News of the Weird

Week of September 22, 2002

LEAD STORIES

-- The 12-story, earthquake-proof, $190 million Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was dedicated in Los Angeles in September, celebrated not only for the obligatory gift shop ($24.99 for house chardonnay), the ATM, and the $12-a-day parking garage, but for the private crypts underneath at prices of $50,000 to $3 million. ("(That's) kind of like selling sky boxes," said a Notre Dame theology professor; a Loyola Marymount University professor defended the steep price, saying, "I don't think that the poor are terribly worried about where they are going to be buried.")

-- While Chile copes this month with the first murder in 15 years on its remote Easter Island (pop. 4,000; 2,370 miles from the mainland), Great Britain was reportedly preparing to build a jail and a courthouse on Easter's closest neighbor, Pitcairn Island, after investigators from Britain and New Zealand said they suspected as many as 20 of the 47 residents had engaged in sex with children. According to a July report in Britain's The Guardian newspaper, if charges are eventually filed, trials might be held on Pitcairn or in New Zealand using a special satellite video hookup from the island.

Vacationers Just Beggin' for It

A 34-year-old woman from Texas was attacked by three lions in a pen at a game park in South Africa after she started petting one of them (Pietersburg, June). And a 30-year-old woman from Texas was critically injured by a car as she stood on the shoulder of Los Angeles' Hollywood Freeway to snap a photo of the "Hollywood" sign (June). And a 40-year-old man from Georgia, who had locked himself out of a 10th-floor, Alabama-beach condo, decided that shimmying down from the 14th-floor roof was faster than asking security guards for help, but fell 200 feet into the 4-foot-deep swimming pool, breaking three ribs (Orange Beach, July).

Trouble Up Ahead

-- Former Jehovah's Witness elder Bill Bowen charged in June that the sect manages a secret database of 23,720 members who have been accused of sexual abuse but that little if anything happens to those named unless a witness comes forward (a stipulation supposedly commanded by Deuteronomy 19:15, requiring witnesses to prove a sin). When Bowen complained, he was expelled from the sect for "causing divisions." Furthermore, Bowen charged, even confessed abusers are "punished" only by being kept from proselytizing door-to-door unless accompanied by another Witness.

-- Officials in Livermore, Calif., apparently weary of breakdowns in the city's sewer system, made a formal apology in August to American Indian Adam "Fortunate Eagle" Nordwell, who had placed a curse on the system in 1969 after city workers chopped off a portion of the totem pole he had donated for the city's centennial celebration. Some residents have routinely attributed any sewer breakdown over the years to the curse.

-- Tucson (Ariz.) Heart Hospital was cited in June by the state Department of Health Services for having illegally locked its emergency room from the inside, and employees told an Associated Press reporter that that was to prevent patients from leaving before payment had been arranged (although a hospital vice president denied that).

-- Samuel Greenbaum, 58, one of five "mohels" in the Detroit area (qualified to conduct the Jewish circumcision ritual), was charged with DUI after being stopped on June 18 on his way to perform his craft on a boy in West Bloomfield Township. He told police he was en route from another circumcision, at which he might have had a couple of glasses of wine, but felt (despite failing a Breathalyzer test) that he was alert enough to wield the scalpel-like instrument.

Great Art!

The performance "XXX" by the Spanish theater group La Fura dels Baus opened in May in the small town of Lorca, Spain, the only venue available because the play's rawness continues to keep it out of mainstream European theaters. Its nude, sexually acrobatic troupe performs a work by Marquis de Sade ending in a woman's staging the rape and mutilation of her mother as punishment for having sheltered the daughter's life (about which one actor said, "(W)e have achieved something essential, which is to leave nobody indifferent"). The show opens with a nude woman picking up a pen between her buttocks cheeks and scrawling (in Spanish) "A better world is possible" while squatting over a video projector.

People Who Can't Learn From Experience

Inmate David Ivy escaped through a hole in the fence at the Shelby County (Tenn.) jail in May; officials discovered that Ivy had escaped through the same hole in 1991 and that the hole had not since been repaired. And police in Cleveland picked up Betty Horton, 44 (and with no criminal record), in July, for the third time in eight months when they were really looking for Bettie Horton, 37; an official said he couldn't guarantee it wouldn't happen again.

Recurring Themes

More Creative Smugglers: Border Patrol officers arrested two Texas men who drove back from Mexico with 11 pounds of marijuana but also with a dead body whose chest cavity had been cut open as if the men had originally tried to plant the drugs inside the cadaver (Falfurrias, Texas, July). A Belgian woman, 23, traveling by ferry from Greece to Italy, was detained for trying to smuggle her boyfriend in a large suitcase (Brindisi, Italy, July). A 17-year-old woman, whose plane had just landed in England from Dubai, was detained when agents realized that the mock chameleon design on her hat was a live, endangered-species chameleon (Manchester, England, July).

The Defense du Jour

Church youth minister Hartley McWhite, 29, was convicted in August of killing his mistress (despite his defense that she choked to death accidentally during rough sex) (Tampa, Fla.). Raymond Rock, 37, was arrested in July and charged with killing a 40-year-old woman he had met in a bar (but said it was an accident after she asked him to choke her during rough sex) (Pittsburgh). Jeanette Daniels, 40, was arrested in July and charged with killing a 62-year-old man (but said he accidentally asphyxiated during rough sex) (Chicago).

Our Civilization in Decline

Coca-Cola and Pepsi signs were painted on many rocks on a 35-mile stretch in the picturesque Manali-Rohtang area of the Himalayan mountains in India; the India Supreme Court took supervision of the cleanup in August. And Vancouver (Wash.) Mazda-Dodge agreed to make restitution to settle charges that it sold a string of 18 new cars (in 14 months) to a 70-year-old, mentally impaired man (August). And California's program to encourage mothers to turn in unwanted babies to hospitals has drawn widespread praise, except from Waste Management Inc., which objects to the state's signs on its Dumpsters ("If we (have to tell people) not to throw babies in Dumpsters, (we) have reached the lowest point we can get to as a society") (August).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Germany beat Lithuania, 4-1, to advance in the European under-21 soccer championship, after Lithuanian players accidentally kicked three goals into their own net (Vilnius, Lithuania). A fourth-grade teacher was reprimanded for teaching her kids the correct use of "niggardly" ("stingy") because school officials said it was a nonessential word that could be highly offensive to some students (Wilmington, N.C.). A couple filed a lawsuit against Air Canada for losing their cat, asking $5 million but insisting, said the man, "It's not about the money" (San Francisco). Greece banned playing all video games because legislators said they did not know how to ban only video gambling, which was their intention; one court has overturned the ban (Thessaloniki).

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

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