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Each February highland Indians in Bolivia converge on the town of Sacaca for the centuries-old ritual of Tinku, a day of drinking, dancing, and largely unrestrained fistfights. There were no deaths but plenty of blood at Sacaca's most recent Tinku, the New York Times reported, as one-on-one punching and kicking periodically escalated into group brawls and rock throwing. Local Catholic priests disapprove of the practice, but town mayor Wilson Araoz described Tinku as a "sublime, beautiful act." Also in February is the Historic Carnival of Ivrea, Italy, a symbolic reenactment of a medieval rebellion in which teams of elaborately uniformed participants stationed around the city spend three days throwing oranges at volunteers representing their feudal oppressors, who wear protective gear and ride around in horse-drawn carts. This year's carnival, according to the Times, featured nine teams of throwers, 46 carts, and a stockpile of more than a million oranges.

Latest Religious Messages

Evelyne Shatkin and Linda Shifflett, former administrative workers at the University of Texas at Arlington, filed a lawsuit in December claiming religious discrimination in their firing earlier last year. They said they were only trying to remedy an office dispute when they anointed the door frame of a vacationing coworker's cubicle with olive oil and prayed for her, but a university official concluded that "praying, shouting and/or chanting over a co-worker's personal and professional belongings without her knowledge and consent constitutes harassment. . . . In addition, rubbing this co-worker's cubicle with oil is blatant disregard for university property."

In Butler County, Ohio, in January four children of the late country songwriter Darrell "Wayne" Perry filed a wrongful-death lawsuit alleging that his evangelist sister Darlene Bishop had convinced him to refuse medical treatment and rely on her prayers to cure his throat cancer, in part by pointing to her own victory over breast cancer. According to the suit, Bishop continued to publicly claim that prayer had healed both her and Perry even though (a) she'd been told by doctors that Perry was not in fact in remission but would soon die and (b) as she admitted at a later deposition, she'd never actually been diagnosed with cancer.

Recent Alarming Headlines

"Feral Shih Tzus Roam Georgia Condo Complex" (UPI/sciencedaily.com, January; a pack of fluffy toy dogs weighing about seven pounds each eluded Marietta animal control for more than eight weeks); "Son Gets Six Months, Probation, for Dismembering Mother" (AP/WINS radio Web site, January; the boy, now 16, was found to have been under an adult molester's emotional control when he did it); "Judge Rules Government Supply of Marijuana Is Inadequate" (San Jose Mercury News, February; a D.C. federal court recommended the U.S. grow more to meet medical-research needs).

The War on Bullying

In February the South Korean government announced a new privately subsidized program to combat a serious bullying problem among the nation's schoolchildren: students who request protection will be accompanied to and from school by adult bodyguards. (In the classroom, however, the kids will be on their own.) According to police in Charlotte, North Carolina, 46-year-old Inez Horne took a more active approach when her 15-year-old son called from school in November to tell her he'd been threatened by another student; allegedly Horne, two of her grown daughters, and one daughter's boyfriend rushed over to the school and burst into the boy's classroom, where the daughters began slapping and punching the 16-year-old girl they believed had made the threat.

Questionable Judgments

A woman picking up her son at his high school in Saint Clairsville, Ohio, in February called 911 when she saw a man apparently having a seizure or asthma attack in a repair van parked in the school lot. Police said later that 29-year-old Brian Ward (whom they arrested for intoxicant abuse) was simply reacting to the unspecified inhalant he'd allegedly decided to huff before heading inside to fix one of the school's copiers.

In Carson City, Nevada, in January fantasy novelist David Eddings accidentally destroyed his garage and office when, as a fire-safety measure, he tried to flush out the gas tank of an idle old sports car. The 75-year-old Eddings explained to the Nevada Appeal that he'd noticed fluid leaking onto the floor and for some reason thought to test it for flammability by lighting a piece of paper and tossing it into the puddle.

Recurring Themes

To the numerous stories of people who have allowed their homes to fill with hoarded garbage can now be added the case of Ann Biglin, 53, of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts. Police investigating a February car accident determined Biglin had been leaving a parking spot when the accumulated trash that reportedly filled her Ford Focus from floor to ceiling depressed the gas pedal, causing the car to back across the street at high speed, knocking over a light pole, then veer out into the street again and into a passing SUV before hitting a gas station flower planter and coming to a stop.

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

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