LEADING ECONOMIC INDICATOR
The salary the Golden State Warriors pay to basketball whiz Stephen Curry may be a bargain at $12 million a year, but the economics is weirder about the prices Curry’s fans pay on the street for one of his used mouthguards retrieved from the arena floor after a game. One used, sticky, saliva-encased teeth-protector went for $3,190 at one August auction, and SCP Auctions of California is predicting $25,000 for another, expelled during the NBA championship series last June. ESPN Magazine reported “at least” 35 Twitter accounts dedicated to Curry’s mouthguard.
In parts of Panama, some men still fight for access to women with the ferocity of rutting male elks. The indigenous Ngabe people mostly keep to themselves in rural areas but have surfaced in towns like Volcan, near the Costa Rican border, where in December a reporter witnessed two men fist-fighting to bloody exhaustion on the street in a typical “Mi Lucha” (“my struggle”), with the loser’s wife following the winner home. As the custom loses its cachet, only about a third of the time does the wife now comply, according to the website Narratively. (Bonus: It’s an often-easy “divorce” for the Ngabe–for a fed-up wife to taunt her husband into a losing fight, or for a fed-up husband to pick a fight and take a dive.)
THE CONTINUING CRISIS
Over a six-year period (the latest measured), drug companies and pharmacies legally distributed 780 million pain pills in West Virginia–averaging to 433 for every man, woman and child. Though rules require dispensers to investigate “suspicious” overprescribing, little was done, according to a recent Drug Enforcement Administration report obtained by the Gazette-Mail of Charleston–even though half of the pills were supplied by the nation’s “big three” drugmakers (whose CEOs’ compensation is enriched enormously by pain pill production). Worse, year-by-year the strengths of the pills prescribed increase as users’ tolerance demands. (West Virginia residents disproportionately suffer from unemployment, coal mining-related disabilities and poor health.)
EVERYONE’S A CRITIC
University of Kentucky professor Buck Ryan disclosed in December that he had been punished recently (loss of travel funds and a “prestigious” award) by his dean for singing the Beach Boys classic “California Girls” for a lesson comparing American and Chinese cultures–because of the song’s “language of a sexual nature.” The school’s “coordinator” on sexual harassment issues made the ruling, apparently absent student complaints, for Ryan’s lyric change of “Well, East Coast girls are hip” to “Well, Shanghai girls are hip.”
BUREAUCRACY TRIUMPHS AGAIN
Because the 2015 San Bernardino, California, terrorist attack that killed 14 and seriously wounded 22 was a “workplace” injury (in that the shooters fired only at fellow employees), any health insurance the victims had was superseded exclusively by coverage under the state’s “workers’ compensation” system–a system largely designed for typical job injuries, such as back pain and slip-and-falls. Thus, for example, one San Bernardino victim with “hundreds of pieces of shrapnel” still in her body even after multiple surgeries and in constant pain, must nevertheless constantly argue her level of care with a bureaucrat pressured by budgetary issues and forced to massage sets of one-size-fits-all guidelines.
The Las Vegas Sun reported in December that Nevada slot- and video-machine gamblers left almost $12 million on the floor during 2012 (i.e., winning tickets that remain uncashed for six months, thus reverting to the state), running the five-year total to nearly $35 million. And the pre-game injury report for college football’s Dec. 31 Citrus Bowl included two University of Louisville linebackers, Henry Famurewa and James Hearns, who were out of action against Louisiana State because of “gunshot wounds.”
LATEST IN VENDING MACHINES
Passengers awaiting trains in 35 stations in France now find kiosks dispensing short stories to pass the time. A wide range of selections (even poetry!), in suggested reading-time lengths of one, three and five minutes, can be printed out for free. And the only U.S. vending machine for champagne is now operational in the 23rd-floor lobby of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Las Vegas. Moet and Chandon bubbly can be purchased with $20 tokens sold at the front desk.
UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT
In December the European Union’s 28 nations reached what members called a historic agreement to thwart terrorists: a ban on private citizens’ possessing semi-automatic weapons–but exempted terrorists’ firearm of choice, the Kalishikov assault weapon. (Finland vetoed inclusion of the AK-47 because of concerns about training its reservists.)
LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS
A December post on the Marietta, Georgia, police department’s Facebook page chided a shoplifter still at large who had left his ID and fingerprints (and inadvertently posed for security cameras). The police, noting “how easy” the man had made their job, “begged” him to give them some sort of challenge: “Please at least try to hide.” Suspect Dale Tice was soon in custody.