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News of the Weird

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In July WHAM TV in Rochester, New York, reported on the local New Born Fellowship Christian Center and its recurring Independence Day-related program "Spiritual Warfare." To encourage prayers for American soldiers, pastor Warren Meeks dressed up in military fatigues (congregants were encouraged to do the same) and decorated the church with visual aids including a (presumably nonfunctioning) missile.

Cultural Diversity

The Guardian reported in July on a bus line's unfair-competition lawsuit against a group of women in Moselle, France. The women, who clean offices in nearby Luxembourg, used to take the bus to work but eventually started to carpool; the bus company wants them fined and their cars confiscated. Also in July, 21 French teachers, translators, and researchers in Japan filed a suit against Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara seeking an apology and nearly $100,000 in compensation for his statement last year that French is a "failed language."

According to an April New York Times dispatch, at least a third of all brides in Kyrgyzstan are abducted by their husbands in accordance with a practice called ala kachuu (roughly, "grab and run"). The prospective groom, usually with the help of friends, kidnaps a woman and brings her home, where his family tries to convince her to accept him. If they can keep her there overnight (by force or otherwise), she must agree to the marriage or face being humiliated and ostracized, as her virginity will thereafter be suspect; in many cases the bride's own parents advise her to submit. Though ala kachuu has been illegal for years, the law against it is rarely enforced.

Recurring Themes

Least competent pest control: In March a home owner in Tucson tried to frighten the bees out of his attic with an open flame; this ignited the vapor of the bug spray he'd used shortly before, causing an estimated $100,000 in damage to the roof. And in June a woman in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, set her house on fire when she tried to use lighter fluid and a match to kill a nest of snakes she'd found in the couch on her front porch.

Fetish du jour: In July in Exeter, England, Paul Pennington pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual activity in a public restroom; police had found him dressed in a baby diaper, bib, and girl's dress, carrying a baby bottle and blanket. (Confusingly, he was also wearing a stuffed bra.) Also in July, Sean Kelly, 35, was arrested in Titusville, Florida, for trying to obtain prescription medications fraudulently. He'd allegedly signed himself into a hospital under a false name, wearing a diaper and carrying a pacifier, with a complaint of back pain; nurses reportedly changed his diaper several times, but he left without receiving further treatment. And Calvin Alvarez, 30, was arrested in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in May on charges of possessing child porn. Responding to disturbance complaints, police had gone to his apartment building and found him arguing with a roommate; Alvarez's computer was at the bottom of a staircase, and he was dressed in a baby diaper and bleeding from the mouth.

Latest Religious Messages

According to a July report by WCMH TV in Columbus, Ohio, the Living Word Tabernacle in nearby Waverly revoked the membership of Loretta Davis, 65, because she had stopped paying her tithe after being hospitalized with congestive heart failure. A church official said Davis could still attend as a nonmember. And a study released in July by researchers at Bangor University in Wales found that 3 percent of Church of England clergy (or about 300 clergy members) doubt the existence of God.

Reuters reported in June that the Balad party, an Arab political party in Israel, had gone to court in Haifa seeking to bar right-wing Jews from using the color orange in their protests against the withdrawal from Gaza. Balad, which is opposed to Israeli occupation of Gaza, said that it had used an orange flag and logo since 1999 and the right-wingers' recent adoption of the color was interfering with the party's message.

Awesome!

First prize in the junior division of the Fourth of July parade costume contest in Haines, Oregon, went to three kids, aged nine and ten, dressed as dung beetles: wearing shiny black shells made from inner tubes and garbage bags, they rolled along ahead of them oversize inflatable rubber balls covered with dirt and dead grass to resemble immense balls of dung.

Thinning the Herd

The bodies of Kentucky State Reformatory inmates Avery Roland, 26, and Michael Talbot Jr., 24, were found in a nearby landfill the day after they went missing in July; an investigator said they had probably stowed away inside a Dumpster, apparently unaware that the prison's garbage is always compacted four times before it leaves the grounds and once just afterward. And in a four-day period in July, two 19-year-old men--one in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the other in Louisville, Kentucky--fell to their deaths while car surfing. According to a witness, the man in the Sheboygan incident was flung off the car shortly after he yelled to his driver, "Is that all you got?"

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

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