Darren’s Daily Dose of Weird News – July 23, 2010

More than two-thirds of Texas schoolchildren flunked the state’s physical fitness test this year, a troubling trend that doctors worry could get worse with the Legislature loosening the requirements for high school gym class. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity — most of it aerobic exercise – every day.  Texas law says elementary students must get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day – or 150 minutes a week.  ***MARLAR: Couldn’t we do the same thing as they do with academic tests, and just lower the standards?

By Ed Smith’s math, the CEO of Walmart earns more in an hour than his employees will earn in a year. Smith, an alderman in Chicago, presented posters at a city council meeting showing that Walmart CEO Michael Duke’s $35 million salary, when converted to an hourly wage, worked out to $16,826.92. By comparison, at a Walmart store planned for the Windy City’s Pullman neighborhood, new employees to be paid $8.75 an hour would gross only about $13,650 a year.  ***MARLAR: Forcing them to shop at the only place they can afford… Walmart.

Money makes the world go round – or in this case brings an Italian highway to a halt.  A truck carrying some euro2 million ($2.5 million) in coins overturned in southern Italy, unloading its contents onto the highway and leading motorists to hit the brakes and dig in.  Police in Foggia, where the accident occurred Monday, said Tuesday it was impossible to establish how much money had been stolen, as many of the euro1 and euro2 coins remained in piles on the highway. But motorists acting quickly before police arrived made off with at least euro10,000 ($12,500).  Police said the truck’s driver and one passenger had suffered minor injuries. The truck was carrying the money from the Italian mint to local banks.  ***MARLAR: Even better news for the passing drivers who took the coins… this all took place on a toll road.

Police responding to a report of a driver brandishing a gun in southeastern Minnesota found themselves in extreme danger – of getting wet.  When police pulled over and searched the vehicle in the port city of Duluth on Monday, they found only several “Super Soaker” squirt guns on the back seat.  ***MARLAR: They were still considered deadly weapons though, because the water was retrieved from the Gulf oil spill.

An international research team says it has uncovered hammers possibly used by chimpanzees that go back as far as 43-hundred years in the West African country Ivory Coast. It would be the earliest known use of tools by chimps. The hammers are thought to have been used to crack nuts. The researchers say the stones were about the size of cantaloupes, which would have been too large for human hands. But that would be about right for the larger, stronger hands of chimpanzees. ***MARLAR: Scientists are still trying to explain their other finding of a black monolith.

Thirst can masquerade as hunger, which is one reason dieters should stay hydrated. Now German researchers have found another reason: Water fuels your body’s fat burners. For 90 minutes after drinking 16 ounces of chilled water, adults saw their metabolism rise by 24 percent over their average rates. According to the study author, Jens Jordan, M.D., the mechanism is partly due to the energy your body generates to warm the water during digestion.  ***MARLAR: Sure, but who’s going to choose drinking water over microwaving a pizza?

The London Sun reports that scientists at the University of California are studying a woman identified as “A.J.” who can remember nearly every detail of her life since 1976. The 42-year-old California woman, whom they nicknamed “Total Recall,” says her life is like a continuous movie and she can picture any scene in detail in her mind. When given any date, she recalled where she was, what she did and what made headlines on that date, even dull news like a local tax passing in 1978. But her memory is selective: when asked to close her eyes and describe the clothes the scientists were wearing at that moment, she couldn’t. ***MARLAR: Their clothes are too dull even for her to remember.

Justin Brady will now be known as Ynot (why-not) Bubba after a New Mexico judge approved the name change. The 43-year-old trucker asked to change his name because he no longer has a relationship with his adoptive parents, the Bradys. His last name is courtesy of the people he now considers family, who nicknamed him Bubba for no particular reason. He had considered the name, Lacon Marlboro after his preferred choice of cigarette. Also on the short list was More Chek, from his desire for more money.  ***MARLAR: Maybe he should’ve considered the name, “Ima Doofus.”

The first-ever “China Idol” will air on Chinese television next month, under careful scrutiny from the government: “No weirdness, no vulgarity, no low taste.”  ***MARLAR: Oh, so it’s nothing like “American Idol?”

It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie: A tiny purple microbe that had been dormant for 120,000 years deep beneath glacial ice is brought back to life in a science lab. No, this one doesn’t take over the world or cause a pandemic. It’s actually harmless to humans.  ***MARLAR: Well, until it grows up to have one eye, one horn, and starts eating people.

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