-- Dangerous Minds: In the same week in September, Southwest Elementary School in Lexington, N.C., suspended a 6-year-old boy for kissing a girl on the cheek ("sexual harassment") and the New York Supreme Court disallowed the suspension of a 15-year-old boy who was carrying a loaded gun at William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx.
-- Wayward Principals: On Sept. 3, the principal of Sylvia Elementary School in Beckley, W.Va., George S. Meadows, 55, was suspended after being arrested for prostitution. (He was wearing a wig and dressed as a woman at the time.) On Sept. 4, the principal of Charles Brush High School in Lyndhurst, Ohio, Walter Conte, 50, was arrested and charged with clandestinely videotaping 16 cheerleaders as they changed into swimsuits for a party at his lakefront home.
-- In August, the Copenhagen (Denmark) Zoo added an exhibit to its primate collection, amid the baboons and chimpanzees: a Homo sapiens couple who will go about their daily business in a Plexiglas-walled natural habitat consisting of kitchen, living room, bedroom and workshop, as well as a computer, television, telephone, stereo and fax machine. Said a Zoo official, "We are all ... monkeys in a way, but some people find that hard to accept."
LATEST RELIGIOUS MESSAGES
-- The Lazarus Society in Cologne, Germany, recently released a "Confession by Computer" CD, with a menu of the 200 most-frequent sins and a separate program to allow the particularly iniquitous to customize the sins to which they will confess. Appropriate penances are prescribed, as well as a link to priests via the Internet. The German Conference of Bishops quickly denounced the disk. And in June, Rev. David E. Courter of the Independent Catholic Church International told an Associated Press reporter he would soon celebrate Mass on-line and allow people to take communion via computer by placing unleavened bread in front of their monitors.
-- In April, Eastern Orthodox monks in the former Soviet republic of Moldova signed a contract with the Exiton corporation, one of the leading builders of the severely depressed Moldovan economy. Under the contract, Exiton would help support a monastery and assist the monks in recovering lost icons, and the monks would pray for Exiton's bottom line.
-- Completely separate police investigations began in August in Lake Helen, Fla., and Woburn, Mass., after parents complained that their children had been baptized without permission at local churches (Central Fellowship Baptist in Florida and Anchor Baptist in Massachusetts). Anchor allegedly lured housing-project kids with a promise of pizza, which the kids say they never received.
-- In May, Social Security Commissioner Shirley Chater went against an agency policy by reassigning a Social Security number based on a religious complaint. Eric and Maria Bessem's toddler had been assigned a number containing 666 (the biblical "mark of the beast") and protested by refusing to claim the child on income tax forms. A Pentecostal pastor near the Bessems' home in Orange County, Calif., has a zip code of 92666 but says he accepts it because it is not a personal identifier like the Social Security number.
-- Recently, the All-Merciful Saviour Russian Orthodox Monastery realized it needed to raise money through an entrepreneurial venture. Since the order is located on Vashon Island near Seattle, it decided to make and market four blends of gourmet coffee, at $20 to $30 a pound, including its signature blend, Abbot's Choice.
WELL, WHAT DID THEY EXPECT?
-- At a preliminary hearing in July in Guthrie, Okla., a woman said Jimmy Don Branun assaulted her in his mobile home and then changed into black pantyhose, a garter belt, women's underpants, a training bra, and white, high-heeled shoes. The victim ran out the door and escaped when Branun was not able to keep up with her in his high heels.
-- Tom Murphy of Pittsburgh sold his 30 homing pigeons last year after an injury left him unable to care for them. Two were sold to buyers in Amarillo and Austin, Texas. In August, the two escaped and flew back to Murphy, making the 1,500 miles in about five days.
-- In August at the Loyal, Wis., Corn Fest, Steven Schiller, 24, and Kevin Froba, 25, won prizes at the familiar strength game in which a contestant slams a mallet onto a device that causes a weight to ascend and ring a bell. However, they later complained to the game operator about the quality of their prizes, and an altercation ensued. Schiller and Froba were hospitalized after the operator hit each of them in the head with the mallet.
-- In May, Karen Watson, 20, gave birth to a baby boy in Albany, Ore., which she said took her completely by surprise, though she said she had been suffering from anemia. Of course, this was not the first case of a woman's unexpectedly giving birth, but Watson is a pre-med biology major at the University of California, Davis, with plans to go into family practice.
-- Latest Postal Service-Firearms News: In August in New Egypt, N.J., letter-sorter Rodger Johnson, 44, was arrested after a search of his booby-trapped home revealed explosives, gas grenades, 85 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. And in Paterson, N.J., two days later, Postal Service mechanic Danny Isku was arrested for shooting his supervisor in the hand, and news reports indicated Isku was a member of a Paterson postal workers' gun club.
-- In May, an unidentified co-pilot on a Danish Maersk airlines flight from Birmingham, England, to Milan, Italy, with 49 passengers aboard had an anxiety attack over France because he was afraid of heights. He later resigned.
THINNING THE HERD
-- In September, a man was crushed to death on a stairway at the Sammis Real Estate and Insurance office in Huntington, N.Y., in the process of stealing the office's 600-pound safe; he apparently violated the cardinal rule of stairway-safe-hauling by standing on a step lower than the one the safe is on. (And it turned out the safe was empty.) And in Tucson, Ariz., a man intending to commit suicide in September is still alive. He turned on the gas in his trailer home and sat down to go in peace, but then decided to smoke a last cigarette. An explosion followed, and he was hospitalized with first- and second-degree burns.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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