News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF AUGUST 7, 2005

LEAD STORY

Even though India now has 80,000 licensed dentists, nearly 100 "street dentists" continue to operate in dusty, open-air "offices," performing extractions and "fitting" used dentures for, typically, 1 percent to 2 percent of what a licensed dentist would charge. One patient of practitioner Mahender Singh, observed for a June dispatch from Jaipur in The New York Times, was "spitting streams of blood into the gutter" after removal of an incisor that, said Singh, "was not working right" and "kept turning left and right when he ate." Singh uses anesthetic but said some patients still pass out from the pain.

Cultural Diversity

-- A French bus line filed an unfair-competition lawsuit against a group of cleaning ladies in Moselle, who used to be customers but who recently began car-pooling to their jobs across the border at European Union offices in Luxembourg. Transports Schiocchet Excursions wants the ladies fined and their cars confiscated. And in Tokyo in July, a group of French-language schoolteachers filed a lawsuit against the city's governor (asking the equivalent of almost $100,000) for his having denigrated the French language, calling it a "failed international language." Said Malik Berkane, head of a French school in Tokyo, "(I)t's unacceptable for him to insult French in this way."

-- In Kyrgyzstan (and some neighboring Central Asian countries) the pre-12th-century tribal custom of "ala kachuu" continues, in which a man reduces the time and expense of courtship by riding up on horseback to a woman, snatching her up, and taking her to his family home, where his relatives (and sometimes hers) prepare her for marriage. According to an April New York Times dispatch from Bishkek, more than half of wives are acquired by ala kachuu (although the term can also mean a more-benign "elopement"), and even some of the snatched wives eventually "consent" to the marriage. Ala kachuu has been illegal for years, but the law against it is rarely enforced.

Questionable Judgments

-- First prize in the youth division of the Fourth of July parade this year in Haines, Ore., went to three kids, all aged 9 and 10, who dressed as large, shelled insects (actually, in inner tubes covered by garbage bags), pushing huge rubber balls coated in sand, dirt and dead grass, according to the Baker City Herald. (Yes, the parents had conspired with their kids to dress them up as dung beetles!)

-- The Living Word Tabernacle in Waverly, Ohio, terminated the membership of Loretta Davis recently, according to a July report by WCMH-TV in Columbus, because she had stopped paying her tithe. Davis' contributions ended in January after she was hospitalized the first of 15 times this year for congestive heart failure. The church's founder said non-member Davis could still attend, but Davis' daughter said, "In the time of (her) need, (the church) should be caring, supporting, asking what she needs, help her if she needed help." (When healthier, Davis was donating $60 a month out of her $592 Social Security check.)

Least Competent People

Citing the high quality of the workforce in Ontario, Toyota decided recently to build a second plant in the province (this time in Woodstock) even though Ontario was offering only about half the subsidy offered by Mississippi and Alabama to build the plant in one of those states. According to a July Canadian Press story, a trade association executive said the industry had learned from Nissan and Honda, which had found the workforce in the U.S. South to be often untrained and illiterate, and that, in Alabama, trainers had to use pictorials to teach some workers how to use the equipment.

Recurring Themes

-- Incompetent Home Improvement: A bee-plagued homeowner in northwest Tucson, Ariz., attempting to "frighten the bees off" (according to a fire department spokesman) by lighting a small fire in the attic, inadvertently ignited insecticide vapor, with the resulting blaze causing about $100,000 damage to the roof (March). And a woman in Mecklenburg County, N.C., attempted to chase snakes out of a couch on her front porch by dousing the nest with lighter fluid, but then an accidentally dropped match set a fire large enough that she had to jump out a window to safety (June).

-- Fetish du Jour: In July in Exeter, England, Paul Pennington pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual activity in a public restroom, while incidentally dressed in a baby diaper, bib and girl's dress and carrying a baby bottle (but also wearing a stuffed bra). And Sean Kelly, 35, was arrested in Sebastian, Fla., in July, and charged with fraudulently attempting to obtain health-care services after he showed up at a clinic complaining of back pain but dressed in a baby diaper (which he eventually "loaded," demanding a change). And Calvin Milo Alvarez, 30, was arrested in Fayetteville, Ark., in May on a child pornography charge after he was found by police, arguing with another man at an apartment house, with Alvarez dressed in a baby diaper and bleeding from the mouth.

Latest Religious Messages

-- Britain's Church Mission Society, with 200 missionaries around the world, decided recently that a place that needs one the most is the town of Telford, England (population 150,000), where fewer than one in a hundred residents attends an Anglican church. (Said a CMS spokesman, "These days the CMS goes to the hard places and takes on the hard cases.") (The Church of England might have a larger problem, according to a July survey by Bangor University researchers: 3 percent of its clergy doubts the existence of God, which works out to nearly 300 non-believing ministers.)

-- A growing number of historical sites in Mecca (perhaps even including the home of the Prophet Muhammad) may soon fall to urban renewal as developers plan skyscrapers with stores and condominiums, according to a July Reuters dispatch. (Ironically, many devout Wahhabi Muslims support the demolition, hoping to prevent people from worshipping such "sacred" buildings instead of concentrating on their proper duties in Islam. Those Wahhabis view only the Grand Mosque, which is the destination for the annual hajj pilgrimages, as untouchable.)

-- The New Born Fellowship Christian Center in Rochester, N.Y., recently adopted a several-weeks-long "Spiritual Warfare" theme that featured its pastor, Warren Meeks, delivering sermons while in military fatigues (and asking congregants to wear fatigues, too), to battle the spirits opposing U.S. troops overseas and those challenging American youth with drugs and gangs. Meeks also brought in an Army missile, to help with the message, according to a report on WHAM-TV.

First Things First

In June, the Arab Balad party went to court in Haifa, Israel, challenging ultra-nationalist Jews of the Gush Katif settlement, who are virulently opposing the government's mandatory withdrawal from Gaza. However, the Balads' complaint has little to do with sovereignty or religion. The party has for years used orange as its organizing theme color and filed the lawsuit to make the upstart Gush Katif stop using orange in its own materials.

Thinning the Herd

The bodies of Kentucky State Reformatory inmates Avery C. Roland, 26, and Michael Talbot Jr., 24, were found in a nearby landfill the day after they went missing in July; a Department of Corrections official said they had probably hidden inside a garbage truck without realizing that, to prevent escapes, the prison requires that garbage be compacted twice before it leaves the grounds. And four days apart in July, two 19-year-old men (in Sheboygan, Wis., and Louisville, Ky.) fell to their deaths while car-surfing at high speeds. (According to a witness, the Sheboygan man's fatal fall came shortly after he yelled to his driver, "Is that all you got?")

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

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