News of the Weird

Week of October 20, 2002

LEAD STORIES

(CORRECTION: Two weeks ago, I mistakenly wrote that Lutherans believe there is only one God, when I should have written that it is the Lutherans' Missouri Synod which believes that (and it was that organization which demoted its radio preacher). I apologize for the error.)

-- In September, Australia's Daily Telegraph reported that the Federal Attorney General's office had ruled that eyesight and medical tests required of flight crews and air traffic controllers could no longer be given because they violate the country's anti-discrimination laws. The Civil Aviation Safety Agency, concerned about physically unqualified pilots, announced immediately that it would appeal the ruling, but the association of cabin crew members, for one, was reluctant to support the appeal because it fears that such medical tests make it easier for airlines to impose weight restrictions on flight attendants.

-- Sen. Jorge Capitanich recently introduced a bill in the Argentine legislature to help restore voters' faith in elected officials to pull the country out of its long and severe economic crisis. (It is a common street scene in Buenos Aires that politicians, once they are identified by passersby, are targets of insults and spitting.) If the bill passes, all congressional and presidential candidates would be required not only to prove they have paid their taxes and to disclose any criminal records but also to submit to psychiatric exams to assure voters that they are emotionally fit to hold office.

Latest Protests

A formerly obese woman organized a "million-pound march" for Ottawa in October to protest the Ontario Parliament's proposed funding cutbacks on stomach-stapling surgery. (Attendance was about 998,000 pounds short.) And to protest unemployment in Escravos, Nigeria, in July, about 600 women held hundreds of workers captive inside an oil terminal and threatened to take off their own clothes, which Nigerians regard as gravely shocking. And in Rajasthan, India, protesters opposed to distribution of the allegedly mob-financed movie "Kante" said they would release poisonous snakes into the darkened theaters showing the film.

Cultural Diversity

-- In July, on her return from a frowned-upon pilgrimage with a female friend just after her wedding, Sangeeta Sauda, age 20 and of a Khanjar tribal community in India, volunteered to hold a red-hot iron in her hands in public to prove to her husband that she was still as pure as the Hindu goddess Sita. She passed the test, but police in Indore, watching the ceremony, later arrested Sauda's husband and in-laws for allegedly pressuring her to hurt herself.

-- Among the more daring indigenous national games (from a September ABC News report): fish-fighting in Thailand (just like cockfighting but with specially bred fish in a tank); competitive kite-flying in several Southeast Asia countries (kites with sharp edges for contestants to try to shred opponents' kites); and "pato," which is now played in Argentina with a partially buried ball with handles, but which originally was played by burying a duck up to his neck and attempting to yank it up while on horseback.

-- To battle dry spells in Nepal and neighboring northern India in July and August, dozens of farmer's wives gathered in the fields to perform naked dances at midnight in order to appease Indra, the Hindu god of rain; the women of Uttar Pradesh state in India were less successful, but the 200 Nepalese women who began dancing in mid-August were rewarded with the start of the monsoon season, which soon created floods and landslides. And in Lambertville, N.J., in August, a nude Douglas B. Carroll, 24, was arrested at 3 a.m. and told police he thought running across a bridge naked, really fast, would bring rain; the next night, it rained.

-- Thailand's public health minister issued a warning in August against the growing fad of keeping as pets the large Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, which are being widely sold for about $1.20 each. According to her, their bacteria- and virus-laden, 2-1/2-inch-long bodies, and very quick breeding ability, make them somewhat unsuitable as pets.

Awesome!

In August, in Goshen, Ind., Chad Hershberger, 45, survived having his skull split wide open by an exploding piece of metal in a septic-tank accident. (He initially remained conscious while being treated for the 2-inch, ear-to-ear gash but later underwent major surgery and lost his left eye.) And in June, a 20-year-old man accidentally fired his spear gun, hitting himself in the head, while fishing near Chania, Crete, but survived despite being in the water for six hours before being discovered and enduring three hours' surgery just to remove the spear (which had entered his jaw and broken through the top of his skull); because the spear passed through a nonactive part of the brain, the man was soon back on his feet with no serious problems.

Boredom, Illustrated

A 16-year-old boy was sent to Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., in September with second-degree burns after he and two pals started playing a game in which each would splash gasoline on their shorts and set themselves on fire before rolling on the ground to try to extinguish the flames. One of the boys told police they agreed to three rounds each as sort of competition.

A Benefit of Obesity: Secret Hiding Places

James Scott Woods, 26, was arrested in Mount Carmel, Tenn., in July after police were called to a house on a robbery complaint. Officers could not find evidence of the robbery and were inclined to let Woods go but on a hunch discovered a half-ounce of marijuana, plus a pipe and $187 cash, tucked into a fold of Woods' stomach. (A few minutes later, Woods was also charged with tampering with evidence when he allegedly broke his handcuffs and tried to swallow the marijuana.)

Recurring Themes

Nature 3, Humans 0. Rodrigo Vazquez's mobile home in Rockingham County, Pa., and a vacant house in Homestead, Pa., were nearly destroyed in August when gas appliances ignited the owners' pest-control foggers. And Larry Goble's house caught fire (before a neighbor helped extinguish it) after an accident started by Goble's attempt to burn a wasps' nest on an outside wall (Corn Fork, Ky., July).

Our Civilization in Decline

The large health insurer AmeriChoice Corp. (under investigation in New York and New Jersey in recent years) was criticized for giving away chickens in poor neighborhoods to get people to switch their Medicaid coverage to the company (Brooklyn, N.Y., August). The Springfield, Fla., city commissioners voted to accept as many as 15 new police cars for free provided that the North Carolina company that supplied them could plaster them with ads (August). And the trade journal Advertising Age reported in September that Island Def Jam music company is actively considering selling product placements in the lyrics of some of the company's artists' recordings. (Current product mentions in lyrics are believed to be uncompensated and at the whim of the artist.)

Also, in the Last Month ...

Montana's Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Stan Jones said the reason that his skin is blue, probably permanently, is because he had been drinking a homemade silver solution favored by some libertarians to guard against illness. Surgeons reattached a man's upper lip after friends found it on a street after it had been severed in a fight (Wellington, New Zealand). Canadian Football League running back Ron Williams and six teammates made a group "fair catch" of a woman who jumped from the fourth floor of a burning building (Edmonton, Alberta). Among the volunteers on the re-election campaign of imprisoned former U.S. Rep. James Traficant is Leo Glaser, a remorseful juror who helped convict Traficant of racketeering and who now believes he was innocent (Girard, Ohio).

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Newsweird@aol.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like News of the Weird