Lead Story

News of the Weird reported in 1998 on the medical use of maggots to eat dead flesh out of wounds. This October, scientists at the University of Bradford, in Yorkshire, England, reported that maggots also produce enzymes that accelerate healing and suggested that bandages containing maggot secretions might be able to provide these benefits while minimizing actual contact with live, wriggling maggots. And in September NewScientist.com reported on Dimitra Dodou, a researcher at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and her work to make intestinal examinations less painful. Other research teams have developed colonoscopy robots that crawl through the intestine on tiny legs, which Dodou said might potentially irritate or tear the delicate tissue; her robot is designed to move like a snail, gliding on the mucus that lines the intestinal canal.

Leading Economic Indicators

In October Reuters’s full-time correspondent in the online virtual world Second Life reported on a possible consequence of the booming in-game economy there: taxes. Players exchange real-world money for in-game money, which is then used to buy virtual goods and services from other players; as much as $500,000 changes hands every day, and Second Life’s GDP is estimated at a real-world $64 million. Currently, players run into real-world taxes only if they cash out, but a U.S. government economist said that a congressional committee would soon consider whether to start levying taxes on in-game income and assets that never leave the virtual economy.

According to a September Wall Street Journal article, a British Airways 747 flew from Los Angeles to the UK in February 2005 even though one of its four engines had caught on fire nine seconds into the flight; though originally bound for London, the plane made an emergency landing in Manchester when fuel ran low. Air traffic controllers in Los Angeles who’d seen flames pouring out of the engine were stunned when the pilot said he would contact the airline for instructions, then reported back that they’d decided “to set off on our flight plan route and get as far as we can.” Press accounts agreed there was no evidence that this decision was affected by a recent EU regulation requiring carriers to compensate passengers for significant delays.

A report made public in October revealed that thanks to the bonus structure used for some municipal employees in Birmingham, England, the workers who paint lines on the city’s streets earn the equivalent of $80,000 to $100,000 a year. Also in October, London’s Daily Mail profiled Keith Jackson, an employee of the Welsh industrial-paint manufacturer AquaTec Coatings whose job is to watch the company’s products dry. Specifically, he times how long it takes, which he said “can be stressful.”

People With Issues

In September emergency workers, wearing respirators because of the stench, removed a woman from her apartment in Macerata, Italy, where she’d sequestered herself for decades to avoid germs. According to various reports, after contracting the flu 26 years earlier the woman, now in her late 50s, sealed all her windows with tape and hadn’t been out since. Her brother, who said he hadn’t seen her in a decade, alerted authorities when health issues prevented him from continuing his regular deliveries of canned food to her doorstep. When rescued she weighed 66 pounds; her hair was seven feet long.

The Continuing Crisis

Emerging from a field that included deep-fried mac-and-cheese on a stick and a candy-filled burrito dipped in pancake batter and fried, the breakout snack food at this fall’s State Fair of Texas in Dallas was Abel Gonzales Jr.’s invention, fried Coke–deep-fried balls of a batter containing Coke syrup and strawberries, served in a cup and topped with more Coke syrup, whipped cream, and cinnamon sugar. Gonzales sold about 35,000 orders at the fair, and copycat recipes soon turned up at fairs in Arizona

and North Carolina.

Least Competent Criminals

Peggy Sue Hesskew, 44, was arrested in Kerrville, Texas, in November after she gave $100 to an undercover officer posing as a hit man, allegedly intending it to be a down payment for the murder of her ex-husband. The day before, the Kerrville Daily Times had reported in a front-page article (“Man solicited to kill ex-husband”) that local police were investigating an unnamed woman who they said had tried to hire someone to perform a very similar-sounding hit. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the judge at the hearing following her arrest asked her, “You don’t get the paper?” She reportedly replied, “I was out of town.”

Signs of the Times

Lawrence Roach of Seminole, Florida, told Tampa’s Bay News 9 in October that he would fight to change state alimony law. He said it was unfair that he was still making $1,200 payments each month to his ex-wife, who since their divorce had undergone a sex change. “I’m a man,” he said, “and I don’t want to pay alimony to a man.”

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weirdnewstips@yahoo.com. © 2006 Chuck Shepherd

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