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Friday October 31st 2014

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News of the Weird 7/31/14

by Chuck Shepherd

Cat Nanny Facial recognition software, increasingly important to global anti-terrorism operations, is being brought to … cats. Taiwanese developer Mu-Chi Sung announced in July plans for marketing the software as part of a cat health device so that owners, especially those with multiple cats, can better monitor their cats’ eating habits. Sung first had to overcome the problem of how to get the cat to stick its head through a slot in the feeder so the software can start to work. The device, with mobile apps for remote monitoring by the owner, may sell for about $250.

Government in Action The Environmental Protection Agency is already a News of the Weird favorite (for example, the secret goofing-off “man cave” of one EPA contractor in July 2013 and, two months later, the fabulist EPA executive who skipped agency work for months by claiming falsely to be on secret CIA missions), but the agency’s Denver Regional Office took it to another level in June. In a leaked memo, the Denver deputy director implored employees to end the practice of leaving feces in the office’s hallway. The memo referred to “several” incidents.

• The federal food stamp program, apparently uncontrollably rife with waste, has resorted to giving financial awards to the states that misspend food stamp money the least. In July, the Florida Department of Children and Families, beaming with pride, announced it had won a federal grant of $7 million for having blown only $47 million in food stamp benefits in 2013 (less than 1 percent of its $6 billion in payments). Vermont, the worst-performing state, misspends almost 10 percent of its food stamp benefits.

• The Way the World Works: The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration came down hard in July on West Virginia’s Freedom Industries for violations of chemical safety standards in January 2014 that resulted in the 10-day contamination of drinking water for 300,000 residents. OSHA issued two fines to the company — one for $7,000 and the other for $4,000.

Great Art! Ms. Milo Moire, a Swiss performance artist, startled (and puzzled) fairgoers at Germany’s Art Cologne in April by creating a painting while standing on two ladders, nude and expelling “eggs,” filled with paint and ink, from her vagina. Each “PlopEgg” canvas made what she called a powerful feminist statement about women, fertility and creativity. (In June, she attempted to tour Switzerland’s Art Basel fair “wearing” only the names of clothing items written on her nude body, e.g., on her leg, the word “pants.” Officials told her to go get dressed if she wanted to see the show.)

• Update: Critics praised bad-girl British artist Tracey Emin’s 1998 furniture-and-effects exhibit, “My Bed,” supposedly representing a failed romantic relationship, featuring mussed sheets and, littering the room, empty vodka bottles and used condoms. Prominent collector Charles Saatchi turned heads when he bought the piece for the equivalent of about $200,000, and in June, almost 15 years later, he sold “My Bed” at auction for the equivalent of $4,330,000.

• In July, the large cement “Humpty Dumpty” at the Enchanted Forest in Salem, Oregon, created by Roger Tofte in 1970, was destroyed when two intruders tried to climb the wall Humpty was sitting on. However, the wall crumbled and Humpty suffered a great fall, and Tofte said he doubted he could put Humpty back together again, but would try instead to make a new one.

That’s Entertainment! Sheriff’s deputies in Salina, Kansas, arrested Aaron Jansen, 29, but not before he put on quite a show on July 5. Jansen, speeding in a car spray-painted with derogatory comments about law enforcement, refused to pull over and even survived a series of tire-shredding road spikes as he turned into a soybean field, where he revved the engine and drove in circles for 40 minutes. As deputies set up a perimeter, Jansen futilely tossed items from the car (blankets, CDs, anything available) and then (with the car still moving) climbed out the driver’s door and briefly “surfed” on the roof. Finally, as deputies closed in, Jansen shouted a barrage of Bible verses before emerging from the car wearing a cowboy hat, boots and a woman’s dress.

• The surveillance video in evidence in England’s Wolverhampton Crown Court in July captured the entire caper of two young men comically failing to open a parking lot’s automated cash machine five months earlier. Wearing hoods, they tried to batter the secure machine open, then tried to pull it away (but learned that it was rooted to an underground cable). Plan C involved getting in their Peugeot and ramming the machine, which did knock loose the money-dispensing part — but also shredded part of the car’s body. The dispenser (with the equivalent of $1,500 in coins) fit in the front seat only after some exhaustive pushing and cramming, but finally the men drove off — with sparks flying as the weight of the coins made the crippled car scrape the pavement. Police arrived on the scene, and a brief chase ended when the car crashed into a wall. Final score: car totaled, money recovered and Wesley Bristow, 25, sentenced to two years in prison.