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.
Recurring Themes (and Updates on Previous Characters)
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.
Over the years, News of the Weird has covered the long-standing campaign by animal-rights activists to bestow “human” rights upon animals (begun, of course, with intelligent orangutans and gorillas). In March, the New Zealand parliament gave human rights to a river — the Whanganui, long revered by the country’s indigenous Maori. (One Maori and one civil servant were appointed as the river’s representatives.) Within a week, activists in India, scouring court rulings, found two of that country’s waterways deserved similar status — the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, which were then so designated by judges in Uttarakhand state. (The Ganges’ “rights” seem hollow since an estimated one billion gallons of waste still enters it every day despite its being a holy bathing spot for Hindus.)
Yet another intimate accessory with weak security drew attention when hackers broke down a $249 Svakom Siime Eye personal vibrator in April, revealing a lazily created default password (“88888888”) and Wi-Fi network name (“Siime Eye”). Since the Eye’s camera and internet access facilitate livestream video of a user’s most personal body parts, anyone within Wi-Fi range can break in (and be entertained) by just driving around a city looking for the Siime Eye network.
Ewwww! Luu Cong Huyen, 58, in Yen Giao, Vietnam, is the most recent to attract reporters’ attention with disturbingly long fingernails. A March OddityCentral.com 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.