News of the Weird with Chuck Shepherd

May 13 • FEATURE BOTTOM, News, NEWS & VIEWSNo Comments on News of the Weird with Chuck Shepherd

News Of The WeirdScience Fair

Medical Marvels: (1) China’s Chengdu Commercial Daily reported in March that Liu Yougang, 23, finally had surgery to remove that whistle he had swallowed when he was 9. He had been experiencing worsened breathing — and had been making “shrill whistle sounds” nightly after falling asleep. (2) London’s Daily Star featured Sarah Beal, 43, of Arley, Warwickshire, England, in a March story demonstrating her skin condition in which writing words on her skin makes it puff up for about an hour before it recedes. It is referred to by doctors as the “Etch A Sketch condition” (formally, dermatographia), and despite occasional pain, she described it as “cool” and a “party trick.”

The Job of the Researcher: Cornell University graduate student Michael Smith, disappointed at the paucity of research on the pain of honeybee stings, decided to evaluate the stings himself (but in line with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975 on safe self-experimentation). Smith’s protocols required five stings a day on various body locations for 38 days — at least three on each of 25 body areas. The worst, according to his pain index, were the nostril (9.0) and the upper lip (8.7).

North Carolina’s Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is already well known to News of the Weird readers for creating functional organs in the lab (most notably, perhaps, growing a human bladder and a rabbit’s penis). In an April article in the Lancet, the program announced that it had implanted artificial vaginas in four women in the U.S. A functioning vagina, the director told BBC News, “is a very important thing.”

Leading Economic Indicators

While Medicare continues to be among the most costly federal services, and U.S. doctors continue to drop out of the program because of paltry fees for some procedures, other specialists are rewarded with such outsized compensation that almost 4,000 physicians were paid $1 million or more for 2012 and about 350 of those totaled nearly $1.5 billion, according to Medicare records released in April 2014. Ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen of West Palm Beach, Fla., took in more than $20 million and treated 645 Medicare patients with a total of 37,000 injectable doses of Lucentis (a much more expensive drug than the popularly regarded equivalent, Avastin), according to Business Insider. (In fact, taxpayers could have saved more than $11 million with Avastin on Melgen’s billings alone, according to an April Washington Post analysis.)

Visitors to the New York City office of Clear Channel radio station group chairman Bob Pittman are greeted exotically as they step off the elevator by a “tunnel” of “fine mist.” However, a spokeswoman told a New York Post reporter in March that it “isn’t for cooling or humidifying,” but to impress advertisers, in that Clear Channel knows how to project the advertiser’s logo against the mist. (Clear Channel, the Post reported, is $21 billion in debt and has laid off “thousands” of employees.)

Intelligent Design

Par-tee! (1) In a springtime rite in Narcisse, Manitoba, tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes slithered out of pits in March so that writhing males could hook up with “pheromone-spewing” females. London’s Daily Mail called it the largest gathering of snakes on the planet — with balls of males wrapped around females. (2) Once again this year, the Toads on Roads charity in Sleaford, England, called for volunteers in February to police a highway where post-hibernating female toads carry horny males on their backs across a road to mate in marshes. Without help, said the charity, up to two-thirds of the amorous toads would not survive oncoming cars.

Round Up the Usual Suspect

Charged with exposing himself indecently to teenage girls in Durham, Ontario, in February: Mr. Chad Freake, 33. Arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in April and charged with illegal drug possession: Mr. Edward Cocaine, 34 (nope — possession of Xanax!).

More Names in the News

Universal Knowledge Allah, 36, charged with stealing a Stradivarius violin from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster (February); Theodore Edward Bear (aka Ted E. Bear), 29, charged with attempted murder, Great Falls, Montana (December); Ms. Cameo Crispi, 31, arrested for arson in Uintah County, Utah, charged with purposely leaving a pound of bacon frying on the stove to set her ex-boyfriend’s kitchen afire (March); Mr. Bai Ting, 28, charged with biting a police officer in Singapore (April). Ms. Sue Yoo, an Asian-American lawyer mentioned in a BBC News magazine story on whether one’s name is destiny (April).

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