News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



-- Spare the Rod: In September, engaging in a 300-year tradition of the Dussera holiday in India's Tamil Nadu state, Hindu priests ritually whipped 2,000 young women and girls over a five-hour period as penance for a range of sins, from insufficient studying to moral impurity. Said one sobbing yet inspired lash recipient, to an NDTV reporter, "(W)hen we are whipped, we will get rid of our mental and physical ailments and evil spirits." (And in November, Pope John Paul II was revealed to have periodically atoned for sins by privately whipping himself, according to a nun who worked with him and who was cited in the Vatican's ongoing consideration of John Paul II for sainthood. The nun said she heard him distinctly several times from an adjacent room.)

Compelling Explanations

-- From a police report in the North Bay (Ontario) Nugget (Nov. 7): An officer in line at a traffic light, realizing that cars had not moved through two light changes, walked up to the lead car to investigate. The driver said she was not able to move on the green lights because she was still on the phone and thus driving off would be illegal. The officer said a brief lecture improved the woman's understanding of the law.

-- The inspector general of the National Science Foundation revealed that on-the-job viewing of pornography Web sites was so widespread at the agency that the resultant ethics investigations hindered his primary mission of investigating fraud on grant contracts. The agency report, obtained by the Washington Times in September, said the heaviest user was a senior executive who logged on to pornography at least 331 days in 2008. He subsequently retired, but before leaving defended his habit, claiming that his Web site visits actually helped impoverished women in Third World countries to earn a decent living (by posing for pornography).

-- Fine Lawyering: Jacob Christine, 21, acting as his own lawyer at an October hearing, denying charges that he severely slashed a fellow inmate at an Easton, Pa., prison, offered his own view of whoever the perpetrator was: "Whoever attacked (the victim) had a high regard for life," said Christine, because the cut "isn't deep at all. It's on his neck. It's not on his face."


-- When Minnesota's Riverview Community Bank opened for business in 2004, founder Chuck Ripka claimed divine inspiration -- that God had told him to "pastor the bank" and, in exchange, that He would "take care of the bottom line," leading Ripka to use "prayer" as a theme in the bank's promotions. In October 2009, Riverview became only the sixth bank in the state to be shut down by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Riverview acknowledged that it had invested aggressively in real estate.

-- Dr. Hulda Clark, 80, passed away in September of multiple myeloma, an advanced cancer of the plasma cells. Before she was stricken, she had authored three books touting her eccentric remedies as cures, first, for "all diseases," and then, especially, cancer. In her books "The Cure for All Cancers" and "The Cure for All Advanced Cancers," she urged those diagnosed to immediately stop chemotherapy and embrace her quixotic regimens, to subdue the "parasites" that cause cancer.

The Litigious Society

-- Albert Freed's lawsuit for defective underwear against Hanes was dismissed in October by a Pensacola, Fla., judge, even though Freed had complained that the briefs had caused severe pain and ruined his vacation. Freed said the garment's flap had inexplicably failed to close, allowing his penis to protrude and rub against swim trunks that contained sand from the beach, irritating the sensitive skin. However, Freed delayed diagnosing the problem -- by declining to inspect his organ. He explained that he cannot easily peer over his "belly" (and wouldn't even consider, he said, examining his naked self in a mirror or asking his wife to inspect). Consequently, he had endured increased irritation before recognizing the source of the chafing.

-- According to a November Chicago Sun-Times report, county officials in Chicago have agreed to pay a $14,000 injury claim to janitor Mary Tait, of the sheriff's department. The amount covers two incidents, in 1997 and 1998, in which she hurt her back in the same way -- while "reaching around to pick up a piece of toilet paper."

Latest Human Rights

-- In November, a judge in Somerville, N.J., overruled a local police chief who had rejected a firearms license for hunting enthusiast James Cap, 46. The judge ordered the chief to grant the license, even though Cap is a quadriplegic and will need to mount the gun on his wheelchair and fire it by blowing into a tube. (Cap was an avid hunter before a football injury incapacitated him.)

Smooth Reactions

-- (1) In July, Charles Diez was charged with attempted murder for his angry reaction to a bicyclist who was carrying his 3-year-old son on the bike unsafely, on a busy Asheville, N.C., street. According to police, Diez was so anguished that he pulled his gun and fired at the bicyclist, grazing the man's helmet. (2) In October, just as Pennsylvania federal judge Lawrence Stengel was launching into his explanation for the sentence he was about to impose, bank robber Trammel Bledsoe grew impatient. "Can you hurry this up? I don't have time for this. Just sentence me. ..." ("You'll have all the time in the world," responded Stengel, who gave Bledsoe 41 years.)

People Who Went Too Far

-- Great Expectorations: (1) Charles Hersel, 39, was arrested in Thousand Oaks, Calif., in November after police investigators overheard him offer $31 to a Westlake High School boy to spit in Hersel's face. Several boys had complained to police that a man (allegedly Hersel) had approached them, offering money for expelling saliva and other bodily fluids on him. (2) Also in November, Patrick Girard, 29, a member of the City Council in Plattsburgh, N.Y., apologized to the constituent in whose face Girard had spit at the height of a barroom argument about the Boston Red Sox. Said the constituent, "It got in my eye, on my face, on my jacket."

Least Competent Criminals

-- Could've Planned Better: (1) Vincent Salters, 46, was arrested in East Knoxville, Tenn., in November after having shoplifted shoes the day before from the Shoe Show store. He had dashed out hurriedly with several display shoes, but an employee said they were all for the left foot. Salters was arrested outside the store the next day, perhaps having come to pick up right-foot shoes. (2) Travis Himmler, 22, was charged with burglary in November after allegedly stealing the cash register from the Golden Wok restaurant in Bloomington, Minn., and carrying it away on his bicycle. He was found down the street, injured, after taking a bad tumble when the dangling cash register cord got caught in the bike's spokes.

A News of the Weird Classic (December 2000)

-- Las Vegas body modifier Nathan McKay, 24, complained in November 2000 about the difficulty of getting proper medical care, namely, further surgery to prevent his already surgically forked tongue from fusing back together and removal of all teeth (and replacement with platinum implants). Said McKay, who also has 1-inch-stretched holes in his earlobes (for holding ebony disks): "I want my tongue split ... as far back as possible, to the uvula, so I have two separate strands in my mouth." The original surgeon was a family friend, but he has balked at any follow-up. Said McKay, "I'm not trying to turn myself into anything except someone to remember."

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