Lead Story

In an August event staged in Austin, Texas, to publicize the use of liposuctioned fat as a source of adult stem cells, plastic surgeon Robert Ersek had a video crew film him as he gave himself local anesthetic and then vacuumed a pound and a half of fat out of the left side of his own abdomen. The five-foot-six, 200-pound Ersek told reporters he would urge his patients to save their fat for a time in the near future when, he and others believe, stem cells will be used to fight disease and aid recovery from injury. (He also said he would leave his right side alone for now to make his body a before-and-after display for liposuction candidates.)

Japanese Fad Update

According to a Japan Times article in August, habitats for very low-maintenance pets are currently popular among Tokyo twenty- and thirty-somethings: The Antquarium is a five-inch-high ant farm filled with a nutritious blue-green gel suitable for both tunneling in and eating (the price, about $30, doesn’t include ants). Holo Holo is a small plastic tank of algae- and mineral-fortified water containing five or so tiny scarlet shrimp; the water never has to be changed, and the shrimp never have to be fed (besides the algae, they eat the bodies of other shrimp as they die off).

Only for Me, Not for Thee

The July 2004 issue of Smithsonian reported on ecology-minded architect Paolo Soleri and Arcosanti, the anticonsumerist community he’s been building in the Arizona desert for over 30 years as an expression of his belief that either “the single-family home, and suburbia with it, goes–or we humans go.” Later in the article it’s revealed that Soleri himself lives in a two-bedroom ranch house in Scottsdale.

Bright Ideas

Believing that a costumed mascot along the lines of McGruff the Crime Dog will help Iraqi police educate kids about law enforcement, U.S. marines at Camp Al Asad, Iraq, have developed a character named “Farid the Crime-Fighting Falcon.” As reported in an August item in Marine Corps News, Corporal Justin Weber puts on a brown falcon suit, flaps his arms, and squawks to demonstrate the character to Iraqi officers, who, the article says, have found it “difficult to grasp where a bird costume fits into their line of work.”

In July police in Niles, Ohio, came to the assistance of a 50-year-old man who was having trouble breathing, soon after which officials declared the man’s house unfit for human habitation. The house contained human and pet feces, said zoning inspector Anthony Vigorito, and a portable toilet had been installed in the living room.

Now That’s Corruption

According to a July article in the Boston Globe, a Palestinian investigation has concluded that Palestinian Authority officials helped local businessmen buy 420,000 tons of Egyptian cement at a discount–obtained through a guarantee that it would be used only to rebuild Palestinian communities–and then sell it at a huge tax-free markup to Israel for use in constructing its controversial “security wall” in the West Bank.

Just Fed Up

In Nevada City, California, in August, Bobbie Lynne Warren, 44, allegedly fired three shots at her boyfriend, Kevin Denson, 43, because although they’ve been together long enough to have an 18-year-old daughter, he’s never proposed. One of the arresting officers reported that on the way to jail Warren asked him to explain why no one had ever proposed to her, then asked if he would propose to her.

Least Competent Criminals

Stephen C. Jackson, wanted for bank robbery, was arrested in August after he was spotted at the Ultimate Car Wash in Lakewood, Ohio, feeding one red-dye-stained bill after another into the change machine. When a squad car pulled up, Jackson tried to run but didn’t get far, possibly because of the 23 pounds of quarters–about $950 worth–in the pockets of his jacket. Police and FBI tied him to several bank holdups, including one earlier that day in Cleveland.

Least Competent Animals

In August a local news crew in Evansville, Indiana, was filming a police search for a fugitive gunman when a tracking dog suddenly abandoned the trail, leaped on innocent bystander John Terry, a resident of a nearby retirement community, and bit his right arm.

Recurring Themes

Once again a child survived with apparently minimal injuries after being impaled on a stake: Jason Curtis, 9, bounced off a trampoline in Camanche, Iowa, in August and onto a metal pole, which entered his chest through his left armpit, barely missing his heart, lungs, and spine. He later told reporters, “I didn’t feel any pain except when the stake tried to push out of my back.” And once again a cashier accepted a flagrantly bogus piece of currency: in August, Kathryn Miller, a clerk at a Fashion Bug store in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, noticed nothing suspicious when a customer paid for a $99 purchase with a $200 bill bearing the image of George W. Bush.

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