Pastor Joe Van Koevering speaks reverently of the "precious Jewish people," whom "God loves," but a principal mission of his Gateway Christian Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., is to speed up the end of the world (and, thus, the deaths of nonbelievers) by financially helping to send as many Jews as possible "back home" to Israel. According to the Bible's Book of Revelation, the holy war that will bring the apocalypse will start only after Jews (of an indeterminate number) return to the holy land. According to a May St. Petersburg Times story, Van Koevering became tearful when speaking of the Jews that will be left behind to fight, and die, so that "true believers" can be taken away in the rapture.
-- The East Valley Tribune reported in April that the police department in Mesa, Ariz., was still awaiting word about its $100,000 federal grant request to buy and train a capuchin monkey for its SWAT team. Capuchins are now used as assistance animals for the disabled, in that they can be taught to fetch things off of shelves, and the police want to see if one can be trained to unlock doors and search buildings on command. The Pentagon's visionary research agency, DARPA, is considering the proposal.
-- More Bright Ideas: (1) The state government of Victoria in Australia recently approved allowing the new cemetery in Darlington to economize on space by burying bodies in upright positions. (2) A male inmate and a female inmate in a Turkish prison were given additional four-month sentences in February for destruction of property after they were convicted of having made a 4-inch hole in the wall separating their cells and using it to conceive a child (according to Istanbul's largest morning newspaper, Hurriyet).
-- A DUI suspect (unnamed in a March Toronto Sun report) put a handful of his own feces in his mouth in a police station in what officers said was an attempt to foil a Breathalyzer test. Said an official, "I don't think alcohol alone would make you do (that)." Nonetheless, said police, the man, who had been stopped on Highway 11 near Barrie, Ontario, still registered double the threshold for impairment.
-- After an investigative report by Orlando's WKMG-TV in April, a man who was hired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency last year to help Florida hurricane victims admitted that he bought an elderly woman's $1 million, Melbourne Beach oceanfront home from her for $250,000, but denied that he had taken advantage of her. Gary C. Jones, 62, who is a licensed real estate broker in Missouri but who works on contract for FEMA advising victims about home damage, said it was the woman who pushed for the sale because she was distressed by the $50,000 hurricane damage to the house.
-- Air Travel Blues: (1) In March, a woman suffered a midflight heart attack, leading the KLM pilot to emergency-land at Heathrow Airport in London, but she died before an ambulance could arrive. Six months earlier, Heathrow officials had eliminated costly standby ambulances, resulting in the woman's plane being met by a paramedic on a bicycle (which carried some emergency equipment but not nearly as much as an ambulance). (2) In a major incident on Feb. 11, security officers at Dublin International Airport "booted" (in Ireland, clamped) an ambulance at a terminal entrance, even though it was parked in an area reserved for emergency vehicles; a patient with serious injuries was delayed until paramedics paid cash to have the boot removed.
Creme de la Weird
Gregory Withrow and an associate staged a two-man protest at the California state capitol in Sacramento in April against U.S. policies on Iraq and on immigration, and in favor of white supremacy, among other issues. The associate's role in the protest was to drive 6-inch nails into Withrow's hands on a cross as he stood as a martyr for six hours. Withrow had brought notes with him from a Butte County, Calif., health official (seemingly approving Withrow's plan to hurt himself) and from the Sacramento Parks Department (affirming that no permit was needed for such a protest).
The Right to Go Through Life Without Being Offended
Mr. Brij Dhir, a San Francisco law student and India-licensed attorney, recently filed a lawsuit against a northern California microbrewery for the "hate crime" of manufacturing Indica India Pale Ale with a label featuring the Hindu god Ganesh (a man with the head of an elephant) holding Indicas in one of his four hands and his trunk. In an attempt to accommodate Dhir, Lost Coast Brewery closed down the brand, but Dhir still wants at least $25,000 for his own indignation and said that $1 billion might be necessary to compensate Hindus for their trauma.
In 2002, Boston surgeon David Arndt had his license suspended after he left the operating room in the middle of a procedure in order to cash a check at a nearby bank. (Subsequently, Arndt was also charged with cocaine possession and sexual abuse of a minor.) In April 2005, prominent Boston plastic surgeon Joseph Upton stepped away from the operating room during a scheduled break in surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and walked down the street to Children's Hospital Boston to conduct another surgery that he had double-booked for the time, before returning to Beth Israel and satisfactorily finishing the first job. Both patients are fine, but Dr. Upton was ordered not to double-book in the future and not to leave the floor during surgeries.
News of the Weird last mentioned Bhutan, a kingdom nestled between India and Tibet, in 1999, when the country had just legalized television-watching (and following a New Yorker magazine travel feature describing Bhutan's countryside paintings of the nation's Buddhist icon, the penis. Because the sainted Lama Drupka Kinley supposedly used his penis to flail away at evil spirits, followers today regard it as a symbol of fertility and demon-resistance). A March 2005 BBC News dispatch reported that penis art is still in abundance on houses and stores en route from the airport to the capital city of Thimphu, but is beginning to grate on a new generation, especially young women.
The Continuing Crisis
Among the items cleared by senior Israeli rabbis as kosher for Passover this year, according to reports in the Jerusalem Post: (1) the erectile-dysfunction drug Viagra (provided the pill is placed in special gelatin capsules before Passover begins) and (2) dog food and cat food sold by KosherPets of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (approved by the Chicago Rabbinical Council to be kept in kosher homes during Passover week). [New York Times, 4-15-05] [Jerusalem Post, 4-12-05]
Ricardo Guzman, 48, pleaded guilty in October to having fatally shot his partner in crime, Roberto Ortiz, in a barroom argument over who was the better burglar (New York City). And in March, feng shui master Tneo Ho Seng, 50, died in a fire that started on a porch and, unluckily, burned down his house (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). And in January, a 17-year-old boy in the electricity-shunning Amish community was electrocuted when he tried to remove a downed power line that had become entangled in the wheels of his buggy. (Chardon, Ohio).
Three weeks ago, based on an April report in The New York Times, I mentioned with implied skepticism that cyclist Tyler Hamilton, at a hearing on whether he illegally transfused blood before a race, had claimed that different blood found in his test was the result of a "vanishing twin" during the first trimester of his mother's pregnancy. Although Hamilton's claim was rejected at the hearing, a subsequent New York Times report indicates that the phenomenon might be much less rare than the hearing examiners believed, and I now conclude that I ought not to have chosen the story for News of the Weird.
(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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