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News of the weird

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Lead Story: One party active in the recent elections in India's Uttar Pradesh state represents the interests of "dead" people. Lal Bihari, 48, works on behalf of an estimated 40,000 living people who have been victims of relatives having declared them legally dead, usually in order to inherit their property, and once the government accepts such a declaration, the legal system in India is too slow, crowded and corrupt to bring that person back to "life." Bihari himself "officially" died in 1976, and despite several schemes (such as kidnapping a cousin in order to be arrested and thus proven to be living), he remained "dead" until his proof of life was accepted in 2004.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit! Among the latest of Taipei's quirkily styled restaurants (according to an April Reuters dispatch) is the D.S. Music hospital-themed eatery, where diners sit around beds, are served by "nurses," and drink from IV lines hooked up to "medicine" in containers hung from the ceiling.

Leading Economic Indicator: The Japanese company Kongo Gumi closed its doors at the end of 2006, the victim of having borrowed too much money in the 1990s for the country's real-estate boom. Kongo Gumi had been under continuous ownership of the same family since the year 578, according to Business Week, which noted that for more than 1,400 of those years, Kongo Gumi had stuck to its signature business of building Buddhist temples, and failed only when it branched out into the unfamiliar field of real estate.

New Frontiers in Medicine: A woman in Columbia University's hospital had her gallbladder removed in March not by traditional abdominal surgery but by running instruments through her vagina, according to an April New York Times report. Doctors said that abdominal-muscle cuts are painful and slow to heal, and that surgeons are considering using the body's other natural openings, also, for some procedures. (In a landmark 2004 operation, doctors in India removed a patient's appendix through the mouth.)

Weird Science: A team of biologists from Yale University and the University of Sheffield in England reported in April that some species of ducks have genitalia so complex that they provide the female with unusually effective mating control. Both the male and female sex organs are sort of corkscrew-shaped, but the female's spirals in the opposite direction, allowing her (in the event of rape or opportunistic, nonmating sex) to "lock down" her procreative organs. Only when the female relaxes, the researchers point out, can sperm approach her eggs.

Least Competent Jailers: Timothy Rouse, 19 (and who had been charged with assaulting an elderly person), was matter-of-factly released from the Kentucky Correctional and Psychiatric Center in LaGrange in April after jailers accepted as official a crudely written, ungrammatical fax ordering him freed, supposedly from the state Supreme Court but whose originating line clearly showed a local grocery store. Furthermore, it took the jailers two weeks to realize they had been scammed. (Fortunately, Rouse was easily rearrested at his mother's house.)

Update: Zoo, a movie about men in quasi-romantic relationships with animals (based on the notorious farm near Enumclaw, Wash., that was the site of the 2005 death (from receptive sex) of a horse-lover), was released in April, and is generally not judgmental toward the human characters, according to a May review in Slate.com. "[Zoophilia]'s just like if you love your wife," said one of the men, and, "You're connecting with another intelligent being," said another. The characters throw parties that resemble mundane, all-male, suburban nights out. "These were people I could trust," said one. "I'd invite them to my home. [I] did ... Thanksgiving, I did Christmas dinners." However, noted the reviewer, the bonhomie was interrupted when one suggested, "Hey, let's go out to the barn and pester the animals."

News That Sounds Like a Joke: 1) In April, a woman in Braintree, England, took her 2-and-a-half-year-old son to local firefighters (according to a Reuters dispatch) to ask if they would remove the toilet seat that had become tightly stuck to his head. (No explanation was reported.) 2) In February, Norwegian artist Jan Christensen placed his latest work, "Relative Value," at a gallery in Oslo, but it was quickly stolen (and hardly surprisingly, in that the piece contained about $16,300 worth of Norwegian money stuck to it).

© 2007 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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