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LEAD STORY -- Too-Much-Reality TV

Russian producers are planning the so-far-ultimate survivors' show -- in the Siberian wilderness for nine months (temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit), with 30 contestants selected after signing liability waivers that protect the show even if someone is raped or murdered. (Police may come arrest the perpetrators, but the producers are not responsible for intervening.) The show ("Game2: Winter") will be telecast live, around the clock, beginning July 2017 via 2,000 cameras placed in a large area full of bears and treacherous forest. Producers told Siberian Times in December that 60 prospects had already signed up for the last-person-standing prize: the equivalent of $1.6 million (only requirements: be 18 and "sane"). (Bonus: The production company's advertising lists the "dangerous" behaviors they allow, including "fighting," "murder," "rape," "smoking.") [Siberian Times (Novosibirsk), 12-15-2016]


Roundup From the World's Press

-- With car-camel collisions increasing in Iran's two southern provinces, an Iranian government ministry is in the process of issuing identification cards to each camel, supposedly leading to outerwear license "plates" on each of the animals. Authorities told the Islamic Republic News Agency the registration numbers are needed if an accident victim needs to report the camel or to help trace smugglers. (No actual U.S.-style license plates on camels have yet made the world's news photographs.) [Daily Mail (London), 12-7-2016]

-- Martin Shkreli became the Wall Street bad boy in 2015 when his company Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the right to market the lifesaving drug Daraprim and promptly raised its typical price of $18 a pill to $750, but in November, high schoolers in the chemistry lab at Sydney Grammar in Australia created a molecular knockoff of Daraprim for about $2 a tablet. Their sample of "pyrimethamine" (Daraprim's chemical name) was judged authentic by a University of Sydney chemistry professor. Daraprim, among other uses, fights deadly attacks on immune systems, such as for HIV patients. [Washington Post, 12-1-2017]

-- Gazing Upon Nature as Nature Calls: To serve restroom users in a public park in China's Hunan Province's picturesque Shiyan Lake area, architects gave users in toilet cubicles a view of the forest through ceiling-to-floor windows. To discourage sightseers who believe the better view is not from the cubicles but into them, the bottom portion, up to the level of the toilet, is frosted -- though that stratagem probably blurs only a pair of legs, seated. (CNN reported in October that China has at least one other such restroom, in Guilin province, viewing distant mountains.) [CNN, 10-4-2016]

-- Oops! Organizers of the Christmas Day caroling program at the Nelum Pokuna theater in Colombo, Sri Lanka, drawing thousands of devout celebrants, were apparently confused by one song title and innocently included it in the book for the carolers. (No, it wasn't "Inna Gadda Da Vida" from a famous "Simpsons" episode.) It was "Hail Mary" by the late rapper Tupac Shakur -- likely resulting in the very first appearance of certain words in any Christmas service publication anywhere. [The Independent (London), 12-25-2016]

-- Officials of the Ulm Minster in Ulm, Germany, the world's tallest church (530 feet high), said in October that they fear it might eventually be brought down -- by visitors who make the long trek up with a full bladder and no place to relieve themselves except in dark alcoves, thus eroding the structure's sandstone. A building preservation representative also cited vomit in the alcoves, perhaps as a result of the dizzying height of the view from the top. (News of the Weird has reported on erosion damage to a bridge, from spitting, in Mumbai, India, and at the Taj Mahal, from bug droppings.) [Washington Post, 10-25-2016]

-- The Dubai-based Gulf News reported in November that 900 Kuwaiti government workers had their pay frozen during the current investigation into no-shows, including one man on the payroll (unidentified) who reportedly had not actually worked in 10 years. Another, who had been living abroad for 18 months while drawing his Kuwaiti pay, was reduced to half-pay, but insisted he had asked several times for assignments but was told nothing was available. (Gulf News reported that the 10-year man is appealing the freeze!) [Daily Mail (London), 11-10-2016]

-- Prosecutors in Darlington, England, obviously take child "cruelty" seriously because Gary McKenzie, 22, was hauled into court in October on four charges against a boy (whose name and age were not published), including passing gas in the boy's face. The charge was described as "in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health." He was on trial for two other slightly harsher acts -- and another gas-passing, against a different boy -- but the judgment has not been reported. [The Northern Echo (Darlington), 10-20-2016]

-- World-class chess players are famous for intense powers of concentration, but a chess journal reported in October that top-flight female players have actually been disqualified from matches for showing too much cleavage as they play, thus distracting their opponent (according to Ms. Sava Stoisavljevic, head of the European Chess Union). In fact, the Women's World Chess Championship, scheduled for February, has decreed that, since the matches will be held in Tehran, all contestants must wear hijabs (leading a U.S. women's champion to announce she is boycotting). [Metro News (London), 10-31-2016] [New York Times, 10-8-2016]

-- News You Can Use: German Horst Wenzel, "Mr. Flirt," fancies himself a smooth-talking maestro, teaching mostly wealthy but tongue-tied German men lessons (at about $1,500 a day!) in how to approach women -- but this year has decided to "give back" to the community by offering his expertise pro-bono to lonely Syrian and Iraqi refugees who have flooded the country. At one class in Dortmund in November, observed by an Associated Press reporter, most "students" were hesitant, apparently divided between the embarrassed (when Wenzel informed them it's "normal" to have sex on the first or second date) and the awkwardly confident (opening line: "I love you. Can I sleep over at your place?"). But, advised Wenzel, "Don't tell (a German woman) that you love (her) at least for the first three months (because) German women don't like clinginess." [Associated Press, 11-28-2016]

-- Undignified Deaths: (1) A 24-year-old woman who worked at a confectionary factory in Fedortsovo, Russia, was killed in December when she fell into a vat of chocolate. (Some witnesses said she was pouring flour when she fell; others say she fell while trying to retrieve her dropped cellphone.) (2) A 24-year-old man was decapitated in London in August when he leaned too far out the window of one train and struck an extension on a passing train. Next to the window he leaned from was a sign warning people not to stick their heads out. [The Independent (London), 12-16-2016] [Daily Mail, 9-1-2016]


The Passing Parade

(1) A poll revealed in December (sponsored by University of Graz and Austria Press Agency) that Austria's "word of the year" for 2016 was a 52-letter word beginning "bundespraesident" and referring to the postponement of the runoff election for president in 2016. (2) The Wall Street Journal reported in December a longstanding feud on the tiny Mediterranean island of Gozo, Malta, which has only 37,000 residents but two opera houses because of the owners' mutual antipathy. [Associated Press via Yahoo News, 12-9-2016] [Wall Street Journal, 12-6-2016]


A News of the Weird Classic (February 2013)

In November (2012), Tokyo's Kenichi Ito, 29, bested his own Guinness World Record by a full second (down to 17.47 seconds) in the 100-meter dash -- "running" on all fours. Ito runs like a Patas monkey, which he has long admired and which (along with his self-described monkey-like face) inspired him nine years ago to take up "four- legged" running. He reported trouble only once, when he went to the mountains to train and was shot at by a hunter who mistook him for a boar. [The Guardian (London), 11-16-2012; Reuters, 4-18-2012]

Thanks This Week to Peter Swank and Alexander Campbell, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

COPYRIGHT 2017 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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