NEWS OF THE WEIRD
by Chuck Shepherd
Among the oppressive patriarchal customs that remain in force in Saudi Arabia is a requirement that females obtain their father’s (or guardian’s) permission before marrying – even women who are profoundly independent, such as the 42-year-old surgeon (licensed to practice in the UK and Canada as well as Saudi Arabia) who was the subject of an Associated Press report in November. One activist, estimating that nearly 800,000 Saudi women are in the same position, complained that a Saudi woman “can’t even buy a phone without the guardian’s permission.” The surgeon took her father to court recently, but the judge had not rendered a decision by press time.
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– Alabama is the only remaining state to ban the sale of sex toys, but nevertheless the Huntsville shop Pleasures recently expanded by moving to a former bank building in order to use three drive-thru windows to sell dildos. (Since state law prohibits the sale unless used for “bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial, or law enforcement purposes,” customers must provide a brief written description of their medical or other “legitimate” condition in order to make the purchase.)
– Wei Xinpeng, 55, a boatman in a village near industrial Lanzhou, China, collects bodies from the Yellow River (the murdered, the suicides, the accidentally drowned), offering them back to grieving relatives for a price. Distraught visitors pay a small browsing fee to check his inventory and then, if they identify a loved one, up to the equivalent of $500 to take the corpse home. Said Wei, “I bring dignity to the dead”; no overstatement for him since his own son drowned in the river (yet his body was never recovered).
– Nov. 3 was National Sandwich Day, and several U.S. eateries capitalized by mixing up bar drinks in honor of such favorites as the cheeseburger, the BLT (bacon-infused rum), and the PB&J (peanut syrup, strawberry jam, banana and rum). The mixologist at Toronto’s Tipicular Fixin’s makes his cheeseburger cocktail with beef stock reduction, Roma tomatoes and iceberg lettuce water, garnished with a cheddar crisp and a kosher dill.
– Researchers at the University of Queensland revealed in November that parrot fish, which reside on Australia’s reefs and need protection from blood-sucking, lice-like parasites, shelter themselves at bedtime with blankets of “snot.” Typically, the fish’s mouth-slobber, once it starts dribbling out, takes about an hour to ooze into place.
– Medical Marvels: (1) Six-year-old Alexis McCarter, of Pelzer, S.C., underwent surgery in December to remove the safety pin that she had stuck up her nose as a baby and which was lodged in her sinus cavity (having sprung open only after it was inside her, causing headaches, nosebleeds and ear infections). (2) Sharon Wilson of Doncaster, England, finally got a worthwhile answer for her nearly 10-year odyssey through a range of doctors’ complicated misdiagnoses. She had complained of many, many days when she vomited more than 100 times, at “almost exactly” 10-minute intervals. The previous diagnosis was a tumor in her pituitary gland, but another specialist nailed it: “Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome.”
– Researcher Patricia Brennan of Yale University told a conference in July that a duck’s penis may vary in length from year to year — depending on their competition that year. Their penises waste away after each mating season and regrow, and Brennan found that they regrow longer if there are other males around. (Female ducks are known to have corkscrew-shaped vaginas, and thus a centimeter or two can make a big difference for success in mating.)
– What’s Weird is That it’s Legal: The pharmaceutical company Genentech makes both Lucentis (a $2,000 injection for relieving age-related macular degeneration) and Avastin (an anti-cancer drug that many retina specialists prescribe for age-related macular degeneration because it is just as effective yet costs about $50). Using Avastin instead of Lucentis saves Medicare hundreds of millions of dollars a year, reported The New York Times in November, and, obviously, every dollar’s savings is a dollar less income for Genentech. In response in October, the company commenced a lucrative rebate program for physicians, worth tens of thousands of dollars, that apparently passes as legal according to Medicare guidelines, but said one Ohio specialist, “There’s no way to look at that without calling it bribery.”
COPYRIGHT 2010 CHUCK SHEPHERD
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