Monkey see, monkey due 

In February, a group of scientists and lawyers in New Zealand proposed legislation to give near-"human" rights to gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans because they are so genetically close to humans. Only the most mild, benign experiments could be conducted on them. Opponents feared that such rights might eventually extend to other animals and even to ordinary lab rats, which would significantly frustrate medical research.

Dishing it out

In May a jury in Birmingham, Ala., ruled in favor of Barbara Carlisle and her parents in their lawsuit against two companies responsible for charging them 18 months' more payments than what the salesman originally promised for two satellite dishes, a total overcharge of $1,224. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $581 million.

The whole girth catalog

Inventor Dr. Alla Venkata Krishna Reddy, called by one sex boutique owner "the Leonardo da Vinci of the condom," is embroiled in a patent dispute in a Newark, N.J., court because he has turned out two different models that threaten to revolutionize condom use through built-in bulges that increase sensitivity. According to an April New York Times story, financial backers of Dr. Reddy's earlier Pleasure Plus condom say that Reddy copied the basic design with his new Inspiral condom and have tied up the Inspiral with a request for injunction, but Dr. Reddy points out that the Pleasure Plus uses a pouch for friction while the Inspiral uses a "shock-absorber" effect.

Eating light

In March, Bruce Bryan of Pittsburgh received a patent (though not yet Food and Drug Administration approval) for making food that glows, using a substance taken from jellyfish and fireflies.

Boom economy

The Asian Wall Street Journal reported in April that a Muslim organization in Jakarta, Indonesia, has decided to establish a formal recruiting and registration office for suicide bombers, complete with brochures and promises of training in teaching and first aid. "We got 600 applicants in two days," said the office director.

Skin Deepak

The New York Times reported in January on the booming market in spiritual cosmetics, which sellers say will lead consumers to greater confidence and knowledge of the higher self, through bubble bath, lipstick, night cream, color therapy, etc. One manufacturer cited had originally invented chakra nail polish and other items as an ironic commentary on the beauty business but then rolled out a complete cosmetics line when he found how wildly popular his products were.

Secret service

Ronnie Brock's Alibi Agency (membership fee: about $35) opened in March in Blackpool, England, to help clients produce fake receipts, invitations, telephone calls, etc., to cover up illicit romantic liaisons. Brock is certain that his agency supplies the social benefit of keeping couples together, in that in "99 percent" of affairs, the participants return to their original partners provided that the affair has remained secret.

You're so vein

Engineers at Imperial College in London, England, recently produced a blood-extracting robot that they believe is more accurate than humans at finding a vein and properly inserting a needle, according to an April New Scientist story. Human blood-drawers often act as if all arms and veins are the same, but Imperial's robots examine the skin, tissue and vein size using highly sensitive instruments. On the other hand, at Trinity University in Hartford, Conn., an April exhibition of stand-alone robots was for the most part impressive, according to a Knight-Ridder News Service story, but included a number of robot firefighters that walked directly into the flames.

Wave of support

A legislative proposal in California pending from last year, called the Open Waves Act, would guarantee that local surfers had no greater right to a wave than visiting surfers. (At times on California beaches, surfers brawl over waves, using their boards as clubs.)

Speaking of News Of The Weird

More by Chuck Shepherd


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