September 19, 2012 | 10:36 AMRESEARCHERS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN
Scientists from the Primate Research Institute at Japan's Kyoto University reported in an August journal article that they had given helium gas to apes (gibbons), which, predictably, made their voices goofily high-pitched. But it was not a fraternity prank or lab assistant's initiation–it was a way for the scientists to determine whether the famously sonorous gibbons could yell just as loudly at a higher-than-natural pitch. The gibbons succeeded, showing a rare talent similar to that of the world's greatest human sopranos, who maintain their booming amplitude by altering the shape of their vocal tract, including their mouth and tongue.
The seaside city of Qingdao, China, is (as described in August by NPR) "not a vacation community for superheroes" even though many beachcombers wear masks while lounging and sunbathing. The garments are "face-kinis," or light cloth coverings that protect against the "terror of tanning." While Western cultures celebrate skin-darkening, many Chinese associate it with lower-status, outdoor occupations, and a pale skin suggests having lived a pampered life.
OF THE LAW
Italy's highest court ruled in July that one man's telling another, in front of others, that he has "no balls" can be criminal conduct that warrants payment of damages. Said Judge Maurizio Fumo, such a comment places at issue male virility as well as competence and character. And in August, after an eight-day trial, a court in Hamburg, Germany, awarded money damages to a man who called another an "asshole" ("arschloch") in a parking-space dispute and fixed the payment at the equivalent of about $75,000. (Courts in Germany can base the amount of damages on the transgressor's income.)
WOMEN'S RIGHTS, SAUDI STYLE
A Saudi Arabian agency is raising the equivalent of about $130 million to break ground in 2013 on an entire city to be managed and staffed by female employees, with three more such cities being contemplated. Raising women's employment rate is a goal of the kingdom, where until last year, nearly all jobs were held by foreigners and Saudi males, including jobs as sales clerks in women's lingerie shops.
MONEY CAN BUY YOU FREEDOM
A centuries-old practice of China's upper crust continues today, reported Slate.com in August, except with a bit more circumspection. Rich and/or powerful people on trial or convicted can still get away with hiring replacements to serve their sentences, but (because of ubiquitous Internet videos) only if the replacements facially resemble the perps. Since the rich person winds up paying for his conviction (though a relatively small price), Slate called the practice ("ding zui") sort of a "cap-and-trade" policy for crime.
LATEST RELIGIOUS MESSAGES
Prayer failed for Leslie Burton, 26, and Terrell Williams, 22, in St. Paul, Minn., in July. As they sat in the backseat of a police car while officers searched their own car, the pair, touching hands (according to the cruiser's video camera), quietly begged divine intervention that the guns in their car not be found. However, not only were the guns spotted, but a subsequent strip search revealed a baggie of suspected Ecstasy pills in Williams' rectum.
STEVE JOBS IS APPARENTLY DOING WELL
In August, an abbot at the Wat Phra Dhammakaya Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand, reported that Steve Jobs is doing well now as a "mid-level angel." He was reincarnated as "a half-Witthayathorn, half-Yak," which the Bangkok Post took to mean that Jobs continues to be a "giant" and a seeker of scientific knowledge and apparently resides in a "parallel universe" near his former office in Cupertino, Calif.
WOMEN'S RIGHTS, GERMAN STYLE
The mayor of Triberg, Germany, touted his town's new public parking area in July by noting that 12 of the spaces were wider, and well-lit, compared to the others, and would be reserved for female drivers. The harder-to-access "men's spaces" required maneuvering at an angle around concrete pillars. "(M)en are, as a rule, a little better at such challenges," the mayor said, predicting that the men's spots would become a visitors' "attraction" for the town.
LEAST COMPETENT PEOPLE
Lowell Turpin, 40, was arrested in Anderson County, Tenn., in July after he became jealously enraged at a stranger's photo on his live-in girlfriend's Facebook page and, demanding to know who the man is, allegedly punched her in the face and smashed her computer. According to the police report, it was a campaign photo of Mitt Romney.
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