A New York University Center for Justice study released in September warned that, unless major upgrades are made quickly, 43 states will conduct 2016 elections on electronic voting machines at least 10 years old and woefully suspect. Those states use machines no longer made or poorly supported, and those in 14 states are more than 15 years old. There are apprehensions over antiquated security (risking miscounts, potential for hacking), but also fear of election-day breakdowns causing long lines at the polls, depressing turnout and dampening confidence in the overall fairness of the process. The NYU center estimated the costs of upgrading at greater than $1 billion.
In a “manifesto” to celebrate “personal choice and expression” in the standard of beauty “in a society that already places too many harmful standards on women,” according to a July New York Times report, some now are dyeing their armpit hair. At the Free Your Pits website, and events like “pit-ins” in Seattle and Pensacola, Florida, envelope-pushing women offer justifications ranging from political resistance to, according to one, “want[ing] to freak out [her] in-laws.” Preferred colors are turquoise, hot pink, purple and neon yellow.
LITTLE HOUSE OF REP. ON THE PRAIRIE
Actress Melissa Gilbert (a star of TV’s “Little House on the Prairie”), 51, announced in August that she would run for Congress from Michigan’s 8th Congressional District–even though she is currently on the hook to the IRS and California for back taxes totaling $470,000. Gilbert, a former president of the Screen Actors Guild and member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, promised that she (and her actor-husband) would pay off her tax bill–by the year 2024.
MEN ARE SIMPLE
Five years after News of the Weird mentioned it, Japan’s Love Plus virtual-girlfriend app is more popular than ever, serving a growing segment of the country’s lonely males–those beyond peak marital years and resigned to artificial “relationships.” Love Plus models (Rinko, Manaka and Nene) are chosen mostly (and surprisingly) not for physical attributes, but for flirting and companionship. One user described his “girlfriend” (in a September Time magazine dispatch) as “someone to say good morning to in the morning and… goodnight to at night.” Said a Swedish observer, “You wouldn’t see (this phenomenon) in Europe or America.” One problem: Men can get stuck in a “love loop” waiting for the next app update–with, they hope, more “features.”
MEN ARE WEIRD
“Odette Delacroix,” 25, of North Hollywood, California, is a petite (86 pounds) model who runs an adult fetish website in which people (i.e., men) pay to watch her tumble around, bikini-clad, with “plus-size” models, up to five at a time, squashing and nearly suffocating her in “pigpiles.” “Odette” told London’s edition of Cosmopolitan that her PetiteVsPlump website has so far earned her about $100,000.
THE JOB OF THE RESEARCHER
Scientists at North Carolina State and Wake Forest universities have developed a machine that vomits, realistically, enabling the study of “aerosolization” of dangerous norovirus. “Vomiting Larry” can replicate the process of retching, including the pressure at which particles are expelled (which, along with volume and “other vomit metrics,” can teach the extent of the virus’ threat in large populations). The researchers must use a harmless stand-in “bacteriophage” for the studies–because norovirus is highly infectious even in the laboratory.
Authorities in Winter Haven, Florida, arrested James Garfield, 28, with the typical faux-police set-up–Ford Crown Victoria with police lights, uniform with gold-star badge, video camera, Taser and business cards printed with “law enforcement.” (Explained Garfield lamely, the “law enforcement” was just a “printing mistake.”) And in nearby Frostproof, Florida, Thomas Hook, 48, was also arrested in September, his 14th law-enforcement-impersonator arrest since 1992. His paraphernalia included the Crown Vic with a prisoner cage, scanner, spotlight, “private investigator” and “fugitive recovery” badges and an equally bogus card identifying him as a retired Marine Corps major. Hook’s one other connection to law enforcement: He is a registered sex offender.
BUDDHISTS GONE WILD
Police in Scotland’s Highlands were called in September when a Buddhist retreat participant, Raymond Storrie, became riled up that another, Robert Jenner, had boiling water for his tea, but not Storrie’s. After Storrie vengefully snatched Jenner’s own hot water, Jenner punched him twice in the head, leading Storrie to threaten to kill Jenner (but also asking, plaintively, “Is this how you practice dharma?”).
An official of the Missouri Republican Party apologized in September for the “thoughtless” act of using an original Thomas Hart Benton mural in the state Capitol as a writing surface. Valinda Freed and a man were exchanging business cards, and Freed, needing to jot down information on the card, placed it directly on the mural to backstop her writing.