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Tuesday September 2nd 2014

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by Chuck Shepherd

The Bar Is Always Open A 61-year-old Texas man admitted to a hospital not long ago appearing to be falling-down-drunk, even though denying having had even a single drink, was discovered to be unintentionally manufacturing beer in his stomach. With “auto-brewery syndrome,” stomach-based yeast automatically ferments all starches (even vegetables or grains) passing through, converting them into ethanol. Normally, natural stomach bacteria control the yeast, but if, for example, antibiotics had inadvertently eliminated the bacteria, the yeast would prevail. The case was reported in a recent International Journal of Clinical Medicine.

Government in Action Update: As several additional states debate permitting marijuana use by a doctor’s prescription, Irvin Rosenfeld presented his own experience in August to a packed house at Kentucky’s state capitol. Rosenfeld suffers from painful bone tumors (diagnosed, with a poor prognosis, in 1963) and began smoking dope in the federal government’s Compassionate Investigational Drug program in 1982—since then consuming 130,000 government-supplied joints (12 per day, carefully measured), which he said absolutely had prolonged his life. “I didn’t ask for my bone disease,” he said. “All I asked for is the best medicine possible.”

• While Congress struggled recently to pass a budget or an increase to the national debt limit, one program made it through rather easily, according to a September New York Times report: farm subsidies for inactive “farmers.” The subsidies were renewed, based on a 2008 law, virtually assuring that more than 18,000 in-name-only farmers (who received $24 million last year) will not be cut off. Included, according to a 2012 Government Accountability Office report, were recipients at 2,300 “farms” that had not grown a single crop in five years (including 622 without a crop in 10 years).

• “Close Enough for Government Work”: The security contractor USIS, which does $2.45 billion worth of background checks for the National Security Agency and other departments (and had cleared file-leaker Edward Snowden and the Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis), gets paid only for completed files. However, full background checks often require months of work, and at some point, reported The New York Times in September, when USIS needed cash, it would “flush” still-open files, treating them as completed, and submit them for payment—as happened with the files of Snowden and Alexis. In both cases, reported the Times, subsequent, crucial information failed to make it into the flushed files.

Great Art! The missing element in obtuse doctoral dissertations in science is that they cannot be danced to, according to writer John Bohannon and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which has established an annual “Dance Your Ph.D” video competition, and this year’s finalists were being selected at press time. Sarah Wilk was an entrant, featured in a Wall Street Journal report using glowing green balls and a flaming Hula-Hoop to help illustrate her “Odd-Z Transactinide Compound Nucleus Reactions Including Discovery of 260-Bh.” So was Peter Liddicoat, using a chorus line of a juggler and a ballerina and others for “Evolution of Nanostructural Architecture in 7000 Series Aluminum Alloys During Strengthening by Age-Hardening and Severe Plastic Deformation.”

•  Steven Cohen, eager to make a point that his country of residence, France, is more oppressive to artists than his native South Africa, staged a one-man demonstration at the Eiffel Tower in September. Wearing a bird outfit, tights and a garter, he had for some reason tethered a live chicken to his exposed penis with a long ribbon. After Cohen was arrested for indecent exposure, his lawyer complained that her client had been kept in custody too long for such a minor charge. “France,” she exclaimed, “is throwing artists in prison.”