Alibi V.28 No.36 • Sept 5-11, 2019 

Odds & Ends

Odds and Ends

Dateline: China

A Chinese student was denied entry into the United States after he declared that he was carrying a bulletproof vest—leading Chinese social media users to ask how they are supposed to protect themselves while visiting the US. Shanghaiist reports that the student had flown into the Detroit Metro Airport in Michigan and told security officials at a checkpoint that he was carrying a bulletproof vest. US Customs and Border Protection reportedly allows the importation of “soft body armor,” but officials decided to cancel the student's visa and send him back to China. He told reporters that his cell phone and laptop were confiscated by security agents. The student also reportedly held a gun license in Michigan and it's unclear if that had anything to do with the authorities' decision. Chinese social media users were quick to decry the student's treatment, saying that bulletproof vests are an essential travel item in the US, considering the nation's problems with mass shootings. “Americans get to have guns, but we don’t get to have body armor. How are we supposed to avoid getting shot?” wrote one Weibo user. In recent months, the Chinese government has warned its citizens against traveling to the US. Authorities reminded travelers that “shootings, robberies and thefts have occurred frequently in the United States.” Uruguay, Venezuela and New Zealand have also released similar travel warnings.

Dateline: Ireland

A car mechanic's invoice went viral on social media when the cause of a woman's car problems was revealed to be a “dildo … jammed in rails.” According to The Irish Post, the invoice was published on Reddit this week by user MiggeldyMackDaddy. The document indicates that a customer brought her car into a shop based in Kilbarrack, Ireland, complaining that she had been having issues following a previous repair made by the mechanic. From the invoice: “Ever since we fitted a new wing mirror the driver’s seat will not move back or forward.” However, the issue did not seem to have been caused by any fault on the mechanic's part. In a section labeled “Work carried out,” the culprit was identified. “Found dildo belonging to customer jammed in rails that the seat slides on,” the invoice reads. “Unwilling to carry out repair due to hygeine [sic] concern. Instructed customer on repairs required.” The customer—identified only as “Mary”—was charged €73 by the shop for labor.

Dateline: International Space Station

Scientists who grew mini-human brains, attached them to robots and sent them into space say the organoids are now giving off brain waves, bringing up serious ethical concerns in the scientific community. The New York Times reports that the clusters of nerve cells were grown from stem cells at the University of California, San Diego, by biologist Alysson Muotri and his team. The scientists attached the mini-brains to spider-like robots to read their neural activity and then sent them to the International Space Station to study the effects. What they found could raise new concerns over the ethics of experimenting with mini-brains. The report was published in the journal Cell. According to Muotri's team, the organoids have begun to give off brain waves and show signs of complex neural activity similar to that found in premature babies. The biologist told reporters that this is a sign that scientists are closer than ever to creating a partially conscious life in a laboratory. But it also implies that mini-brains could be capable of consciousness, meaning they could be able to feel pain and fear if developed further. While the findings are unexpected, some experts are pointing out that the neural activity exhibited by the mini-brains was far from reaching human levels. University of Southern California Biologist Giorgia Quadrato, who was not involved in the study, told reporters “People will say, ‘Ah, these are like the brains of preterm infants.' No, they are not.”

Dateline: Indonesia

The Indonesian government is moving its capital from Jakarta to a new city, because Jakarta is sinking. According to CNN, the relocation was announced last week by Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The president cited concerns of overcrowding and sustainability as the city begins to fall into the ocean. “The burden Jakarta is holding right now is too heavy as the center of governance, business, finance, trade and services,” Widodo said in a televised speech. Ars Technica reports that different sections of Jakarta are sinking into the ocean at different rates of speed. Most areas of the city are sinking by around one to four inches every year. These areas are open to flood levels that could endanger lives, infrastructure and homes. Jakarta is one of the most overpopulated cities on Earth and is home to more than 10 million people. The city was built on river sediment deposited at the coast. Over the years, the weight of buildings and infrastructure have slowly compressed the sediment, causing some areas to sink. But excessive groundwater pumping is said to be the major cause. Underground aquifer layers that helped support the city in the past have been drained, and the empty spaces have caved in. Widodo told the nation that the new capital will be located on an island near the cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda, east of Borneo. The relocation is expected to cost around 486 trillion rupiah ($34 billion) and could take around 10 years to complete.

Compiled by Joshua Lee. Email your weird news to josh@alibi.com.