News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*New Scientist magazine reported in April on findings showing that weaker males of two animal species father almost as many offspring as their studly competitors. Researcher Brian Preston told a conference in Newcastle, England, that strong rams get more sex but that toward the end of mating season, they may literally run out of sperm, leaving females to scrounge for scrawnier rams. And a team from Liverpool University reported that strong male flour beetles' spiny penises can scrape previously deposited sperm from females, allowing their own sperm to prevail. Some of the scraped sperm, however, remains on the penis during the male's next conquest (within a matter of minutes). Thus the subsequent female is sometimes impregnated not by the current male, but by the residual sperm of a male she has never encountered.

Leading Economic Indicators
*In January a pair of popular dolls was introduced in Japan by the firm Mataro, consisting of a female with her hands out asking for a loan and a male banker in a business suit rejecting her. And in Mompos, Colombia, in March, local teachers stole about 50 Easter figurines from a church and vowed not to return them until the city issued their six-months-overdue paychecks. And Nike announced in March to great fanfare that it was raising the minimum wage for its Indonesian workers to about $37 per month, which in the United States buys one-fourth of a pair of Air Jordans.

Interesting Workplaces
*Unitel Corp. announced in March it was relocating its 100-job telemarketing office from smalltown Frostburg, Maryland, to Florida. Unitel said Frostburg workers' telephone manners are too polite for the telemarketing business.

*Another germ ranger is University of Arizona environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba, whose specialty, according to a February New York Times article, is discovering germ patterns in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. In random home visits, Gerba found that 25 percent of washing machines are contaminated with fecal matter and that hepatitis A and salmonella can survive even a very hot dryer and remain on clothes. He is noted for developing the commodograph, a visual display of where droplets of water land after they are sprayed into the air when a toilet is flushed. (Hint: Gerba keeps his toothbrush in the medicine cabinet.)

Recurring Themes
*The late Bennie Casson's unsuccessful lawsuit against a Sauget, Illinois, strip club for neck injuries caused by a dancer who swung her breasts at him was all over the news in 1997. In February 1999 Mark Kent, age 28, filed assault charges against the Kappa Kabana Club, Kappa, Illinois, after a dancer tried to wrap her legs around his neck while holding on to a pole onstage, causing Kent to fall off a barstool and hit his head and elbow.

*Stories demonstrating different smell tolerances have once again been in the news. In February a 52-year-old woman in Hong Kong gave in to the smell after a week and turned her dead husband's body over to authorities; she had held on to the body in the hope that he would revive. And in January, authorities in Thunder Bay, Ontario, recovered the body of an 85-year-old man who had been dead for four years and had to be extricated from a house that one officer called "a tremendous biological soup of garbage and debris"; the neighbors had noticed a smell a few years ago but did not think it was bad enough to report.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd