By 2009, when Zimbabwe’s central bank gave up on controlling inflation, its largest currency was the 100 trillion-dollar bill–barely enough for bus fare in Harare and not even worth the paper needed to print it. However, that 100 trillion-dollar note (that’s “1” plus 14 zeros) has turned out to be a great investment for several astute traders in London and New Zealand, who bought thousands of them at pennies on the trillion and now report brisk sales to collectors on eBay at US$30 to $40 a note–a six-year return on investment, according to a May report in London’s The Guardian, of nearly 1,500 percent.
CAN’T POSSIBLY BE TRUE
Long-divorced Henry Peisch, 56, has seven children, but only one is still living with his ex-wife (who had originally been awarded $581 monthly support for all seven). (Three children are now independent, and three others successfully petitioned courts to live with Henry.) The resultant hardship (the $581 remains in effect) caused Henry to ask the Bergen County, New Jersey, Family Court several times for a “hardship” hearing, which the court denied (thus even defying the New Jersey Supreme Court). On April 8, Family Court judge Gary Wilcox, noting Peisch’s appearance on a related matter, spontaneously “granted” him his “ability to pay” hearing (with thus no opportunity for witnesses or evidence-gathering)–and summarily jailed him for missing some $581 payments (because, the judge concluded, he did not “believe” Peisch’s hardship claims).
GOVERNMENT IN ACTION
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, in a May publication deriding the value of certain federally funded research, highlighted several recent National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation projects, such as the $13 million for exploring musical preferences of monkeys and chimpanzees; the $1.1 million judging whether cheerleaders are more attractive seen as a squad than individually; the $390,000 to determine how many shakes a wet dog needs to feel dry; and the $5 million to learn whether drunk birds slur when they sing. (Also strangely included was the actually valuable study by Michael Smith of Cornell University ranking where on the human body a bee sting was most painful. He found, from personal testing, that “on the penis” was only the third worst–research that brought Smith a prestigious Ig Nobel prize last year.)
Yahoo News Australia reported (with photos) a man in Tallebudgera Creek on the country’s Gold Coast swimming with his pet snake. The man, standing chest-deep in water, would toss the snake (apparently a carpet python) a few feet and, according to the videos, the snake would swim back to him each time. (In the man’s other hand, of course: beer.) And in April, police in Broome (in Australia’s far northwest) on traffic patrol stopped a 27-year-old man whose “several” children, including one infant, were unrestrained in his car while “cartons of beer” were “buckled into car seats,” according to an Australian Broadcasting Corp. report. He faces several charges, including driving on a suspended license.
Jai Dara Latto, 23, won the title Miss Transgender UK last September in London, but in February organizers stripped her of the title as being insufficiently trans, passing the crown to Daisy Bell. Officials had spotted Latto (who has worked as a “drag queen”) in a BBC documentary wearing boxer shorts, and since switching underwear is usually such a crucial step for transgenders, officials concluded that Latto must not yet have made a sufficient-enough commitment to qualify for the title.
In a recent book, biologist Jennifer Ackerman noted the extraordinary intelligence of birds–attributed to the dense packing of neurons in their equivalent of humans’ cerebral cortex (according to an April Wall Street Journal review of Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds). For example, the New Caledonia crow, among others, knows how to make and use hooked tools to hide food (and retrieve it from tricky-to-reach places), and the blue jay and others, which store many thousands of seeds during autumn, also steal seeds from less-vigilant birds–and they even return to re-hide food if they sense they have been spotted storing it earlier. Additionally, of course, the birds’ equivalent of the human larynx is so finely tuned as to be regarded as the most sophisticated sound in all of nature.
The president of the New England Organ Bank told U.S. News & World Report recently that she attributes the enormous upsurge in donations in recent years to the opiod “epidemic” that has produced a similarly enormous upsurge in fatal overdoses. Now, one out of every 11 donated organs comes as a result of the overdosing that in 2014 claimed over 47,000 lives. (An organ-sharing organization’s chief medical officer reminds that all organ donations are carefully screened, especially those acquired from overdose deaths.)
NATURE 2, FLORIDA 0
Nicole Bjanes, casually zipping along Interstate 4 in Volusia County around noon on May 9, saw a red-eared slider turtle come sailing through the air and crash into her windshield, sending her car off the road. The Florida Highway Patrol said the turtle had become airborne after being hit by another car. (It was apparently unhurt and swam away when a firefighter released it into a nearby pond.) And on May 10, police in Key West responded to a caller at the scene of a giant banyan tree. A woman had attempted to climb the tree but had fallen among the vertical roots, making her barely visible. Said a proud police spokesperson, “They popped her out like a cork.”