You cannot be serious 

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Brother Cesare Bonizzi, 62, of a Capuchin Friars monastery near Milan, Italy, is the lead singer in a heavy-metal band that recently released its second album, “Misteri” (“Mysteries”), following a successful performance at Italy’s “Gods of Metal” festival (headlined by Iron Maiden and, ironically, Judas Priest). On stage, the white-flowing-bearded Brother Cesare booms out gritty but non-proselytizing lyrics while wearing his traditional brown robe. He told BBC News in July that his superiors have never interfered with his sideline and that he plans to send a copy of the new album to the pope. “He’s a music lover, and metal is music.”

The Entrepreneurial Spirit!

-- High Point University (just south of Greensboro, N.C.) is not quite Club Med (“Club Ed,” it was called by the Chronicle of Higher Education) but provides free ice cream for students, a hot tub in the middle of campus, wake-up calls and a concierge service, all run by a campus “director of WOW,” whose job it is to thrill the “clients” and attract new ones. This is the strategy of President Nido Qubein, a motivational speaker and “customer comes first” businessman, and so far, enrollment is way up (even at higher tuition), new construction is transforming the campus, and $100 million is in the bank.

-- Challenging New Products: (1) stilettos for toddlers (though with soft heels), from Bellevue, Wash., designer Britta Bacon, selling recently in Toronto for $39.95 (Cdn) a pair; and (2) a rotating ice cream cone on which the scoop gently revolves counter-clockwise, so that lazy people merely stick their tongues out and need not actively lick (sold by Kitchen Craft in the UK).

Leading Economic Indicators

-- The U.S. government’s $100 billion stimulus distributed to taxpayers this spring achieved mixed results, according to economists, but at least the Internet pornography industry flourished. Adult Internet Market Research Co. reported that “20 to 30 percent” of “adult” Web sites reported that sales rose during the time checks were being issued. However, Nevada brothels were suffering, even though Hof’s Bunny Ranch ran a stimulus-check special: Hand over your $600 check and get the usual $1,200 “party” (“three girls and a bottle of champagne”).

-- A July Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that professional fundraisers keep so much of the money donated to charity by conscientious, generous-minded people that 430 different California charities over the last 10 years got not one penny of the contributions. In fact, in 337 cases, the charity paid an additional fee on top of getting nothing back (but did come away with the donors’ names and addresses, for further solicitation). Philanthropy watchdogs say fundraisers should never keep more than 35 cents on the dollar, but the Times found the overall average was 54 cents, and for missing-children charities, fundraisers kept 86 cents. (Fundraisers for an organization called Citizens Against Government Waste kept 94 cents.)

Frontiers of Science

-- A 10-year-old British boy had such a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder that he was overwrought with guilt that he had caused the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks, in that he had not been able that day to make his ritual step upon a particular mark in the street. Writing in June in the journal Neurocase, psychologists at University College London said the boy recovered only when they convinced him that the attacks had already started by the time he would have made his usual step.

-- Many nations are exploring how to curb cattle’s release of the greenhouse gas methane, including altering cows’ diets to reduce flatulence (which requires monitoring the gas compositions from the old and new diets). To collect the gas for measurement (according to a July report in London’s Daily Telegraph), researchers at Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology rigged a large plastic tank to the cow’s back, with a tube to the backside to directly capture each emission. (The alternative, researchers pointed out, would require a human to follow a cow around with plastic bags.)

-- Higher-Order Animal Research: (1) Britain’s Sea Life Centre announced a study in July that would give octopuses Rubik’s Cubes to play with, to ascertain whether they use a certain tentacle for such activities, or any tentacle at random. (2) Writing in the journal Nature in July, a team of University of Oregon biologists showed that roundworms do “calculus”-type computations, using chemosensory neurons, to determine how to find food or avoid trouble.

One Obsessive American

Sam Bloomfield, 58, grew up poor on Tonga but arrived here in 1976 and says he has tried to show his gratitude ever since, according to a July 4 profile in his hometown Herald of Everett, Wash. He has tattooed “God Bless America” under his left eye, “Land of the Free” under his right eye and a large “USA” across his forehead, and last year underwent another 15 painful hours with the needle to cover the rest of his face with stars and stripes resembling an American flag so that he can toast his beloved country in the mirror every morning.

Least Competent Corrections Department

In July, convicted drug dealer Marcus Anderson opened the door of the Corrections Department van taking him to court, climbed out and walked away into downtown Baltimore. It was an ordinary van without a prisoner cage and whose driver had no gun, handcuffs, phone or radio (because Anderson had arrived late at the pick-up point for the regular prisoner van). An exasperated Judge Charles Bernstein later asked whether the driver had given him bus tokens, too. “If I were a young enterprising criminal,” said the judge, “I’d come to Baltimore to set up my practice. This is the place to be. This is the Promised Land.”


“Brain fingerprinting,” reported in News of the Weird in 2000 and 2003 from the experimental work by former Harvard research associate Lawrence Farwell, achieved a breakthrough in July in India, when two murder suspects were convicted based in part on that technology. Though Farwell’s theory is somewhat different, the “Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature” used in Mumbai operates on a similar principle, that a different brain area activates when one recalls an actual experience than when one recalls something he merely learned about. Thus, in the India cases, neurologists concluded that the defendants either were present at the murder scene or had actually looked for or transported the murder weapon (and not that they had just read or been told about those facts).



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Chuck Shepherd

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