Pensacola, Florida
Sunday August 18th 2019


News of the Weird 4/27/17

By Chuck Shepherd

Mother of Invention Robotic models of living organisms are useful to scientists, who can study the effects of stimuli without risk to actual people. Northwestern University researchers announced in March that its laboratory model of the “female reproductive system” has reached a milestone: its first menstrual period. The “ovary,” using mouse tissue, had produced hormones that stimulated the system (uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes, liver) for 28 days, reaching the predictable result. Chief researcher Teresa Woodruff said she imagines eventually growing a model from tissue provided by the patient undergoing treatment.

Chutzpah! Henry Wachtel, 24, continues in legal limbo after being found “not criminally responsible” for the death of his mother in 2014, despite having beaten her in the head and elsewhere up to 100 times—because he was having an epileptic seizure at that moment and has no memory of the attack. A judge must still decide the terms of Wachtel’s psychiatric hospitalization, but Wachtel’s mind is clear enough now that, in March, he demanded, as sole heir, payoff on his mother’s life insurance policy (which, under New York law, is still technically feasible).

Epic Smugglers In February, federal customs agents seized 22 pounds of illegal animal meat (in a wide array) at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Among the tasty items were raw chicken, pig and cow meat, brains, hearts, heads, tongues and feet—in addition to (wrote a reporter) “other body parts” (if there even are any other edible parts). In a typical day nationwide, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seizes about 4,600 smuggled plant or animal products.

Ewwww! Luu Cong Huyen, 58, in Yen Giao, Vietnam, is the most recent to attract reporters’ attention with disturbingly long fingernails. A March report, with cringe-inducing photos, failed to disclose their precise length, but Huyen said he has not clipped them since a 2013 report on VietnamNet revealed that each measured up to 19.7 inches. Huyen explained (inadequately) that his nail obsession started merely as a hobby and that he is not yet over it. (The Guinness Book record is not exactly within fingertip reach: 73.5 inches per nail, by Shridhar Chillal of India.)

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree In February, a pet welfare organization complained of a raid on a home near Lockhart, Texas, that housed more than 400 animals (and, of course, reeked “overpowering(ly)” of urine). The inventory: 86 snakes, 56 guinea pigs, 28 dogs, 26 rabbits, 15 goats, 9 doves, 8 skinks, 7 pigs, 6 pigeons, 4 gerbils, 3 bearded dragons, 2 ducks and 1 tarantula—plus about 150 rats and mice (to feed the menagerie) and 20 other animals whose numbers did not fit the above lyric pattern.
Updates For more than a decade, an “editor” has been roaming the streets at night in Bristol, England, “correcting” violations of standard grammar, lately being described as “The Apostrophiser” since much of his work involves adjusting (or often obliterating) that punctuation mark. On April 3, the BBC at last portrayed the vigilante in action, in a “ride-along” documentary that featured him using the special marking and climbing tools that facilitate his work. His first mission, in 2003, involved a government sign “Monday’s to Friday’s” (“ridiculous,” he said), and he recalled an even more cloying store sign—”Amys Nail’s”—as “so loud and in your face.”)

Unclear on the Concept Rhinoceros herds are dwindling in South Africa despite an international ban on selling rhino horns (whose ivory brings astonishingly high prices, especially in Asian markets whose buyers believe ivory powder miraculously cures illnesses and assures prosperity). In April, South Africa’s highest court ruled that the existing ban on domestic sales of rhino horns is unconstitutional—on petition from local ranchers who had complained that they need to sell horn to protect the animal from illegal rhino poachers, since their expenses for security (such as armed patrols, even by helicopter) have risen dramatically.

• New York City health officials have convinced most ultra-Orthodox Jewish “mohels” to perform their ritual circumcisions with sterile tools and gauze, but still, according to a March New York Post report, a few holdouts insist on the old-fashioned way of removing the blood from an incision—by sucking it up with their mouths (and thus potentially passing along herpes). Some local temples are so protective of their customs that they refuse to name the “offending” mohels (who are not licensed medical professionals), thus limiting parents’ ability to choose safe practitioners.

No Longer Weird? For the 31st consecutive Easter in the Philippines, Ruben Enaje, 57, was among the throngs of devout Christians who slashed their own torsos bloody, then flogged themselves repeatedly as they marched through the streets to demonstrate homage to God, and dozens of men in San Pedro Cutud, Santa Lucia and other villages replicated the crucifixion of Jesus by having sterilized 4-inch nails driven into their own arms and legs. When News of the Weird first encountered the Philippine phenomenon in 1989, the crucifixions had built a 40-year history and still listed, as an official sponsor, the Philippines Department of Tourism (but no longer). (The Catholic Church, as usual, “banned” the extreme acts, to little effect.)