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The 2017 Wastebook Is Out!

Saturday January 28th, 2017   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 10:47am PST   •  

wastebook-2017 In his second year after having taken over production of the annual Wastebook from former Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Jeff Flake has highlighted 50 ways in which the U.S. federal government’s bureaucrats have squandered taxpayer dollars.

Here are five items that stood out from the pack, which we selected just because they involved animals.

  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) handed out three grants totaling more than $1.3 million, which went in part to research the physical mechanisms by which cats and dogs drink water. The good news is that the researchers appear to have finally solved the national mystery of why dogs would seem to be such sloppy drinkers, so at least we have something to show for the grants.
  • The U.S. Department of Commerce has handed the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) nearly $2.5 million, through the Economic Development Administration, “to support its ongoing efforts to promote entrepreneurship, academic cooperation and economic development across the state’s video and digital games ecosystem.” MassDiGI does this by hosting 1 to 2 day camps for students to develop new video games, which include titles like Cat Tsunami, in which players “must navigate a cat on a surfboard across waves of other cats to reach a Black Friday catnip sale.”
  • The National Institute of Health (NIH) provided grants totaling $817,000 to the State University of New York at Buffalo, which enabled researchers to collect and compare DNA samples obtained from the drool of monkeys, gorillas, orangutans, macaques and humans in order to “gain insights into evolution of saliva.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent $118,000 at its National Wildlife Research Center in Ohio, to determine how fast a vehicle can travel, without hitting a bird standing on the road, before it can fly away to safety. In one set of experiments, raccoon carcasses were weighted down to the middle of a road to both attract turkey vultures and to keep them from moving off to the side of a road as they fed on it, so the researchers could attempt to ram them with a 2003 Ford F250 pickup truck.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse has spent over $3.4 million at Northeastern University to study aggression and anxiety in rodents. The researchers have been doing that by pitting juvenile male Syrian hamsters in “cage matches” against each other in timed rounds where the hamsters would be awarded points for biting, pursuing, and lunging at the other animal in the videotaped events. Some of the matches have involved combat between hamsters that had been injected with performance enhancing steroids.

We saved the best for last: a $1.5 million federally funded research project that involved putting fish on a treadmill!

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January 2017