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The News You May Have Missed: April 2019

Get Behind Me, Debtor

The Chinese government plans to release a new smartphone app next year that warns users whenever they get within 500 meters of “deadbeat debtors” (kron4.com, Jan. 24). The app, which displays debtors’ exact locations and full names, was developed to make it easier for citizens to “whistleblow on debtors incapable of paying their debts.” A spokesman for the Higher People’s Court of the northern Hebei province said, “It’s a part of our measures to enforce our rulings and create a socially credible environment.” The app is part of China’s social-credit system, which determines a person’s trustworthiness by tracking their ability to pay off debt and their behavior on public transit. Between June 2018 and January 2019, more than 6,000 people who failed to pay their taxes or misbehaved on public transit were banned from going on airplanes or trains in and out of the country.

Gone to the Dogs

Alberto Cutié, rector at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Plantation, Florida, has been holding weekly “dog-friendly” church services (United Press International, Feb. 21). The canine congregants are generally well behaved. “We sometimes have 10 to 12 dogs at a time,” Cutié says. “You never really hear them much — unless they encounter each other after Communion and then they begin to bark at each other. But everybody expects that.” The weekly service is particularly popular among people who live alone with their pets. “They are elderly, they’ve lost their spouse or they’ve lived alone for a long time,” Cutié says. “And their dog really does become their companion in every way and their closest family member.” Other types of pets are welcome in the church for its annual Blessing of the Animals service. “Why wouldn’t they be welcome in God’s house?” he asks. “They’re God’s creatures.” Readers may remember Fr. Cutié from an item in this section (April 2011). The controversial former Catholic priest left the Church in 2009 to marry his longtime girlfriend and is now a priest in the Episcopal Church USA.

I Duvet Thee Wed

A British woman is planning to marry the one with whom she’s had the “most intimate and reliable relationship” in her life — her duvet (The Mirror, Jan. 23). Pascale Sellick, 49, is organizing a lavish ceremony with the help of a wedding planner to celebrate her love for the bedding, which, she says, “has always been there for me and gives me great hugs.” Sellick will wear a nightgown, dressing gown, and slippers on the big day, and she’s issued an open invitation to the ceremony and a “free wedding party” in Exeter to anyone who wants to celebrate with her. “I love my duvet so much I would like to invite people to witness my union with the most constant, comforting companion in my life,” she said. “There will be music and a ceremony, laughs and entertainment.” She has requested that guests wear dressing gowns, pajamas, onesies, and slippers, with the option of bringing cuddly teddy bears.

Meat Market

A Tinder-inspired app helps British farmers match up potential partners for their cattle. “Tudder” lets farmers quickly scroll through photos to find cattle they consider good-looking (Reuters, Feb. 13). Farmers are then directed to SellMyLivestock.co.uk, where they can browse more pictures and data before deciding whether to buy the animal. “Matching livestock online is even easier than it is to match humans because there’s a huge amount of data that sits behind these wonderful animals that predicts what their offspring will be,” explains Doug Bairner, CEO of Hectare Agritech, which runs the website. Such information includes milk yield and protein content, or calving potential. SellMyLivestock.co.uk has listed over £50 million ($64 million) of livestock, feed, and bedding for sale in the past year. Bairner points out that despite stereotypes, farming is “actually very technologically driven.”

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