News of the Wierd BY: Chuck Shepherd

Lead Story

At press time, Melinda Arnold, 34, was waiting to hear whether her mother would be accepted as an organ donor for her daughter — with the organ being the mom’s womb. Melinda (a nurse from Melbourne, Australia) was born without one (though with healthy ovaries and eggs), and if the transplant by Swedish surgeon Mats Brannstrom of Gothenburg University is successful, and Melinda later conceives, her baby will be nurtured in the very same uterus in which Melinda, herself, was nurtured. (Womb transplants have been performed in rats and, with limited success, from a deceased human donor.)

Government in Action

• A British manufacturer, BCB International, is flourishing, buoyed by sales of its Kevlar underwear, at $65 a pair, to U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, soldiers and Marines must buy them directly; the “Bomb Boxers” are not supplied by the Pentagon even though nearly 10 percent of battlefield explosive-device injuries result in sometimes-catastrophic genital and rectal damage. According to an October report in Talking Points Memo, the Pentagon’s currently issued protection is inferior to BCB’s but is less expensive. (Although the Pentagon fully funds post-injury prostheses and colostomies, it could purchase about 7,700 Bomb Boxers for the price of a single Tomahawk missile.)

• In what a cement company executive said is “one of those bureaucratic things that doesn’t make any sense,” the city of Detroit recently built wheelchair ramps at 13 intersections along Grandy Street, despite knowing that those ramps are either not connected to sidewalks or connected to seldom-used, badly crumbling sidewalks. The ramps were required by a 2006 lawsuit settlement in which Detroit pledged to build ramps on any street that gets re-paved, as Grandy was. (No one in city government thought, apparently, to attempt a trade of these 13 intersections for paving 13 more-widely used ones in the city.)

• A Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV investigation revealed in September and October the astonishing result that Illinois laws passed in 1997 and 2007 at the behest of organized labor have given at least three former union leaders lifetime government pensions as if they had been city or state employees, totaling an estimated drain on public budgets of about $7 million. Two teachers’ union officials were allowed to teach exactly one day to qualify, and an engineers’ union official was hired for exactly one day, with the remainder of the service of the three having been on the payroll of the respective unions. A September Tribune report estimated that perhaps 20 other union officials might have been eligible under similar provisions.

Great Art!

• It was haute couture meeting haute cuisine at the Communication Museum in Berlin in November, as prominent German chef Roland Trettl introduced his fashions (displayed on live models) made from food, including a tunic of octopus, a miniskirt of seaweed, a trouser suit made with lean bacon, a scarf of squid ink pasta, and a hat woven from lettuce. The museum director (presumably without irony) said the items were “provocative” and “raise(d) questions.”

• Veteran New York City performance artist Marni Kotak, 36, gave birth to her first child, Ajax, on Oct. 25 — and that was her “art,” as the birth took place at the Microscope Gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y., after Kotak had moved into the space two weeks earlier to interact with visitors. Previously, Kotak had “re-enacted,” as her “art,” both her own birth and the loss of her virginity in the back seat of a car. (A New York Times report suggested that Kotak might not be the most extreme performer in her family. Her artist-husband, Jason Martin, makes videos in which he dresses as a wolf or dog and “conducts séance-like rituals intended to contact the half-animal, half-human creatures that visited him in dreams as a child.”)

Police Report

• Cutting-Edge Policing: Officials in Prince George’s County, Md., reported that crime had fallen as much as 23 percent during the first nine months of 2011 — the result, they said, of holding meetings with 67 of the most likely recidivist offenders in five neighborhoods and sweet-talking them. The 67 were offered help in applying for various government and volunteer programs, but were told they would be watched more closely by patrols.

• Milestone: Joseph Wilson, 50, was chased by police and arrested in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in October and charged with shoplifting from a Bealls department store. It was his 100th arrest — although prosecutors are batting only .353 against him (35-for-99). (Wilson’s getaway was delayed when he jumped into the passenger seat of an idling SUV and ordered the driver to “Take off!” but the driver did not.)

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