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News of the Weird

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Der Spiegel reported in May on objectophilia, or sexual and romantic attraction to specific inanimate objects. A 41-year-old objectophile identified as Joachim A.--who said he began his first long-term objectophilic relationship, with a Hammond organ, at age 12--distinguished those like him from mere fetishists, who he said view objects as means to their own gratification rather than as full-fledged sexual partners. Sandy K., 25, reportedly bathes with a scale model of her late partner, the twin towers of the World Trade Center, while 41-year-old Doro B. consummates her relationship with a large piece of industrial machinery used at her workplace via a component she can detach and bring home with her. At her Web site, Eija-Riita Eklof-Mauer writes of her love for the Berlin Wall--which she "married" in a 1979 ceremony, afterward adding "Mauer," German for "wall," to her legal name--and her struggle to deal with its demise.

Weird in Japan

In January a court in the southern Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima awarded about $5,000 in damages to 61-year-old Sachio Kawabata for mental anguish suffered when police tried to make him confess to violating election laws. The judge found that interrogators had abused their powers when they wrote down the names of Kawabata's relatives and supposed messages from them (e.g., "Hurry up and become an honest granddad"), then grabbed his ankles and forced him to step on the paper.

Latest Religious Messages

A London Times correspondent reported in May on a Sunni militant group and its attempts to create a fundamentalist regime in Iraq's Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad. Practicing a restrictive form of Islam called Salafism that rejects certain aspects of modernity, the militants have cracked down on smoking (repeat offenders have had their fingers inserted in metal pipes and snapped backward) and the use of ice. Grocers said they'd been ordered to keep tomatoes (which are held to represent femininity) segregated from cucumbers and not to display bananas at all; a local doctor said he'd thought the group's broad notions of indecency had been exaggerated until he saw that a shepherd in a nearby village had put underpants on his goats.

In May, as the California state assembly considered a bill that would prohibit using any implement in the corporal punishment of a child, the Bethel Baptist Church, which runs a school in the Bay Area community of El Sobrante, stood behind its commitment to spanking with a flexible rod. According to a local MediaNews report, one church pamphlet advises parents that rod-based spanking was designed by God to break children's will and impart wisdom. Pastor Kent Brandenburg explained that spanking quickly eliminates guilt over bad behavior: "The kid doesn't have to sit around and think she might be a pig." By contrast, one congregant said, yelling is overly personal and risks confusing the child, while time-outs are merely "an attack on spanking."

At an April hearing Michael Babin, bishop of Genesis Ministries International in Oceanside, California, his 24-year-old son, Gabriel, and 34-year-old Ruchell Robinson were charged with felony assault for an incident at a local golf course. According to police, the three men were playing a round when the elder Babin, 51, accused fellow golfer Jason Jennings of stealing his ball and knocked him down. This set off an alleged stomping attack that left Jennings unconscious (and later hospitalized), after which Babin's party tried to flee in their cart. (Though he insisted his clients were innocent, the Babins' lawyer conceded, "I think everyone at the sixth hole handled the situation wrong.")

Unclear on the Concept

Lolita Bullock, the prime suspect in a bank robbery ten days earlier, showed up at the sheriff's office in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in May and turned herself in; she then requested that the friend who accompanied her receive the $2,500 reward offered by a local Crime Stoppers group for information leading to her arrest.

Least Competent Criminals

Two men in their 20s were arrested for vandalism in April after allegedly causing about $17,000 worth of damage to a train station elevator in suburban Oslo, Norway. According to a railway spokesperson, the men entered the elevator (which was equipped with a security camera) late one night and once the doors had closed promptly began kicking them. The doors jammed, stopping the elevator and sounding an alarm; the men were stuck inside until police and firefighters arrived to let them out.

Fine Points of the Law

Though police testified that 51-year-old Benoit Desrosiers of Sudbury, Ontario, was so drunk he could barely stand or speak when they pulled him over last year, this April he was acquitted of drunk driving after mounting a necessity defense, arguing that he'd acted on the belief that his life was in danger. Desrosiers convinced a judge that since just before his arrest he'd tried and failed to commit suicide, he honestly believed he had to drive to the hospital drunk rather than take the chance he might make a second attempt while he waited to sober up.

Not Doing So Great

Xinhua news agency reported in May that the Chinese government, concerned about the Great Wall of China's unimpressive performance in an online poll to select an updated Seven Wonders of the World, had launched a campaign to get more of its citizens to vote. At the time the Great Wall had recently dropped out of the top seven; ranking updates have since been discontinued. Meanwhile, in the same month Xinhua announced a state investigation of mining companies in northern China that had allegedly knocked down a large section of the wall so their trucks could avoid paying tolls.

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

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