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Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

Oct. 10, 2013
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Recurring Themes

  • It is well known that hospitals charge for medical supplies far in excess of what the products would cost at drug stores, but an August New York Times investigation of “saline drips” vividly demonstrated the disconnect. Though Medicare reimburses $1.07 for a 1-liter plastic bag of saltwater (supplied by a subsidiary of Morton Salt), White Plains (N.Y.) Hospital charged patients’ insurance companies like Aetna $91 per bag. Other hospitals decline to charge per bag, listing only “IV therapy” of, for example, $787 for hooking up the drip.
  • Another Hard-Working Lawyer: The Dayton Daily News reported in September that an audit of Dayton lawyer Ben Swift (the highest-paid court-appointed public defender in Ohio, at $142,900 in a recent year) revealed several invoices demanding government payment for workdays of more than 20 hours, and in one case, 29. Swift’s attorney said his client was guilty only of bad record keeping.
  • In 2010, Chinese agencies stepped up “birth tourism” packages for rich pregnant women to book vacations in America timed to their due dates—to exploit the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of citizenship to anyone born here and thus giving the Chinese children future competitive advantages against non-Americans who must apply for U.S. visas. A September USA Today report indicated that more Chinese mothers now prefer to land in the U.S. territory of Northern Mariana Islands (where birth also bestows citizenship), to the consternation of Islands officials, who would prefer traditional Chinese tourists instead of the “birthers.”


  • The family of the great Native American Olympic athlete and Oklahoma native Jim Thorpe (1888-1953) was so disappointed that the then-governor of Oklahoma would not properly honor Thorpe on his death that one faction of his family moved the body to Pennsylvania, where he had no discernible ties but where municipal officials eagerly offered to name a town after him. Since then, Jim Thorpe, Pa. (current population, 4,800), has withstood legal challenges seeking to return the body to Oklahoma, including a recent federal court decision upholding the entire town as a Native American “museum.” One grandson said that Thorpe spoke to him at a sweat lodge in Texas in 2010, telling him to leave the body in Jim Thorpe, with “no more pain created in my name.”
  • The Raëlian sect initially made News of the Weird in 1998 when “Bishop” Brigitte Boisselier ran a human-cloning startup planning to charge $200,000 to make identical twins. One of Raëlism’s core beliefs is that humanity descended from extraterrestrials arriving on spaceships whose inhabitants explained to Raëlian founder Claude Vorilhon that life’s purpose is to experience sexual pleasure. Recently, a Raëlian “priestess,” Nadine Gary, has turned the sect’s attention to counseling victims of the anti-pleasure female genital mutilation, which, though horrifyingly painful, remains traditional among some African societies, and enlisted a prominent U.S. surgeon to undo the procedure, pro bono. Wrote London’s The Guardian, in an August dispatch from the surgeon’s San Francisco clinic, “(J)ust 12 minutes of delicate scalpel work (to restore the clitoris) removes a lifetime of discomfort.”
  • The story of Kopi Luwak coffee is by now a News of the Weird staple, begun in 1993 with the first reports that a super-premium market existed for coffee beans digested by certain Asian civet cats, collected, washed and brewed. In June, news broke that civets were being mistreated—captured from the wild and caged solely for their bean-adulterating usefulness. In July the American Chemical Society reported that a “gas chromatography and mass spectrometry” test had finally been developed to assure buyers that their $227-a-pound Kopi Luwak beans had, indeed, been excreted by genuine Asian civets. (Thus, Kopi Luwak drinkers, paying up to $80 a cup in California, can sip their brews without fear of being ripped off.)



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