Canadian researchers writing in the journal Neurology in June reported that 18 of 122 dogs belonging to epileptic children were able to sense, minutes ahead of time, when a child was about to have a seizure, and about 30 others showed unique reactions to a seizure event (including in some cases trying to protect the child from danger). Also in June, researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute reported that Rico, a border collie they have studied for several years, can distinguish by name more than 200 objects and can even figure out the names of unfamiliar objects associated with familiar ones (attributed, as in the epilepsy cases, to the dog's high sensitivity to sight, sound and motion).
Ken James, 64, died in February when he fell off a stolen bicycle in Melbourne, Australia, and hit his head; police later found 435 bicycles and hundreds of parts in his home, stacked to the ceiling in every room (with only a few of the bikes having been legitimately acquired). And in May, a court in York, England, banned Norman Hutchins, 53, from all National Health Service hospitals and doctors' offices, based on 40 complaints since January of his attempting to grab surgical gowns and masks for his collection; he was described by his lawyer as "not a well man."
-- In May, the Washington Times profiled Mark and Lorraine Moore's growing business selling bird diapers at $20 to $26 (Lycra suits with straps that fit around the wings, with a Velcro flap in back, with pads that must be changed every six hours, but which allow birds to roam the house without soiling the furniture). And Frank Morosky of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has introduced charcoal-lined diapers, at $20 to $50, designed to reduce the odor of dogs' flatulence. (A Cedar Rapids veterinarian said he didn't think the diapers would sell because so many owners revel in their dog's flatulence as a way of distracting attention from their own.)
-- MCI Inc., in bankruptcy protection and planning to lay off 12,000 workers this year, revealed to its shareholders in May that it had dismissed its president, Richard R. Roscitt, who worked for the company for only seven months, but that according to Roscitt's shrewdly negotiated contract, it had to pay him severance of $8.1 million, plus assorted benefits.
-- The New York Times reported in June that overworked Catholic clergy in the U.S., Canada and Europe are outsourcing certain ritual prayer requests from their parishioners over to Catholic clergy in India. Priests said such a practice is not new, but that a priest shortage might have caused a bump in numbers. Indian priests said the requests are typically accompanied by US$5 to $10 (much more than they are offered for domestic prayers).
-- Two designers from India's National Institute of Fashion Technology in Calcutta have begun to offer a cotton jacket for women that contains a mild electrical charge, to help protect them from molesters and muggers. A 9-volt battery in the waistband connects to a switch and wires running through the cloth. The domestic price, according to a May Indo-Asian News Service story, is 855 rupees (about US$20).
-- After 13 wrongful years in prison and five more detained as a "violent sexual predator," James Rodriguez, 43, finally realized last year that he would have to start lying and "confess" to molesting those two boys in the 1980s and seek "rehabilitation." Otherwise, California's Atascadero State Hospital would never release him. He told an Associated Press reporter that he sought advice from the hospital's pedophiles on what to say and how to act, and he finally convinced doctors that he was, indeed, so very remorseful for his "attraction to kids." Then, as he was set for a hearing in April, his two "victims" finally recanted, telling officials that they had made up the whole thing.
-- Scottish Gas Corp. headquarters in Edinburgh drew stares earlier this year when it filled its landscape with rows of square trees whose branches will, in 15 years or so, form the shape of green cubes resting on the trees' trunks. Right now, each tree resembles a bank of lights on a pole at a ball park, with five rows of branches vertically flat. As the branches grow, they will be braced horizontally and vertically so as to expand symmetrically in three dimensions ("pleaching") until the cube shape is obtained.
Andre Lamar Henderson, 30, was arrested after allegedly robbing a Madison Bank branch in Norristown, Pa., in June and coming away with $50; his holdup note had demanded "all your hundreds and fifties," and, as the teller later said, there was lots of money in the drawer but unfortunately for Henderson, no hundreds and only one fifty. And Knute Falk, 54, allegedly robbed a Bank of America in Beaverton, Ore., in June but was arrested when his getaway was delayed; he had demanded a bank customer's car keys, walked out, then returned after a minute or two, with his mask off, to ask the customer which key opens the door.
George Stanichuk, trying to convince a Boston Herald reporter in March of his innocence in his girlfriend's disappearance, insisted that the woman's having previously gotten a restraining order against him was not telltale evidence: In fact, he said, "every girl I've gone out with has put a restraining order against me." And in New Port Richey, Fla., in February, Robert Scott Schwartz, representing himself in a domestic violence hearing, admitted that he had beat his girlfriend for "a few minutes," slammed her head into the stove, pulled her hair, and stuck his thumbs into her eye sockets, but nonetheless turned to her in the courtroom and said, "I'm willing to overlook a lot of things if you can just get along with me."
In Albany, Ga., high school English teacher Carla Murray, 32, resigned after officials found a poem she had allegedly written to one of her students (among other notes that indicated an affair between the two). The poem: "The smell of your cologne mixed w/ sweat / The sounds you make while (omitted in the Associated Press story) / The touch of your hands / There's more, but I won't embarrass myself by mentioning them."
(1) Anti-smoking crusader Zhang Yue, 44, who has worked in 60 Chinese cities, arrived in Hong Kong in May to showcase his unique form of encouragement: He simply walks up to smokers on the street and yanks the cigarettes out of their mouths. (2) In May in West Greenwich, R.I., Jeffrey A. Stevens, 39, and two passengers were arrested after a car chase on Interstate 95 for possession of a stolen license plate; at one point in the chase, according to police, one passenger pulled down the back seat, crawled into the trunk, and when Stevens popped it open, reached up and, at 60 mph, unfastened the incriminating plate (which Stevens later tried to discard along the road).
Thanks This Week to Colin Rafferty and Jan Wolitzky, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
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