Fourteen employees of a Framingham, Massachusetts, pharmacy were indicted in December for defrauding the federal government by filling bogus prescriptions (despite an owner’s explicit instructions to staff that the fake customers’ names “must resemble real names,” with “no obviously false names” that might tip off law enforcement). Among the names later found on the customer list of the New England Compounding Center were: Baby Jesus, Hugh Jass, L.L. Bean, Filet O’Fish, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Harry Potter, Coco Puff, Mary Lamb, all of the Baldwin brother actors, and a grouping of Bud Weiser, Richard Coors, Raymond Rollingrock and, of course, Samuel Adams. The indictments were part of an investigation of a 2012 meningitis outbreak in which 64 people died.
Two recent innovations to the generations-old Middle East sport of camel racing boosted its profile. First, to cleanse the sport of a sour period in which children from Bangladesh were trafficked to use as jockeys, owners have begun using “robot” jockeys — electronic dummies that respond to trainers tracking the races with walkie-talkies (growling encouragement directly into camels’ ears) and joysticks (that trigger a whip at an appropriate time). Second, the firm Al Shibla Middle East of United Arab Emirates has introduced lycra-style, whole-body camel coverings that are believed to enhance blood circulation and, perhaps, racing speed (although the fashions are now used only in training and transportation, to lessen camels’ “stress”). Ultimately, of course, the coverings may carry advertising.
The new normal
In Phoenix in early 2014, Kevin (last name withheld), age 5, was viciously mauled by Mickey, a pit bull, necessitating multiple surgeries, leaving him with lingering pain and disfiguring facial scars, and he still requires extensive care. While Kevin’s trauma makes him live in gloom, Mickey has become a Phoenix celebrity after an outpouring of support from 75,000 people kept him from being euthanized for the assault. He lives now in a “no-kill” shelter, where his many supporters can track him on a 24-hour Internet “Mickey cam.” KSAZ-TV reported in December that Kevin’s mom had to quit her job to care for him and struggles to pay medical bills.
In October, vandals in Paris destroyed the large, inflatable “Tree” by U.S. artist Paul McCarthy in the city’s Place Vendome square, but not before it became widely characterized as a gigantic green “plug” of the type used for anal sexual stimulation. Paris’ news website The Local reported in December that the controversy has been a boon to the city’s sex shops. “We used to sell around 50 (plugs) a month,” said one wholesaler. “Since the controversy, we’ve moved more than a thousand.”
It was billed as the first-ever art exhibition expressly for nonhuman appreciation — specifically, for examination by octopuses. England’s Brighton Sea Life Center featured the five-tank shared display in November (including a bunch of grapes, a piece of Swiss cheese and a plate of spaghetti — exhibits made of ceramic, plastic, wood and rope) that the center’s curator promised would, according to an ITV report, “stimulate an octopus’s natural curiosity about color, shape and texture.”
“All I’m looking for is what’s rightfully owed to me under the (corrections department) contract,” said Westchester County (New York) corrections officer Jesus Encarnacion, after having drawn $1.2 million in disability salary for the last 17 years as a result of slipping on a leaf of lettuce on a stairway. When he fell, he jammed his wrist and several surgeries ensued, and when he was finally ready for “light duty” a few years ago, he re-injured the wrist on the first day and never returned. Encarnacion now seeks a full disability retirement from the state, but officials maintain that “disability retirement” is for injuries resulting only from the rigors of the job.
When a dump truck and a municipal bus collided around 1 p.m. on Jan. 5 in downtown Phoenix, it of course drew the attention of the passengers, bystanders, motorists and nearby construction workers. According to a report in the Arizona Republic, an unidentified man then immediately seized the moment, ran out from some bushes to the center of the commotion and flashed the crowd before running away.
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