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Monday December 22nd 2014

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News of the Weird 2/13/14

by Chuck Shepherd

Our Cold, Dead Hands The semi-obscure Florida Statute 790.15 took center stage in January following a Miami Herald report of a resident of the town of Big Pine Key who routinely target-shoots his handgun in his yard, with impunity, to the consternation of neighbors. The statute permits open firing on private property (except shooting over a public right of way or an occupied dwelling), and several cities have tried, unsuccessfully, to restrict that right, citing “public safety” in residential neighborhoods. (A 2011 lobbying campaign by the National Rifle Association, and a state supreme court decision, nixed any change in the law.) “Negligent” shooting is illegal, but only a misdemeanor. Thus, even skillful shooting next door to a day care center or in a small yard that abuts a high-trafficked pedestrian street is likely perfectly legal. One Florida legislator who was originally from Alaska noted that even in Anchorage people cannot fire at will in their yards.

Cultural Diversity South Korea is a well-known hub for cosmetic beautification surgery, with a higher rate per capita than the U.S., but the procedures can be expensive, inspiring many young women recently to resort to do-it-yourself procedures for their professional and romantic upgrades. A December Global Post dispatch noted that some might try to force their eyes to stay open without blinking (using a novel $20 pair of glasses for hours on end) as a substitute for costly “double-eyelid” surgery. Also in use: a $6 jaw-squeezing roller device for the face to push the jaw line into a fashionable “oval” form. One teen told the reporter she applies an imaginative contraption to her face for hours a day to pressure her nose into more of a point, which is considered a desirable Western look.

• Acquired Tastes: (1) In December, thieves in Wicklow, Ireland, raided a convent’s field at the Dominican Farm and Ecology Center, stripping it of its entire crop of Brussels sprouts. A nun at the farm said the sisters were devastated to miss out on the lucrative market for high-end Christmas dinners. (2) In January, Wal-Mart in China recalled its “Five Spice” donkey meat sold in some locations because the popular snack was found to be tainted — with fox meat.

•  Labor’s Influence in France: The French social security agency URSSAF initiated an enforcement action in December against the Mamm-Kounifl music bar in the town of Locmiquelic for underpaying employee contributions — in that the tavern encourages customers to bus their own tables and thus reduces its need to hire more servers. The owner denied he was trying to save money. “It’s (just) our trademark. We want the customer to feel comfortable, a bit like he’s at home.”

Questionable Judgments Interesting Life Ahead: From the birth register of Elkhart (Ind.) General Hospital, reported by The Elkhart Truth, Jan. 19, 2014: “Tamekia Burks, Elkhart, daughter (named La’Soulja Major La’Pimp Burks, 6 lbs., 8 oz.), 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014.”
• The makers of a product called Poo-Pourri garnered a “coveted” advertising award from USA Today in December as one of the five worst ads of the year. Toilet users concerned about smell are encouraged to spray Poo-Pourri on the commode, pre-use, and in the television ad, a British-accented female sits on the throne, extolling the product. Opening line: “You would not believe the mother lode I just dropped.” (Nonetheless, USA Today still found two other ads that upset its editors more.)

The Continuing Crisis The Power of Prayer: Nelson Thabo Modupe threatened a lawsuit in January against South Africa’s Eskom electric utility unless the company paid him the equivalent of about $22.3 million for “saving” the firm that amount during the weeks of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Modupe reasoned that he had joined the Zion Christian Church just before the event and had prayed (“successfully”) to God to spare the utility from blackouts and power reductions during that period (which would have cost Eskom millions more). Modupe, open to negotiation, said he would accept a partnership in the company as a compromise.

• World’s Laziest Dog Sitter: Tyler Smith, 23, was charged in December with violating the city animal care ordinance in Greenville, S.C., after a photograph was posted on Facebook of his father’s dog being lowered by rope from the second-story balcony of an apartment. According to the posting, it was time for the dog to make a call of nature, but it was raining, and Smith preferred not to go downstairs with him.

Perspective Three million Americans are infected with hepatitis C (as are millions more overseas), but a very recent drug, Sovaldi, completely cures it with 84 daily doses. However, its manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, has somehow determined that a fair U.S. price for the drug should be $1,000 per pill ($84,000 for the total treatment). Shouldn’t Gilead reduce the price once it has recouped its expensive investment, asked an NPR reporter in December? “That’s very unlikely we would do that,” said Gilead’s Gregg Alton, but “I appreciate the thought.” (According to NPR, Gilead “developed” Sovaldi merely by buying Sovaldi’s actual developer for $11 billion. At $84,000 per patient, Gilead would “recoup” that investment from the first 150,000 customers, leaving 2.85 million more U.S. patients to pay $84,000 each, for an income of $239 billion.) {in}