What is believed to be the world's only commercial lounge openly serving cocaine operates in La Paz, Bolivia, though the owners of "Route 36" have to change locations from time to time, depending on the moods of the bribed authorities. An August dispatch in London's The Guardian reported that a nearly pure gram costs the equivalent of about $14 ($22 for "premium"), served by waiters in an empty CD case, with straws, but bar drinks are also available. Route 36 is well-known to backpacking tourists. Recalled one waiter, "We had some Australians; they stayed here for four days. (T)he only time they left was to go to the ATM."
• Small Town: In Jericho, Ark., alleged harassment by cops got so bad, according to an Associated Press report, that the fire chief went to court twice in the same day in August to complain about speed traps. The chief's charge angered the seven officers attending the hearing, and a courtroom scuffle ensued, resulting in the chief's being shot in the back and hospitalized. WMC-TV reported that the shooter has not been charged but that an arrest warrant has been issued for the chief, who was then fired by the mayor. The police force has been disbanded by the Crittenden County sheriff, and all firefighters have resigned.
• Big City: George Vera, who weighs nearly 600 pounds, was booked into jail in Houston in August and was in custody for more than 24 hours before he casually informed cops that they had missed finding the 9 mm handgun and two clips that were hidden in his rolls of fat.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit!
• Questionable Business Model: In September, in downtown Longview, Wash., a 23-year-old man held up a sign offering to be kicked in the groin for $5. He made one sale before police, acting on a complaint, made him move on.
• Fierce Competition: (1) Police in Broome, Australia, reported in September that a five-year feud between two rival camel-ride vendors in the Cable Beach resort area had erupted again, this time involving allegations of camel theft and tossed camel dung. (2) In July, as the legal brothel business declined precipitously in Germany, owners adopted such gimmicks as free shoe-polishing and discounts for retirees. However, when several brothels began offering flat-rate plans (based on restaurants' all-you-can-eat model), police cracked down, judging them as a little too excessive.
• Questionable Products: (1) The Spanish toymaker Berjuan has introduced a doll that suckles from a halter worn by young girls who want to mimic their breastfeeding mothers. The Bebe Gloton is not expected to be available in the U.S. until 2010 but is being shown worldwide on YouTube. Americans appear to regard breastfeeding, in general, as much more provocative than Europeans do. (2) The Brazilian company Petsmiling has created a prototype DoggieLoveDoll in three sizes, designed as a "mountable," anatomically correct sex partner for male dogs. It was introduced at the Pet South America fair in Sao Paulo in July, according to Associated Press photos.
Science on the Cutting Edge
• Sharron Thornton had been blinded nine years ago from a severe reaction to medication that caused her mucus membranes, including the eye's lens, to die and shed (and caused her also to lose hair, skin and nails, though the latter three grew back). In a revolutionary procedure, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami (Fla.) had the bright idea to shore up her eye with a piece of her tooth and jawbone (the cuspid, or "eye tooth") so that a prosthetic lens could be implanted. That was only part of it: The tooth portion, with the implanted lens, had to be micro-sculpted and implanted first into Thornton's chest for access to nutrients. Thornton's vision is now 20/70 without eyeglasses.
• Recent Inexplicable Side Effects of Brain Injury: (1) Malcolm Darby, 70, awoke from surgery following a stroke in Oakham, England, last year to find that he had near-perfect vision (after having worn eyeglasses since age 2) but later discovered that he no longer spoke or understood French. (2) A 37-year-old German woman, who had been treated for epileptic seizures in 2006, reported recently that among the side effects were occasional feelings that she had undergone a sex change and was a man.
• Calvino Inman, 15, is not part of the gothic subculture at his high school in Rockwood, Tenn., but he would be a natural. He has an annoying case of what one opthalmologist called "haemolacria," or bloody tears. The boy seems to bleed uncontrollably from the eyes, up to three times a day, according to a September ABC News report, but so far, specialists, employing ultrasound, an MRI, and a CT scan, are unable to determine the cause.
• (1) Britain's National Farmers Union issued a general alert in August, after four fatal attacks on people by cows, that dogs should not be walked near grazing fields. "The cattle are interested in the dog, not the walker," said an official. (2) During a three-day period in August near the village of Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, "dozens" of cows killed themselves by leaping off of a particular cliff. Officials discounted accidents as the cause since cows in the area generally become familiar with the dangers of cliffs.
News That Sounds Like a Joke
• (1) Japan's principal organized-crime Yakuza gang, the Yamaguchi-gumi, was reported in September to be giving written tests to its members to improve their knowledge of the law. The leaders were said to be trying to reduce the number of lawsuits against the group. (2) A prominent British Catholic organization recently issued a 64-page book of spousal prayers targeted to various marital events and even has one pre-coital offering emphasizing that the act to follow must be selfless and not undertaken for personal pleasure.
Least Competent Criminals
• Recurring Themes: (1) Broward County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office is looking for the man who robbed the Citi Trends store in Oakland Park in September and has released the surveillance video, showing the man removing his mask. However, the man continued trying to shield his face, using only his hands, but the video makes him appear to be playing peek-a-boo, according to a WFOR-TV report. (2) David Perticone, 46, was arrested in Severn, Md., in August and charged with stealing about $25,000 worth of items from a woman's house just down the block. The woman discovered the items in Perticone's front yard, part of a yard sale he was conducting.