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NEWS OF THE WEIRD

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News of the odd and strange with Chuck Shepherd.

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Priorities

PlayStations and Xboxes, However, State-of-the-Art: A New York University Center for Justice study released in September warned that, unless major upgrades are made quickly, 43 states will conduct 2016 elections on electronic voting machines at least 10 years old and woefully suspect. Those states use machines no longer made or poorly supported, and those in 14 states are more than 15 years old. There are apprehensions over antiquated security (risking miscounts, potential for hacking), but also fear of election-day breakdowns causing long lines at the polls, depressing turnout and dampening confidence in the overall fairness of the process. The NYU center estimated the costs of upgrading at greater than $1 billion.

Wait, What?

— In a “manifesto” to celebrate “personal choice and expression” in the standard of beauty “in a society that already places too many harmful standards on women,” according to a July New York Times report, some now are dyeing their armpit hair. At the Free Your Pits website, and events like “pit-ins” in Seattle and Pensacola, Florida, envelope-pushing women offer justifications ranging from political resistance to, according to one, “want(ing) to freak out (her) in-laws.” Preferred colors are turquoise, hot pink, purple and neon yellow.

— Actress Melissa Gilbert (a star of TV’s “Little House on the Prairie”), 51, announced in August that she would run for Congress from Michigan’s 8th Congressional District — even though she is currently on the hook to the IRS and California for back taxes totaling $470,000. Gilbert, a former president of the Screen Actors Guild and member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, promised that she (and her actor-husband) would pay off her tax bill — by the year 2024.

Men Are Simple

— Update: Five years after News of the Weird mentioned it, Japan’s Love Plus virtual-girlfriend app is more popular than ever, serving a growing segment of the country’s lonely males — those beyond peak marital years and resigned to artificial “relationships.” Love Plus models (Rinko, Manaka and Nene) are chosen mostly (and surprisingly) not for physical attributes, but for flirting and companionship. One user described his “girlfriend” (in a September Time magazine dispatch) as “someone to say good morning to in the morning and … goodnight to at night.” Said a Swedish observer, “You wouldn’t see (this phenomenon) in Europe or America.” One problem: Men can get stuck in a “love loop” waiting for the next app update — with, they hope, more “features.”

— “Odette Delacroix,” 25, of North Hollywood, California, is a petite (86 pounds) model who runs an adult fetish website in which people (i.e., men) pay to watch her tumble around, bikini-clad, with “plus-size” models, up to five at a time, squashing and nearly suffocating her in “pigpiles.” “Odette” told London’s edition of Cosmopolitan that her PetiteVsPlump website has so far earned her about $100,000.

The Job of the Researcher

Scientists at North Carolina State and Wake Forest universities have developed a machine that vomits, realistically, enabling the study of “aerosolization” of dangerous norovirus. “Vomiting Larry” can replicate the process of retching, including the pressure at which particles are expelled (which, along with volume and “other vomit metrics,” can teach the extent of the virus’ threat in large populations). The researchers must use a harmless stand-in “bacteriophage” for the studies — because norovirus is highly infectious even in the laboratory.

Least Competent Criminals

Police in South Union Township, Pennsylvania, say David Lee, 46, is the one who swiped a Straight Talk cellphone from a Wal-mart shelf on Sept. 15 (but wound up in the hospital). After snatching the phone, Lee went to a different section of the store and tried to open the packaging with a knife, but mishandled it and slashed his arm so severely that he had to be medevaced to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh (and a hazmat crew had to be summoned to clean up all of the blood Lee had splattered).

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