Alibi V.28 No.47 • Nov 21-27, 2019 

Odds & Ends

Odds and Ends

Dateline: North Korea

A tour company is selling tickets to a St. Patrick's Day pub crawl located in the capital of North Korea. The Telegraph reports that British-based Smiling Grape Adventure Tours wills be taking guests to Pyongyang in March 2020 for a pub crawl that has been approved by the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. The tourists will take part in a five-day stay in the foreign nation and visit six different drinking locations on March 17. Included in the tour will be a trip to a bowling alley and a “diplomat’s club” for expats. Director of the tour Matt Ellis told reporters that he hopes the tour will be able to show a different side of North Korea than the brutal dictatorship portrayed in most of the world's media. “Taking customers to community drinking spots to actually meet the locals is a good way to get insight into people’s lives and different cultures,” he said. “Alcohol helps to bring down the barriers slightly, which helps.” The British Foreign Office has advised against non-essential travel to North Korea, and many safety precautions will be taken by tour organizers before and during the trip. Guests will receive a comprehensive pre-departure introduction to the country's customs and beliefs and will be expected to respect those customs while visiting. There will also be two western guides along on the trip to “rein in anyone who gets a bit loud.”

Dateline: India

Last month, an elephant named after Osama bin Laden attacked a village in India, trampling and killing five people. According to France 24, Laden went on a 24-hour rampage through the village—located in the Goalpara district of the state of Assan—before escaping into the nearby forest. The animal reportedly killed three women and two men during the attack. Local residents named Laden after the late Al-Qaeda leader and say this isn't the first time the animal has acted aggressively toward humans. According to Agence France-Presse, Laden has attacked villages before, killing residents and destroying paddy fields. Authorities reportedly tracked the animal through the forest using drones and domesticated elephants and were finally able to capture Laden last week. Officials said the elephant was tranquilized using two darts and captured. He will now be transported to a remote area far from any humans and released. Officials have yet to decide where that location will be, but said they will be considering the elephant's welfare as well as that of any people living nearby. Nearly 2,300 people in India have reportedly been killed by elephants over the last five years, and 700 elephants have been killed since 2011. Elephants frequently migrate into Goalpara, resulting in high numbers of fatal encounters with humans.

Dateline: China

A man complaining of an earache was told by doctors that his ear had become home to a family of cockroaches. New York Post reports that a man identified only as “Mr. Lv” was admitted to Sanhe Hospital in the Guangdong Province of China in October after complaining of a sharp pain in his right ear. Zhong Yijin, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the clinic, told reporters that the man's family had seen what they believed to be a large bug crawling inside his ear. The doctor was able to probe the ear and found a newly hatched brood of more than 10 German cockroaches and their fully grown mother. “They were already running around,” said Yijin. Doctors extracted the roaches one by one, using tweezers. Lv reportedly sustained only minor injuries to his ear and was discharged the same day. Sanhe Hospital’s deputy head of ENT, Jiang Tengxiang, told local reporters that the man had a habit of leaving uneaten snacks near his bed, and it is believed that this attracted the insect and led to it taking up residence in his ear. Tengxiang gave some tips for avoiding unwanted pests in your ears. “Practice good hygiene, disinfect drains and sewers and use mosquito nets and screens on windows,” he said. “That’ll stop insects from flying or crawling into your noses and ears.”

Dateline: Massachusetts

Harvard scientists have made a breakthrough in lab-grown meat thanks to inspiration drawn from a cotton candy machine. Although lab-grown meat has been in existence for years, a number of issues with taste and texture have persisted. One problem facing scientists has been the need for a technique that will encourage the lab-grown meat to grow in a similar fashion to natural meat without the benefits of a skeletal structure. According to The Harvard Crimson, a team of scientists led by bioengineering research associate Luke A. MacQueen have found a possible solution. They induced cow and rabbit muscle cells to grow on edible gelatin scaffolds, giving the product a fibrous “mouth-feel” characteristic of meat. MacQueen says the technique used to construct the scaffolds was inspired by a cotton candy machine. “We're making something that you could consider a bit to be like protein fibers—so protein candy, or protein fluff,” he said. According to MacQueen, the meat cells attach to the protein scaffold and organize into tissue “that looks and feels a lot like meat.” He said the scaffold could theoretically be used to produce lab-grown chicken breast, shrimp, steak or liver. The team says this study is only a “proof of concept.” Cost efficiency is still a major concern that has yet to be addressed.

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