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News of the Weird 1/26/12

by Chuck Shepherd

Traditional bridge replacement on as prominent a highway as Interstate 15 in Mesquite, Nev., has generally required rerouting traffic for as long as a year, but the new “accelerated” technology in January necessitated detours for less than a week. Excited engineers traveled in from around the country to watch the old bridge be demolished and the new one (which had been built on a platform off to the side) be slid into place using hydraulic jacks and Teflon-coated metal beams—lubricated with Dawn dishwashing detergent to glide them smoothly into the old frame. The Nevada Department of Transportation estimated that the accelerated process saved commuters about $12 million in time and fuel costs.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit! “(Our critics) are absolutely right. We are professional liars,” said Everett Davis, founder of the Internet-based Reference Store, which supplies pumped-up, but false, resumes for job-seekers having trouble landing work. Davis and associates are, he told Houston’s KRIV-TV in November, ex-investigators schooled in deception and therefore good at fooling human resources personnel who follow up on the bogus work claims. Davis admitted he would even disguise a customer’s past criminal record—but not if the job is in public safety, health care or schools.

• Veterinary technician and food blogger Lauren Hicks recently inaugurated service on what is surely one of the few food trucks in the country catering exclusively to dogs. She parks her “Sit ‘n Stay Pet Cafe” —a retrofitted mail truck—in downtown Winter Park, Fla., on Thursday nights (according to an October Orlando Sentinel report), serving gourmet organic snacks like the Poochi Sushi (jerky), “Ruff-in” muffins, and “Mutt-balls” and “Grrr-avy,” among other specialties.

• Western nations and foundations have tried for decades to build sewage treatment plants in sub-Saharan Africa, with little success (since many countries lack stable governments to assess operating fees), and to this day, raw sewage is still merely collected and dumped, either in rivers or directly onto beaches, such as the notorious (and formerly beautiful) Lavender Hill in Ghana. U.S. entrepreneurs recently established Waste Enterprises in Ghana to build the first-ever fecal-sludge-to-biodiesel plant (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). Feces undiluted by water, and then heated, is highly concentrated and more resembles coal than the goo that Americans associate with sewage.

Cutting-Edge Science (1) The British Medical Journal reported in December that a 76-year-old woman had been unbothered until recently by the felt-tip pen she accidentally swallowed 25 years earlier. It was removed without complication, and, though the plastic was flaky, the pen still had an ink supply and was “usable.” (2) Twice during 2011, babies with two heads were born in Brazil. Though the first, in Paraiba state, died hours after birth, the 9.9-pound “Emanoel” and “Jesus,” born in Para state in December, are apparently otherwise healthy. (The baby has two heads and two spines but shares one heart, liver, pelvis and pair of lungs.)

Poor Anger Management (1) Janet Knowles, 62, was arrested in January in Jupiter, Fla., for aggravated assault after allegedly bludgeoning her housemate, 65, with a hammer as they watched television. The victim said only that Knowles was “upset with Judge Judy.” (2) Michael Monsour, the former CEO of Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette, Pa., was charged with assaulting his brother, Dr. William Monsour, in their father’s home on New Year’s Eve. In an argument, Michael allegedly bit William’s nose so hard that he required cosmetic surgery. (Michael’s temper remained untempered. The next day, according to police, Michael sent William an email threatening to beat him “into blood pudding.”)

Least Competent Criminals Need Time in the Gym: (1) According to police in Bellingham, Wash., William Lane, 22, had yelled slurs at a lesbian couple in the early morning of Dec. 11 and smashed the car window of one of the women, but she immediately chased him down, tackled him, and held him until help arrived. (2) Anthony Miranda, 24, was arrested and charged with armed robbery in December in Chicago after unknowingly choosing as his victim an “ultimate fighting” champion. The “victim” gave Miranda two black eyes and a heavily lacerated face, and, as Miranda drew his gun, overpowered him in such a way that Miranda wound up shooting himself in the ankle.

• Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) Keith Savinelli, 21, was arrested in Gallatin County, Mont., in December and charged with attempted burglary involving a woman’s underwear. When the resident caught Savinelli in the act, he attempted to talk her out of reporting him by apologizing and handing her his voter registration card, but she called police, anyway. (2) A 25-year-old man was rescued by fire crews in Tranent, Scotland, in December and taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. According to police, four men were attempting to steal an eight-ton steamroller when the 25-year-old got his leg trapped underneath. The other three fled.