most recent perp to fail to outflank surveillance cameras. He had thought to wear a bucket over his head as he moved through the store—except he had waited until well inside (within camera range) before actually putting it on. {in}