The Wall Street Journal reported in November on the high-tech bra lab set up recently in Bagualing, China, by the Chinese lingerie maker Top Form, supplier for brands including Victoria's Secret, Playtex, and Maidenform; according to David Morris, who teaches brassiere studies at De Montfort University in Leicester, England, Chinese manufacturers have moved into the forefront of compression-molded seamless bra construction, and Polytechnic University in Hong Kong introduced its own bra studies program this year. Meanwhile, responding in part to the increase in average bra size that's accompanied the American obesity epidemic, biomechanists Deirdre McGhee and Julie Steele at Australia's University of Wollongong (profiled in the November issue of Discover) are at work on a "smart bra" that can detect breast motion and provide increased support only when needed.
Leading Economic Indicators
After the Securities and Exchange Commission announced it was investigating a particularly well-timed stock sale by Senate majority leader Bill Frist, an October column in the New Yorker pointed out that while beating the market by 2 or 3 percent a year is considered a superstar performance for a mutual-fund manager, a study conducted at Georgia State University found that between 1993 and '98 U.S. senators as a group beat the market by 12 percent annually.
Our Animal Friends
The Associated Press reported in November that according to a Department of Agriculture entomologist and a researcher at the University of Georgia, certain wasps can, after five minutes of training, detect drugs, bombs, and dead bodies as well as dogs can. Also in November, the news service Deutsche Welle reported on a 50-year-old woman in Freiburg, Germany, who first learned of her husband's infidelity when their parrot, Hugo, began to imitate the husband's voice calling out for someone named Uta.
Readers' choice: In November, staff at a television studio in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, had spent several weeks setting up millions of dominoes in preparation for an attempt on the Guinness falling-domino record when a sparrow flew through an open window and into the array. About 23,000 dominoes were knocked over before one of 750 gaps built into the chain stopped the collapse. An exterminator was summoned, cornered the bird, and shot it with an air rifle. Following outcry from animal-rights groups, the exterminator was fined the equivalent of $237, the TV station broadcasting the attempt (which was successful, establishing a new record at 4,155,476 dominoes) also aired a tribute to the bird, and a science museum in Rotterdam announced it would preserve and exhibit the bird's remains.
In September, a veery--a thrushlike songbird native to the Americas and almost never seen in the UK--was sighted in Britain's Shetland Islands. Excited local bird-watchers trapped and tagged the bird, Scotland's Daily Record reported, but a few hours later a local cat ate it.
Fetishes on Parade
In August, Christopher Bjerkness, 27, pleaded guilty to property damage and burglary after using a knife to slash more than 90 large rubber exercise balls at two health centers in Duluth, Minnesota. A hospital official said that a new security camera system had been installed and hours of overtime paid to catch the ball slasher. According to the Duluth News Tribune, police said Bjerkness told them he did it to "satisfy a sexual urge."
Update: Sung Koo Kim, 31, admitted to stealing bras and panties from college dormitory laundry rooms in McMinnville, Oregon, and was sentenced in November to 68 months in prison. As News of the Weird reported last year, police who searched Kim's residence in June 2004 found more than 3,000 undergarments, as well as a collection of dryer lint in labeled plastic bags.
Least Competent Criminals
Michael Drennon, 26, was charged in October with robbing a Wachovia Bank in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. The holdup note left at the scene was written on a pay stub bearing Drennon's name and address; though the information had been crossed out with a black marker, authorities said they had no trouble reading it: "We just put it under a light." And Louis Jasick, 34, knocked on the door of the police station in Fruitport, Michigan, in November to ask for help with an item needed for a scavenger hunt: a picture of a cop eating a doughnut. Officers were initially obliging, but in the course of exchanging pleasantries, Jasick volunteered his name; recognizing it from two outstanding felony warrants for failure to pay child support, the officers invited Jasick in, then arrested him.
News of the Weird has reported several times on men who, believing themselves to be a child's biological father, agree to provide support upon separating from the mother, but then find themselves legally obligated to continue providing support after a DNA test proves otherwise. In November a Saskatchewan appeals court upheld a lower court's ruling that a man had to keep paying support for his stepdaughter even though his ex-wife had remarried the girl's biological father.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.