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News of the Weird

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In May the daily newspaper at Stanford University reported on Hufu, a new tofu product designed to simulate the flavor and texture of human flesh. Mark Nuckols, the Dartmouth business student who developed Hufu and sells it online, acknowledged he had never tasted human flesh but said he'd based his recipe on descriptions in anthropology texts by those who have.

Expensive Decisions

The New York Times reported in April on a Japanese electronics company looking to sell its art collection--which included a Cezanne, a Picasso, and a van Gogh--that asked the auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's to play rock-paper-scissors to determine which would conduct the sale. (The writer said that making such decisions via games of chance is not unusual in Japan.) Christie's researched the psychology of the game and solicited advice from the 11-year-old twin daughters of one executive, then went with scissors. Sotheby's negotiators concluded the process was essentially random, didn't formulate a strategy, and lost out on millions in commissions by choosing paper. (One of the 11-year-olds later told the Times, "Everybody knows you always start with scissors.")

In July a judge ordered Lindy Heaster to pay $21,290 for having bought two newspapers at a 7-Eleven in Manassas, Virginia, in April; at the time, she was a member of a jury that later convicted Gerardo Lara of murder, and thus had been told to avoid reading or watching the news. The judge threw out the verdict and determined that Heaster should bear the cost of a second trial.

Leading Economic Indicators

In July Stephen Crawford, copresident of financial giant Morgan Stanley, accepted a deal allowing him to resign after only three months on the job and collect two years' worth of salary, or $32 million. A company director defended the arrangement, citing a need for "stability" following the departure of chief executive Philip Purcell, who had promoted Crawford in March, then accepted his own $113 million severance package in June.

In July in Lagos, Nigeria, Amaka Anajemba was fined and sentenced to 30 months in jail for her role in an international e-mail scam. The victim, a senior official at the Brazilian bank Banco Noroeste, transferred $242 million in bank funds into overseas accounts in exchange for the promise of a $13 million kickback on what proved to be a nonexistent contract to build an airport. (Most of the money has been recovered.)

The Massachusetts attorney general's office said in June that it was investigating whether longshoremen's unions in Boston have for years been putting their members' children (some not even three years old) on the payroll so they'll start building seniority and thus be eligible for higher wages when they're actually old enough to work. Also in June, the BBC reported that under a system in India that guarantees a job for one relative of any government employee who dies while in service, children as young as five are currently working at Indian police stations; their responsibilities are largely confined to filing and serving tea.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

In April the BBC reported on British inventors James Shippen and Barbara May and their creation the Indipod: a small chemical toilet inside an opaque inflatable bubble, designed for use in a minivan or SUV. They planned to test it by driving 2,000 miles from northern Scotland to southern Italy without ever getting out of the car.

Ironies

In July Lisa Berzins, 49, a nationally known psychologist and expert on eating disorders, was arrested in a convenience store in West Hartford, Connecticut; according to police she'd passed out after inhaling the propellant from three cans of whipped cream. In June the Virginia Employment Commission announced it was laying off 400 of its employees; federal funding has dried up because the state's unemployment rate is so low. And Todd Christian, 26, a human cannonball with the UK's Cottle & Austen Circus, also lost his job in June; the circus wanted to send him on an injury-rehab assignment in Brazil, but he refused because he's afraid to fly.

Least Competent Criminals

According to police in Winona, Minnesota, Thomas Mason robbed a bank in June using a holdup note that began, "Hi, I am Thomas Mason." Officers found him about 20 minutes later behind a nearby liquor store with a wad of cash, a case of beer, and $100 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets. Also in June, Henrick Alemba Kutwa, 29, was arrested in Durham, North Carolina, for repeated use of a stolen credit card; he was caught when he allegedly tried to use the card at a motel but accidentally signed the receipt with his own name.

Oops!

In April off-duty San Antonio police officer Craig Clancy was lowering his pants to use a public toilet when his pistol fell out of his waistband; as he tried to recover the gun it went off twice, sending a fragment of floor tile into the leg of a man washing his hands nearby.

A professor at England's University of Birmingham, part of a team working to decipher third-century manuscripts containing the earliest known copy of the New Testament, announced in April that the number associated with the Antichrist in the Book of Revelation is probably not 666 but 616.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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