News of the Weird

Week of August 29, 2004

LEAD STORY

Among the ice cream flavors offered recently at Ice Cream City in Namco Nanja Town in Tokyo's Toshima-ku (and posted on the Web site of the English-language Mainichi Daily News) are these: spinach, garlic, tomato, seaweed, oyster, red wine, goat, chicken, lettuce and potato, wheat, shark fin, and something called "raw horse flesh." Each flavor's package is shown, mouth-wateringly photographed.

The Learned Profession of Law

In July, police were summoned to an upscale office building in west St. Louis on a report of a man roaming the halls with a gun, and on arrival, officers found some workers hiding under desks and in closets and others having fled the building. Police concluded that two lawyers, Gary Burger and Mark Cantor, were once again playing their game in the hallways, stalking each other with BB guns and occasionally firing. (Most workers did not know that the men were playing, but one did because she had been shot in the finger and shoulder after walking into a previous battle.) Police said they intend to file charges of waving a dangerous weapon, and one officer said the men would be tried as adults.

Pre-emptive War

Ice cream truck driver Markus Miller, 29, was arrested in Enid, Okla., in August after he ended an altercation with an 18-year-old customer by allegedly pulling out his handgun and firing two shots at the woman's feet (one shot of which ricocheted and hit her collarbone). And in July, police in Grahamstown, South Africa, were hunting a soccer referee after the man ended a confrontation with a coach (after the referee had yellow-carded his player) by pulling out a gun and shooting the coach dead.

Scenes of the Surreal

In June, the director of Thailand's corrections system wanted a way to shift inmates' interest away from betting on the Euro 2004 soccer tournament to actually playing soccer and so had the bright idea to schedule them a match against outsiders, ostensibly to build up their self-esteem, but the outsiders happened to be trained soccer-playing elephants from Ayuthaya Elephant Palace. Self-esteem might have taken a hit, since the inmates could manage only a 5-5 tie. (The elephants apparently were allowed to move the ball with their trunks.)

Things People Believe

-- As many as 400 Cambodian pilgrims a day are flocking to the northern village of Phum Trapeang Chum to be licked by a mystical cow that was born in a sacred commune, according to a July Agence France-Presse report. Word got out after the wife of the cow's owner said she was cured of a chronic illness, and other success stories followed, and now the owner is charging the equivalent of about 13 U.S. cents for four licks. But, warned the owner, "the cow won't lick people who won't put in their money."

-- Two reporters from South Africa's largest online news operation, News24, profiled Miyi Shongi, 58, in August, in her quest to avoid a "curse" of stones landing on her. She was forced to leave her home village of Lombani after her home was pounded inexplicably with stones (evidently witnessed by a police officer) and forced again to leave relatives' home in nearby Nhombelani after another rock storm hit her. A spiritualist she consulted concluded that the problem was a spell cast by a Zimbabwean trader to whom she owned money.

Compelling Explanations

-- The University of Colorado received much negative publicity in the last year about allegations that its football coach and some players had sexually assaulted or harassed female students, and it fell upon the school's president, Elizabeth Hoffman, to try to minimize the damage, and she apparently took that task seriously at a deposition in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit. According to a leaked copy of the deposition, reported in June by KUSA-TV (Denver), Hoffman denied that what some call "the C-word" (a vulgar reference to women) is necessarily "filthy and vile." "It is all in the context," she strained to explain. Asked for an example of a "polite" context, Hoffman said, "I've actually heard (the word) used as a term of endearment."

-- Catholic priest Zivko Kustic told a newspaper in Zagreb, Croatia, in July that his church would lobby the Croatian Parliament for an exemption to a tough drunk-driving law being debated, on the ground that priests have to drink wine in as many as three masses a day and sometimes in three different villages and often cannot meet the safe blood-alcohol level of under 0.05.

People With Issues

In August, the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners revoked the license of John Hall of Cornelius, N.C., based on a finding that he for some reason had been injecting his semen into the mouths of several patients during office visits. He had tearfully denied the charges, but his semen was found on syringes turned in by two of Hall's assistants, and patients testified to an "awful"-tasting substance he had squirted into their mouths (and one testified to his seriously improper sexual manner in treating her). Hall told the examiners that the reason he had semen in the office was for a sperm-count test concerning his use of the hair-loss drug Propecia, but then could not explain why other people's DNA (perhaps from their saliva) was also found in the syringes.

Least Competent Criminals

Two men were arrested in Dearborn, Mich., in July and charged with robbing a Bank One branch, done in by a glitch in their getaway plan. They had hopped on mountain bikes to make their exit (which bank robbers have used with success from time to time), but they were apparently unfamiliar with the concept of a gearshift, and both men rode away in first gear (or perhaps second), so slowly that one witness followed them easily on foot, and a bank guard got close enough to shoot one of them in the arm. They were quickly arrested.

Update

News of the Weird has reported several times in the last 12 years on Kopi Luwak, the ultra-expensive coffee derived from beans that have been eaten and excreted by civet cats in Indonesia. In July Massimo Marcone of the University of Guelph (Canada) published his examination (in the journal Food Research International) of how taste is affected by the beans' journey through the civet. First, the civet instinctively chooses only the ripest beans. Then, digestive biochemicals penetrate the outer layer of the bean as it passes through the GI tract. Internal fermentation by digestive enzymes adds a unique flavor ("earthy, musty, smooth and rich with jungle and chocolate undertones"). Also, proteins are leached out during digestion, thus removing a source of coffee's bitterness. (On the other hand, Kopi Luwak doesn't particularly distinguish itself from other coffee in human blind taste tests.)

Readers' Choice

Landscape contractor Blair Davis, who lives in a Houston suburb and whose own yard's flora includes the Texas Star hibiscus, was the object of a SWAT-type raid by the Harris County Organized Crime and Narcotics Task Force in July. A neighbor had reported Davis as having drugs, in that the Texas Star hibiscus somewhat vaguely resembles the marijuana plant, and the prestigious Task Force didn't know any better. Davis said that an agent also asked him warily what he planned to do with the watermelons and cantaloupes that were growing in his back yard.

Almost All True

Three of these four things really happened, just recently. Are you cynical enough to figure out the made-up story? (a) A state Sierra Club official, hiking with friends, was struck and killed by lightning. (b) A family in India was reported to have 175 members, who eat meals in shifts of 25 to 30 and require about 1,500 weekly servings of fresh-baked bread. (c) Federal and state officials managed to shut down a smuggling tunnel running from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to Laredo, Texas, on the ground that it violated U.S. mine safety standards. (d) Among the recent priorities of Netherlands' Labour Party is legislating a ban on the forcible licking of people's toes. (Answer: The third choice is made up.)

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)

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