Richard Handl, 31, was arrested in southern Sweden in July after a raid on his home. He had been trying for months to set up a nuclear reactor in his kitchen, but became alarmed when a brew of americium, tritium and beryllium created a nuclear meltdown on his stove. Only then, he said, did it occur to him to ask the country’s Radiation Authority if what he was doing was legal, and the subsequent police raid answered that question. No dangerous radiation level was detected, but Handl still faces fines and a maximum two-year prison sentence for unauthorized possession of nuclear materials.
The Entrepreneurial Society
For the Self-Indulgent: (1) The fashion designer Chandrashekar Chawan recently created gold-plated, diamond-studded contact lenses that make eyes “sparkle” (not always a good thing, admitted Chawan, citing reviews calling the look “cringeworthy” and “demonic”). According to an MSNBC report, the “bling” part never actually touches the cornea. (2) Among the trendiest avant-garde beauty treatments are facial applications made from snail mucus, according to a July report by London’s Daily Mail. South Korean glamour consultants were the first to use mollusk extract’s generous moisturizing properties, though a dermatologist warned (on NBC’s “Today” show) that no “controlled” studies have yet demonstrated snail-goo superiority.
Leading Economic Indicators
• Augustin James Evangelista is only 4 years old, but he nevertheless has certain financial needs — which amount to about $46,000 a month, according to the child-support request filed by his mother, “supermodel” Linda Evangelista. A Wall Street Journal reporter concluded that the figure is about right for rich kids in New York City, what with needing a driver, designer clothes, around-the-clock nannies and various personalized lessons. And soon, according to a consultant-to-the-rich interviewed in August by the Journal, Augustin James will become even more expensive, as he graduates from his exclusive preschool and enters his exclusive kindergarten.
• The highest-paid state government employee in budget-strapped California in 2010 was among the least productive workers in the system, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation reported in July. Jeffrey Rohlfing is on the payroll as a surgeon in the state prison system (base pay: $235,740), but he has been barred from treating inmates for the last six years because supervisors believe him to be incompetent. Last year, Dr. Rohlfing earned an additional $541,000 in back pay after he successfully appealed his firing to the state’s apparently easily persuaded Personnel Board. Currently, Dr. Rohlfing is assigned records-keeping duties.
• (1) Colorado inmate Daniel Self filed a federal lawsuit in July against the Sterling Correctional Facility because prison personnel saved his life. They revived him after he had stopped breathing from an attack of sleep apnea, but he contends he had previously demanded to officials that he never be resuscitated, preferring to die rather serve out his life sentence. (2) Terry Barth complained to hospital officials that he was “kidnapped” by paramedics and thus cannot be liable for the $40,000 he has been billed by Enloe Medical Center in Chico, Calif., where he was brought by ambulance following a motorcycle crash in August 2010. Barth said he had insisted at the scene that paramedics not take him to a hospital because he had no medical insurance. (Paramedics are legally required to take anyone with a serious head injury.)
• The first published instance of a woman’s nipple appearing on the sole of her foot was noted in a 2006 report in the journal Dermatology and reprised in a series of U.S. and British press reports in July 2011. The reporting physicians, led by Dr. Delio Marques Conde, acknowledged that out-of-place breast tissue, while extremely rare, has shown up before on the back, shoulder, face and thigh. The foot nipple was “well-formed,” with areola and sebaceous glands.
• British college student Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones, 19, recently had her tongue surgically lengthened just so she could better pronounce the Korean letter “L.” London’s Daily Mail reported in August that the student had become fascinated with Korean culture and intends to live and work in South Korea eventually — and would need to speak like a native to succeed. She is now satisfied that she does.
Our Animal Sidekicks
• Ruth Adams called on Northampton College in central England to measure the purring sound of her gray-and-white tabby cat, Smokey, aiming for a Guinness World Record. The result, she told The Associated Press in March, was 73 decibels, many multiples louder than the average cat’s purr and about as noisy, according to the AP, as “busy traffic, a hair dryer or a vacuum cleaner.” (According to cat-ologists, Smokey’s purring could reflect either extreme happiness or extreme stress.)
• What took them so long to think of this? “Most wineries rely on the human nose [to detect out-of-place odors],” said the vintner of the Australian boutique wine Linnaea, “but that is time-consuming, costly, and nowhere as reliable as Belle.” Miss Louisa Belle is a 7-year-old bloodhound possessing, of course, a nose that is reportedly 2,000 times more sensitive than the human nose. Her primary job, the vintner told Melbourne’s Herald Sun in July, is to sniff out tainted corks during the bottling process.
Pervs on Parade
• At a medical board hearing in Manchester, England, in August, anesthesia consultant Dr. Narendra Sharma was accused of placing the hand of a sedated female patient underneath the operating table so that he could fondle his own private parts using a “stranger’s” touch. Two medical workers claimed to have seen him, one of whom said she saw Sharma “exposed.” Sharma explained later that his pants had inadvertently fallen down during one procedure because a previous patient had kicked loose the tape holding them up.
Least Competent People
— (1) Police in Roseville, Mich., arrested a 24-year-old roofer in August and charged him with reckless driving after he hit four cars. He had noticed that his brakes had failed but unadvisedly tried to drive on, anyway, by extending his left leg out the driver’s side door and braking “manually” (yes, as in “The Flintstones”). According to police, the man was completely sober. (2) In Durango, Colo., Sean Ogden, 19, was seriously burned in July when he tried to break down fireworks he had purchased in order to build even bigger ones. He was mixing them in a coffee-bean grinder.
• Two hundred ethnic groups in Cameroon still practice painful “breast ironing,” affecting one-fourth of the puberty-age girls in the country, according to a July CNN dispatch. The situation has barely changed from when News of the Weird mentioned it in 2006. Mothers flatten their daughters’ breasts with a fire-hot pestle to make them less sexually desirable and thus more likely to stay in school and avoid early pregnancy. (In America, ironically, The New York Times reported two weeks later that spa-indulgent women are complaining about “creases” in their breasts — from sleep posture that creates unsightly “cleavage wrinkles” visible in low-neckline fashions. Several remedial products are available to help women keep their breasts separated, and thus smooth, at night.)
A News of the Weird Classic (March 1997)
• In 1978 the Oakland Raiders’ Jack Tatum made a vicious “clothesline” hit on New England Patriots’ receiver Darryl Stingley’s neck, causing permanent paralysis. At the time, Tatum arrogantly defended the play as legal and warned other opponents that they could expect the same from him. However, in January 1997, Tatum applied for disability benefits of $156,000 a year from the NFL Players’ Association, pointing to the mental anguish he has suffered having to live with the incident. (The $156,000 was, in 1997, the highest-payout category and was the same category that Stingley was in.) (Update: Tatum died in 2010, Stingley in 2007.)