The past week has certainly been an interesting one. We’ve had a brave hero feline, Sony shares dropped 7%, The FCC voted to move ahead on net neutrality, and Donald Sterling pretended it was opposite day. But what about the interesting news you may not have heard about, or that simply deserves special mention this week? Look no further than The Flounce’s Weekly News Roundup.
This week in bizarre, curious, overlooked, or otherwise compelling news of note:
- The 2014 Club Sandwich Index results are in! What’s the Club Sandwich Index, you ask? Hotels.com developed the Club Sandwich Index, named after the popular sandwich for which they index global prices, to give an image of just how expensive things are in common tourist destinations. The Club Sandwich Index (CSI) describes how expensive a club sandwich is on average in a variety of cities and ranks them by most to least expensive in US dollars. The Big Apple, predictably, tops the list for US cities at nearly $18 on average, but comes nowhere near Geneva’s $33 lunch. Of course, it’s but a limited tool, like the Gini or the CPI, but I like the simplicity of comparing the price of club sandwiches across the globe. You can see a list of the cities indexed here.
- US sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of the Ukraine affair appear to be hurting US businesses such as John Deere. John Deere cited credit restrictions by its customers in Eastern Europe for what is a poor outlook and a shares drop of 2.2%. Credit, Mastercard, and DuPont are also among companies complaining about the results of the sanctions, saying that the card companies are no longer able to service a number of banks and that seed purchases for DuPont are reduced thanks to an inability to obtain credit. Also notably, and outside of economics, Russia plans to retaliate against the US for sanctions by restricting access to the International Space Station (by refusing to supply Soyuz rockets, which Russia controls, to carry American satellites to the ISS). Of course, they weren’t planning on contributing to the project further themselves past 2020 anyway.
- Should take-and-bake pizza in the US be considered a grocery item, or restaurant food? How we categorize it determines how it can be taxed, and tax lawyers are flipping shit over the distinction. As an example of how murky sales tax code can get, note that in 24 states of the US, a Hershey’s candy bar is classified as candy but a Twix bar is classified as a grocery item — all because the latter contains flour, and according to tax code, the definition of candy excludes flour-containing items.
- Vermont just raised their minimum wage to $10.50 hourly, to take effect gradually through 2018. This is the highest minimum wage yet, and surpasses Barack Obama’s proposed federal minimum of $10.10/hr. Vermont has a current minimum wage of $8.73, which is still 20% above the federal, and had an unemployment rate just over half as high as the federal level despite having an unusually high minimum wage. High-school-level econ smartasses better suit up; Vermont happens to be in a decent position to refute the hypothesis that increasing the minimum wage endangers employment levels.
- George R.R. Martin “admitted” that he writes his A Song of Ice and Fire saga in the 1970s-era DOS word processor Wordstar 4.0. I put “admitted” in quotes because although eccentric, I think it’s actually pretty hardcore and clever of him. He rationalizes his use of the archaic machine by explaining that Wordstar 4.0 does exactly as much as he needs it to, without what he calls unnecessarily tedious features such as auto-capitalization. Further, it’s not just an example of the 65-year-old writer refusing to get with the times; he uses a laptop for all his general computing needs, switching over to the old DOS machine only when it’s time to write his novels.
- Feminist author bell hooks called Beyonce an anti-feminist and likened her to a terrorist at a panel a few weeks ago. hooks said, “Let’s take the image of this super rich, very powerful Black female and let’s use it in the service of imperialist, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy because she probably had very little control over that cover — that image,” and went on to say, “I see a part of Beyoncé that is in fact anti-feminist — that is a terrorist, especially in terms of the impact on young girls.”
- Tyler the Creator visited the office for BuzzFeed, as many celebrities are wont to do, and proceeded to terrorize the office’s employees by wearing a sombrero, shooting a nerf gun at workers, and shouting various obscenities. A disturbing Twitter play-by-play from Buzzfeed staff is included below.
- British singer Lily Allen says she was offered a role on Game of Thrones as Yara Greyjoy (known in the books as Asha Greyjoy) alongside her brother Alfie Allen, who plays Theon Greyjoy. She declined because the role involved letting her brother fondle her (for those who haven’t seen the show, Theon is a lecher who tries to get in Yara’s pants, before learning that she is actually his sister). Lily said that involved “too much incest.” I guess the casting director figured it was worth a shot?
Crime and Justice
- Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram posted a video of the abducted Nigerian girls, confirming that they are alive and promising to return them in exchange for the release of Boko Haram prisoners, a proposal that Nigeria’s interior minister Abba Moro says is off the table. The video is harrowing; the young hostages, over 200 in number, are uniformly clad in hijab and are said by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau to have been all converted to Islam.
