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News of the Weird

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The delivery of Sharon Taylor's third child reached an abrupt climax at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, England, in December. By the time Taylor, 35, got out of the car in the hospital parking lot, the baby's head had appeared, and she had just made it inside the building when, according to the father, 31-year-old Nick Fennelly, "the baby shot out in the corridor, hit the floor, skidded, and came back on the umbilical cord." Except for a small bruise, the child--a seven-pound, one-ounce girl named Ashleigh and nicknamed "Bungee Baby"--was fine.

Latest Religious Messages

While preparing to take a drop of blood from a boy's penis prior to his October bar mitzvah--in an Orthodox ritual symbolizing his conversion to Judaism--rabbis in Sydney pronounced his circumcision (performed under rabbinical supervision shortly after his birth) incomplete. They ruled the boy thus was not Jewish and would have to undergo additional circumcision before the bar mitzvah could proceed. His outraged mother ("Those people have gone mad on their power," she told the Sydney Morning Herald) found a Reform synagogue that would bar mitzvah him without surgery, but one of the Orthodox rabbis said the other temple was only "fooling the child" into thinking he was Jewish.

Questionable Judgments

In Hamtramck, Michigan, in October, Judge Paul Paruk told plaintiff Ginnah Muhammad, reportedly a devout Muslim, that he would dismiss her small-claims suit against a rental car company if she wouldn't take off her veil before testifying. Paruk insisted that the veil, which the plaintiff regularly wears in public, would keep him from gauging her credibility. Muhammad refused, and he threw out the case. Also in October, Judge Robert Armstrong of Riverside County, California, dismissed an indecent exposure charge against a 40-year-old woman because the relevant section of the penal code refers to someone "who lewdly exposes his person," which in Armstrong's reading meant the law applies only to men. The district attorney's office said it would appeal, and the local paper the Californian pointed out that elsewhere in the penal code it's made clear that statute language in the masculine gender is intended to cover the feminine gender as well.

Cultural Diversity

In an October dispatch from Bangkok, the Melbourne newspaper the Age reported on the epidemic use of drugs--notably methamphetamine and kratom, a native herb with opiate and stimulant effects--by teenagers in predominantly Muslim southern Thailand; according to a local academic, they apparently feel that while drinking alcohol is a sin, drinking a mixture of kratom, codeine, and Coca-Cola isn't. And in December an aircraft maintenance staff manager for Turkish Airlines was suspended after his crew celebrated a job completed ahead of schedule by sacrificing a camel at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.

The Problem With Kids:

Their Parents

The South County Raptors, a football team of 12-to-14-year-olds in Fairfax County, Virginia, lost the chance to play for their league's championship this fall when league commissioner Dan Hinkle fired their two coaches after their final regular-season game. Hinkle had discovered they'd played his son Scott on offense rather than defense in the playoff-clinching victory, in violation of his orders. (From a preseason e-mail: "This entire league exists so [Scott] can play defense on the best team in his weight class....He is my son, I own the league, and he plays every snap on defense.") Though he offered to hire another coach for the playoffs, the kids refused to play for anyone else, and Hinkle refused to bring the coaches back. (Other officials later organized a special makeup bowl game, in which the fired coaches led the Raptors to a 6-0 win.)

In December Dallas-area newspapers obtained copies of an unreleased report on an investigation into alleged discipline problems at suburban McKinney North High School. The report found that a group of five "ultra-cool" cheerleaders had repeatedly been allowed to flout authority--ignoring teachers, walking out of class at will, violating dress code, posting provocative photos on MySpace--while nearly all attempts to punish them were blocked by parents and key administrators. Singled out for her role was Linda Theret, mother of the clique's ringleader and principal of the school.

People With Tempers

According to witness testimony at a September hearing in Wytheville, Virginia, 41-year-old Jeffrey Turpin became enraged with two people who'd come to his farm in August to test-drive a truck he was selling. Reportedly "cursin', hollerin', and screamin'," he allegedly accused the pair of "drinking his beer and smoking his cigarettes" and used his tractor's hydraulic bucket to lift one end of the truck, with prospective buyer Robyn Babos still inside, several feet off the ground, then drop it. After she jumped out, Turpin (who "has been convicted over the years of public swearing and cursing and abusing others," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported) allegedly chased Babos and the witness around the farm on the tractor, gunning the engine and loudly threatening to bury them. When Babos fell, the witness said, Turpin ran the 350-pound bucket over her, breaking her leg; he faces a charge of malicious wounding.

Least Competent Criminals

In November Morgan Conatser, 29, was arrested in De Queen, Arkansas, for allegedly stealing gear from a music store. The store's owner said he first became suspicious when he noticed Conatser hobbling out the door with a conspicuous bulge in his leather jacket; though at first Conatser denied having anything hidden on him, he eventually opened the jacket to reveal an electric guitar stuck neck first down one leg of his pants. Also in November, 21-year-old Derek Pierson's alleged attempt to hold up a gas station in Shreveport, Louisiana, was foiled by uniformed officer L.J. Scott of the police's armed robbery task force, who was waiting in line at the register when Pierson walked in.

Recurring Themes

John Leonard Young of Coupeville, Washington, pleaded guilty in October to the now-familiar charge of using the Internet to entice a minor to travel for sex. According to prosecutors, the 46-year-old Young bought a 14-year-old Chicago girl a plane ticket to Seattle, but she decided to buy herself an earlier ticket, apparently without quite understanding where she was going; the plan was exposed after she arrived, alone and upset, at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., and sought help from authorities.

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

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