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Friday September 19th 2014

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News of the Weird 3/20/14

by Chuck Shepherd

The Entrepreneurial Spirit Branko Bogdanov, 58, his wife, Lela, 52, and daughter Julia, 34, were arrested in March and charged in a 10-year shoplifting enterprise run out of their upscale Northbrook, Ill., home, which they allegedly used as a base while prowling stores in states as far away as Florida, stealing high-end toys and jewelry, which they resold on eBay and to their fences. Police estimate the Bogdanovs swiped as much as $7 million worth on their forays—many items being stashed in Lela’s customized flowing skirts with hidden pockets.

• A trauma victim arriving at a hospital emergency room but requiring specialized intensive care would usually be transferred promptly to a qualified “trauma center,” whose success rate with such patients is believed to be 25 percent better than that of ordinary hospitals. However, a recent study from Stanford University researchers found that, among 636 hospitals observed, there was a greater reluctance to make the transfer—if the patient was fully insured. (That is, the authors suggest, there is a tendency for hospitals to hang onto insured patients, even though their outcomes might be worse, but not to similarly hang onto the uninsured—who are more likely to be properly transferred.)

• Latest Female Beauty Products: Cosmetic surgery is expensive, but beauty-conscious Japanese girls and women (especially those obsessed with a more “Western” look) have low-priced workarounds to choose from—as uncovered in January by the fashion blogger Liz Katz: (1) the $63 Face-Slimmer Exercise Mouthpiece (insert it for three minutes a day, make vowel sounds and watch a “saggy” mouth turn taut); (2) the Beauty Lift High Nose nostril clip, which emits electronic vibrations to raise the proboscis’s profile; (3) an altogether different but similarly painful-appearing Nose Straightener (insert for 20 minutes a day for added “perkiness”).

Science Fair Technological Know-How at Work: Hard-core pornography fans are split (according to a January report on Salon.com) on whether they want male actors to use condoms, but California’s Falcon Studios has the technology to serve both audiences. Falcon’s actors wear them, but in some movies those condoms might be digitally “removed” during post-production. The major downside, said one renowned director, is the prohibitive cost—about $100,000 to re-digitize the estimated 90,000 frames in a typical “low-budget” porno film. The Falcon president said he is trying an alternative—using clever lighting during filming to de-emphasize the condom’s presence.

•Security and law enforcement agencies are looking beyond traditional biometric identification techniques (such as the accurate but obtrusive fingerprint and iris scans and unobtrusive yet questionably accurate facial-recognition) and, based on recent laboratory research, are now considering earwax and underarm odors. Work by Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center shows that ear secretions may reveal personal identity, ethnicity, health status and sexual orientation, among other information, and researchers at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Spain) said their work demonstrates that recognizable patterns in body odor remain stable even through disease and diet change (although admitting that even the best odor technology is far inferior to a dog’s nose).

Least Competent Criminals Christopher Fulton turned himself in in Midwest City, Okla., in March after seeing a surveillance photo of the robbery of an IBC Bank. He told police he indeed must be the robber, that he saw his body in the bank photo—although he insisted that his mind had no recollection of it. Police were about to arrest Fulton, anyway, because the robber’s holdup note was written on a blank check with the account holder’s name and address (Fulton’s mom’s) scratched out, except that police-lab technology easily read through the scratch-outs.

The New Normal (1) A plaintiff in an auto-accident lawsuit, who is claiming an injury that has impaired her inclination for “social activities,” was ordered by a judge in Nova Scotia to prove her loss by showing a reduction in the time she spent on Facebook. Justice Glen McDougall ruled that Joanne Conrod must disclose her log-in and log-out information but need not reveal her complete Facebook profile. (2) Arizona-based Christian “exorcist” Bob Larson, who claims to have performed more than 20,000 demon-expulsions, recently branched out by allegedly (in front of CNN’s Anderson Cooper) cleansing a client in Norway—via the Internet-enabled phone application Skype. (Given the fragility of computer operating systems, critics—including “mainstream” exorcists—find it puzzling that a demon could not disable Larson’s.)