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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

In San Francisco, two adult dodgeball leagues have started up recently, using rules similar to those of the kids' playground game: the San Francisco Bombardment Society and the S.F. Blood Warriors. (Chicago hosts a few leagues as well, including the National Amateur Dodgeball Association.) According to one organizer, the game "is a nice way of pegging people in the face and getting away with it." He added, "Certain things never change. Some people look like they're going to get hit, so you go after [them]."

At the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, some of the estimated 65,000 delegates (from more than 170 countries) not only luxuriated in five-star accommodations but enjoyed an elegant spread of food and drink that included literally tons of lobster, oysters, filet mignon, salmon, caviar, and pate de foie gras, as well as champagne, fine wines, and mineral water. Organizers cleared out hundreds of trees to make sure delegates' limousines would have easy access to the conference center, which is only a few miles from the squalid township of Alexandra, one of South Africa's poorest. (Poverty in Africa is up over 35 percent since the last such summit, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.)

Cliches Come to Life

In Dix Hills, New York, 65-year-old Sophia Reitan fell and broke her arm when a Pentecostal minister at the Upper Room Tabernacle Church, believing her to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, put his hand on her forehead and gently pushed her; she swooned backward and no one caught her. She settled with the church for $80,000 in January. And in May in Brooklyn, a judge released Clarence Cromwell, 29, even though he'd confessed to police that he'd killed a man--officers had forgotten to read Cromwell his Miranda rights.

Our Animal Friends

Researchers at England's Cambridge Veterinary School (and in Tallahassee, Florida, and Cleveland, Ohio) are training dogs to screen patients for prostate, lung, and skin cancers: the animals can detect the presence of tumors by smelling urine, breath, or tissue samples. Success rates in some trials have approached 100 percent. (The research was inspired in part by a 1989 journal article detailing a dog's strange reaction to a mole on its owner's leg that turned out to be a malignant melanoma--the animal repeatedly sniffed at it, once even trying to bite it off, but ignored the same spot once the cancer was removed.)

In August the Miami Herald reported that capuchin and owl monkeys in a local zoo respond to secretions from a species of West Indian millipede much the way cats do to catnip: the monkeys rub the millipedes on their fur and go into a delirious frenzy, which has prompted one specialist to speculate about an "ancient primate form" of hallucinogen.

People Not Paying Attention to the News

In August college student Maxim Segalov inadvertently forced an American Airlines flight from Chicago to San Francisco to make an unscheduled landing in Salt Lake City when he alarmed the crew by trying to recharge the batteries to his portable CD player by heating them with a cigarette lighter; he was ejected from the plane and arrested. And in July the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a passenger was detained at Lambert Field after a random inspection of one of his checked bags--he'd packed his old novelty alarm clock, which was outfitted with six toy sticks of dynamite.

Smooth Reactions

In June in Loxley, Alabama, street preacher Orlando Bethel, scheduled to sing at the funeral of his wife's uncle, was beaten by parishioners and tossed from the church after screaming that the deceased was a "drunkard" and a "fornicator" who was now "burning in hell," and that the "whoremongers" gathered to mourn would be right behind him. Bethel claims that the Holy Ghost ordered him to tell the truth, and has expressed disappointment at the reluctance of local police to prosecute his assailants.

Perversions on Parade

In July a British Columbia man convicted of bestiality--his DNA had linked him to two dead dogs found dressed in women's underwear, one in his garage and one in a nearby ditch--moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, because he feared for his safety; an unnamed officer there complained that now "we're stuck with the sick bastard." And in June in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, a 34-year-old man was sentenced to a year in prison for three counts of approaching women in supermarkets and aggressively licking their feet.

In the Last Month

Anglers off Florida's east coast fished a human head from the water but decided to finish their outing; they placed the head in a garbage bag, put the bag in a bucket, and turned it in to authorities five hours later....In London, doctors examining rugby player Jamie Ainscough's lingering arm injury found a tooth embedded in his flesh, which opponent Martin Gleeson had lost when the two collided during a July match....And in Pulaski County, Kentucky, firefighters had to work more than 50 hours to extinguish a particularly tenacious fire at a Kingsford charcoal plant.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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