- Another of a series of men claiming to know the identity of the Zodiac Killer of the late 1960’s has emerged, and this man, Gary L. Stewart, claims to be his son. Although I tend to be very skeptical of stuff like this, there is some fairly convincing evidence for the argument that his biological father, Earl Van Best Jr., was the Zodiac, which he makes his case for in his book The Most Dangerous Animal of All. One especially compelling piece of evidence: more than one cipher left by the Zodiac has been decrypted to reveal the phrases “EV” “best” and “jr,” which is highly improbable as a coincidence. You can read more about the Zodiac killer at the very creepily-designed website zodiackiller.com.
- In highly absurd and outrageous news, a squad of nearly two dozen Miami policemen killed two unarmed people, one of them innocent and the other a suspected armed robber, when they rained fire (to be specific, at least 377 shots) upon an immobilized car that had crashed and was stuck between two stationary objects. This story is ridiculous, and not primarily because of the implication of excessive force (despite the fact that the car was disabled and the occupants unarmed); they had reason to believe one of the men they killed in the car was an armed robber who had shot a police officer and stolen his police cruiser, and were not aware of the car’s other passenger, who was an innocent accomplice. But what’s really notable about this gunning is that stray bullets struck, besides the car, other nearby cars, fences, buildings, and two other police officers, besides forcing a bystanding twelve-year-old to duck for cover. Even after all this, two Miami officers suffered ruptured eardrums from the sheer amplitude of the gunfire. I mean, it’s kind of hard to believe how much these guys fucked up.
- After 23 students at Columbia University filed a complaint with the US Department of Education regarding the school’s handling of sexual assault cases, the names of four alleged “rapists” (whose identities are being censored by the media) have been circulating around campus through fliers and wall graffiti.
IMAGE COURTESY THE COLUMBIA LION IMAGE COURTESY THE COLUMBIA LION
IMAGE COURTESY TH–ok, I think you get it. Not my image.
While this is definitely a down-and-dirty way of handling things, I can’t say I blame anyone for spreading the word, given the circumstances. After all, when rape isn’t being treated like the crime it is, and is furthermore not being handled by the university either, what more can you do than warn your classmates and try to garner some visibility for rape on college campuses? I can only hope that the four men whose names are being circulated are indeed rapists (which, truthfully, I can put a fair amount of faith in considering how rare false rape reports are), and that none of this is based on hearsay but originated from the victims themselves, because shit like this can ruin people.
- Ben Blatt of Slate drew a map of the most common languages spoken in the US by state other than English and Spanish. The results are unsurprising for some states (say, my home state of Alaska with the Yupik language winning out), and perhaps unexpected for others (see: Russian for Oregon, or Illinois’s Polish). Blatt also drew other maps with even more specific parameters: for example, the most common Indo-Aryan, African, and Native American languages by state. His research includes the interesting fact that, according to the census, there are more speakers of Navajo in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona than there are speakers of other Native American languages in all other states combined. Data is beautiful!
- A group of college students found over $40,000 in a used couch, tracked down the owner and returned the cash. The woman it belonged to awarded the friends $1000 (it is not clear if this was to be split between them or if the award was $1000 each), which, if you ask me, is a little paltry considering, you know, that they found money she didn’t even appear to be looking for. A small reward is better than no reward, though, and she certainly isn’t obliged to give them anything.
- In other forty-thousand-dollar news, a couple of hackers compromised point-of-sale terminals of Subway tills and stole $40,000 worth of Subway gift cards, which they planned to sell on Craigslist or use themselves.
- In slightly sensational but highly amusing animal news, a Chinese owner’s Pomeranian named Jin Dan, traumatized after a humiliating haircut, walked upright on his hind legs and sported a creepy perma-grimace for two days in protest. Jin Dan was examined by a veterinarian who found him to be physically healthy but surmised that he likely experienced mild psychological trauma from the haircut that caused him to behave in such a peculiar manner. Some skeptics suspect that it’s faked, with the owner simply holding up a treat to make the dog stand upright, but regardless, it’s hilarious and bizarre. Yes, there’s a video. Trigger warning: jiggly dog penis.
- A bouncy castle in upstate New York came unfettered, became buoyant, and flew up into the air approximately fifty feet, seriously injuring two of the three children inside. After they fell from the makeshift balloon, one of them onto pavement and another onto a car, the flying castle continued floating some 15 meters before landing in a clearing over and beyond the nearby taiga. Brief video footage can be seen here.
That’s it for this week. What peculiar stories did I miss? What were your favorites of the week? Discuss!