-- Afghanistan's national sport, "buzkashi" (teams of horsemen battling over a goat carcass in a game without many subtle rules), attracted worldwide attention when it was restored in September after years of suppression by the Taliban. However, also attracting attention, according to a February Boston Globe story, is Colombia's indigenous national sport of "tejo," a horseshoes-type game in which a block of mud containing four small powdered charges comprises a target, and the players lob tejos (resembling large paperweights) to trigger explosions that eventually sink the target into the mud. (Points are scored off the number of explosions and where the tejo lands.) According to the Globe, the game's popularity stems largely from pre-game drinking.
-- Board-certified Kansas City, Mo., psychiatrist (and University of Kansas School of Medicine graduate) Dr. Donald Hinton told reporters in February that "Elvis Aron Presley, the entertainer (whom) everybody believes died in 1977," is alive and that Hinton has been treating him for migraine headaches, among other things, for five years. Hinton, 35, said he has several items from Presley containing his DNA and absolutely denied that he's running a scam (even though he is listed as co-author, with Presley, of a slow-selling book of what purport to be letters from Elvis to his fans). An Elvis Presley Enterprises official was unfazed, insisting that Elvis is still "in the garden (at Graceland)."
-- Last summer, Hindu nationalists in India began marketing "Gift of the Cow" bovine urine, touted as a cure for a wide range of human ailments, from obesity to cancer. And the head of Thailand's energy policy office announced in January that following successes in turning pig dung into gas (a project that caught the attention of the Toshiba Corp., which is planning to build the technology into its construction projects in Guangdong Province, China), the office would begin also using human excrement from the country's prison population. And a Newcastle University (England) professor announced in February that he had devised a method to de-pollute water running from contaminated tin and silver mines in Bolivia by treating it in a compost bed of llama droppings to absorb the poisons.
-- Greg Carpenter, 25, started Nitpickers last year in Wichita, Kan., to comb the head lice out of infested schoolchildren at $35 each (even though a thorough job might take more than two hours). Children who have been sent home from school for head lice (2,800 in the city's schools last year) cannot get back in until they are nitless, and Carpenter guarantees they will be.
-- In January, Hiroaki Kushioka, 55, finally filed a lawsuit against Tonami Transportation in Toyama, Japan, figuring that his rights had somehow been violated in that the company has basically shunned him for 27 years over a whistleblowing incident. Since 1974, Kushioka has been given almost no work, and no promotion, and little contact with anyone at the remote training site the company assigned him to. Although he still draws his salary, Kushioka figures similarly qualified colleagues have earned about $250,000 more than he over the years.
-- Zulu traditionalists in KwaZulu Natal province, South Africa, who have routinely tested females for virginity, are trying to create jobs for men to virginity-test other males by performing any of several unconventional procedures. Spraying urine (vs. a straight stream); the lack of a visible penile vein; the looseness of the light underside of the foreskin; and the darkness of a male's knees, are all evidence that the male is not a virgin, said a leader of the pro-testing movement.
-- In a December story, Toronto's National Post reported on the group of scientists whose lives are spent researching mucus, which they say is underrated in importance because of the stigma over expelled secretions. For instance, a certain "mucin" appears to block the body's mechanism to fight a cancer cell, and if the mucin can be eliminated, so may the cancer. The researchers also want people to know that it is not dangerous to consume one's own mucus (even boogers).
-- Among the newest nonlethal military weapons (developed by San Antonio's Southwest Research Institute) is a spray-on, whitish gel (dubbed "banana peel in a can") that is super-slippery and which the Marine Corps believes can be used to coat the ground to keep crowds from advancing on embassies or military bases. In tests, volunteers attempted in vain to walk across a lawn sprayed with the slime, and in fact, had they not been safety-harnessed during the tests, many would have broken bones.
Richard McCaslin, 37, was arrested inside the Bohemian Grove retreat north of Santa Rosa, Calif., in January, dressed in body armor and combat fatigues and heavily armed. He said he had heard on an Austin, Texas, radio show that retreaters (who, in the past, have included such luminaries as Henry Kissinger and former President George Bush and whose male-bonding exercises have drawn protests from women's groups and conspiracy theorists) were engaging in child abuse and human sacrifice and that he intended to put a stop to it. Authorities (who said they had utterly no evidence of abuses at Bohemian Grove) said McCaslin spent a year scoping out the area and amassing his weapons and had painted "Phantom Patriot" on his chest in preparation for the assault.
In January, police in Fort Pierce, Fla., arrested Diana D. Hill and Bonnie Marie Roberts and charged them with shoplifting 18 cans of Spam Lite from a Winn-Dixie store. Also in January, hotels in Scotland announced that part of their big "Romantic Scotland" marketing campaign would be "Hot 'n' Horny Devil Haggis" with chili and Cajun spices, as potentially an aphrodisiac. (As has been mentioned several times in News of the Weird, haggis is one of the least appetizing foods on the planet, typically being a pudding of sheep organs, suet and oatmeal, boiled in a cow's stomach.)
When News of the Weird last visited Georgia state Rep. Dorothy Pelote of Savannah, she had addressed her chamber during the opening prayer ceremony on the day after Labor Day 2001, informing colleagues that through psychic powers, she had caught a glimpse of Chandra Levy's dead body in a ditch. In January 2002, Pelote got down to serious business and said she would introduce legislation to protect pizza delivery people by making it illegal to answer the door while naked. (Pelote has said she will retire at the end of this year.)
A 45-year-old woman was arrested and charged with demonstrating to her daughter, 15, and a friend, 14, the best technique for injecting heroin (Warren, Mich., December). And a Washington Post investigation found that Prince George's County, Md., police dogs have bitten people at an unseemly high rate in recent years, including at least 43 police officers (December). And a Cambridge University (England) study showed that mice given methamphetamines and subjected to loud dance music keeled over and died (November).
A 40-year-old man who was caught on audiotape strangling his allegedly cheating wife while shouting at her, "You are the weakest link, goodbye!" was sentenced to life in prison (Tonbridge, England). Acting earnestly on U.S. research, a British marine center announced it would try to avert a celibacy crisis among 10 of its sharks by playing Barry White music through underwater loudspeakers (Birmingham, England). A 38-year-old woman beat up a 51-year-old woman because, moments earlier in a grocery store checkout, the older woman had brought 13 items to a 12-or-fewer express line (Lowell, Mass.). Doctors at Norway's national prison revealed that, sympathizing with sex offenders who are furloughed to visit wives or girlfriends, they have routinely been dispensing Viagra (Oslo).