-- Muslim-dominated Pakistan allows a large, prosperous brewery to operate, even though its product is off-limits to 97 percent of the population and is regularly denounced by the nation's leaders, according to a July dispatch in the San Francisco Chronicle. Non-Muslims can purchase Murree Beer by applying for a consumption permit (stating religion, profession, income, drinking history, and for females, the name of her husband). Muslims are allowed to work at the factory, and apparently many Muslims pay consumption-permit holders to purchase beer for them.
-- Ms. Ezola Foster, who is Pat Buchanan's Reform Party running mate and a longtime conservative skeptical of most government social programs, admitted in August that she had submitted a false document in 1996 in order to get California worker compensation benefits. According to a Los Angeles Times report, she claims now that she never had the "mental illness" that entitled her to draw money for about a year before her retirement as a schoolteacher in 1997. Rather, she now says: "I (had) two choices to survive. Since (my condition) wasn't physical, they make it mental, don't they? If I don't have a broken leg or they don't see blood, or I'm not dead, they said I have to be crazy." Her "mental illness" was worked out "between my doctor and my attorney. It's whatever the doctor said that, after working with my attorney, was best to help me."
Arrested in Bologna, Italy, in July and charged with burglarizing a pasta shop: Mr. Stefano Spaghetti. Scratched, as an inappropriately named horse, by Saratoga racetrack officials from the opening-day races in July: a 2-year-old colt named Mufahker (which means "glory" in Arabic). The arresting officer, in an undercover sting operation that charged two 46-year-old men with soliciting sex with other men at Hugh MacRae Park in Wilmington, N.C., in July: Sgt. Bud LaCock. Charged with allowing underage teen-agers to have a keg party in her home near Pittsburgh in March: Susan Beer, 50.
-- Rancher Marvin Edison Hale, 72, was arrested in August in Hays County, Texas (near Austin), after allegedly shooting to death a Department of Public Safety trooper who had tried to pull Hale over for violating the state's seat-belt law. Hale has been feuding with the government since 1982, when his ranch increased in value and property taxes were raised, and a 1999 seat-belt ticket apparently set him off. DPS had advised troopers to be cautious, especially on seat-belt violations, because Hale appeared ready to fight to the death.
-- Fred Craig continues with his intensive, 14-month campaign against a Fashion Bug store in Fulton, N.Y., according to an August Syracuse Herald-Journal report, which started over a pair of $3 panties for his wife that the store would not take back, even though the panties had shredded during their first washing. Craig picketed the mall store, picketed the mall owner's headquarters, picketed the home of a mall executive, and drove around with a large trailer-sign denouncing Fashion Bug. Finally, Craig won a $36 judgment in Small Claims Court but is still picketing because the mall has now barred him from the premises altogether.
-- Donna Harris-Lewis (widow of basketball player Reggie Lewis) announced in August that she would appeal her May lawsuit defeat and thus continue her quest to pin her husband's death on Boston cardiologist Gilbert Mudge. Mr. Lewis, with his wife's blessing, had continued to play basketball despite 12 cardiologists' opinions that his heart was too weak, and when he had a second attack, Harris-Lewis had him transferred surreptitiously to Mudge's hospital because Mudge had given a more favorable basketball prognosis. After Mr. Lewis died anyway, Harris-Lewis (who collected about $12 million on her husband's contract with the Boston Celtics) sued Mudge because, as she told a Boston Magazine reporter, "I need to be taken care of, too. Everybody has to say I'm greedy, but I do want my money back this time around. Why should I lose?"
-- Despite its endearment as a pet in the United States, guinea pigs continue to serve many needs in their native Peru, according to a June Associated Press report. Almost all rural households raise the animals, which are a major source of protein, but folk healers ("curanderos") also use guinea pigs to diagnose illnesses and remove bad luck. The guinea pig acts as kind of a CT scan; the "doctor" rubs the animal over a patient's body and then cuts it open to check for discoloration because the guinea pig is believed to pick up sympathetic illnesses in the same part of the body as the patient's illness.
-- As Russia's economy and drive toward democracy falter, consumption of vodka increases, but drinking habits long ago created a public health crisis for the country, according to a June Boston Globe story. Life expectancy is down to 59; average vodka consumption is three bottles a week; and two-thirds of all adult men are in fact drunk when they die.
-- The bond between mother and son in Italy (called "mammismo") appears to be growing even stronger, according to a May dispatch from Rome by the Chicago Tribune. According to Italy's premier sociology research organization, 70 percent of Italian men reach the age of 30 while still living at home, and 43 percent of married men live within a half-mile of their mothers. Of the Italian men not living at home, 70 percent call Mamma every single day. In explaining her relationship with her son, Guiseppa Liuzzo, 88, could be speaking for many mothers: "He's very attached to me because I spoiled him."
In July, the two owners of Hi-Po Inc., which had won a state environmental contract to clean up diesel fuel from two Ann Arbor, Mich., bodies of water, were indicted in Detroit for secretly having dumped the diesel fuel in the water in the first place, in order to create the need for the cleanup contract.
News of the Weird has occasionally reported technological and architectural advances in bathrooms, from full-service toilets (1988) to Singapore's (1996) and South Korea's (1999) national pride in having the world's cleanest or fanciest public restrooms. A July 2000 Wall Street Journal survey on the state of restroom design mentioned the one at the China Grill (Miami), inside which users can order drinks, and the one at the Mandalay Bay casino (Las Vegas), where patrons can use 11 glass cabanas that house televisions playing music videos. At a Royalton Hotel (New York City) restroom, a lavish waterfall is triggered when a patron enters, and at Bar 89 (New York City), the stalls have clear glass doors that become liquid-crystal-activated, non-see-through only when the door is tightly closed.
Life Imitates the World Wrestling Federation: Bank robberies in Worthington, Ohio (July), and Oshawa, Ontario (December 1999), were foiled when the robbers managed to get clobbered by chair shots to the head delivered by, respectively, the president of the Guernsey Bank in Worthington and a 64-year-old man, who was selling raffle tickets next door to the Bank of Montreal branch, heard gunshots, and went to investigate.
Anti-child-abuse vigilantes vandalized a pediatrician's home, apparently confusing her occupation with the word "pedophile" (Newport, Wales). Workers at a seafood plant found a human head inside a 5-foot-long cod and tentatively identified it as that of a former crew member on the boat that caught the fish (Cairns, Australia). A 26-year-old man charged with driving a stolen Mercedes, asked the judge if he could use the car as collateral for bail (Port Washington, Wis.). A candidate for sheriff left town mysteriously after having been caught spreading sugar on the ground (to draw ants) the day before his opponent's fund-raising picnic (Macclenny, Fla.).