News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*Students enrolled in the pornography course at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, submitted final graded projects of fiction, photography, a video of a man's eyes as he masturbates, and in one case, a bondage performance in which a female begs to be whipped with a rubber cat-o'-nine-tails, according to a May report in the Hartford Courant. Said one student, when a reporter asked how his parents would react to a course on porn: "[They'd] shrug and say, 'That's what kids do these days; they make porn at school.'"

*In February North Korean Woo Yong Gak, age 69, was released from prison in South Korea, where he had been detained since 1958, making him the world's longest-held political prisoner. Still 38 years short of that record, in a jail in Bradenton, Florida, Palestinian researcher Mazen Al-Najjar just completed his second year of confinement without being told of the evidence against him. Al-Najjar, a U.S. resident for fifteen years with three American-born children, faces deportation for his association with a terrorist group, the nature of which the U.S. Justice Department has repeatedly refused to disclose, citing national security.

*In March the Miss Thailand beauty contest was televised nationally for the first time. The Miss Tiffany Universe contest, which is its equivalent for Thailand's male-to-female transsexuals, was also broadcast for the first time. An April Associated Press report from Bangkok concluded, after polling many viewers, that at least one of the Miss Tiffany Universe finalists made Miss Thailand look "positively mousy" and that Miss Tiffany Universe was "every bit as feminine" as Miss Thailand.

Latest Religious Messages
*In February in New Westminster, British Columbia, a court acquitted three of the four Sikhs arrested in a 1997 brawl at a local temple. The fight broke out when newer members started sitting in chairs at tables in the dining hall and traditional members insisted on the holiness of sitting on the floor. (In September in Broward County, Florida, a traditionalist, no-furniture Sikh opened fire in a local temple, killing one man.)

First Things First
*In April several fire trucks speeding down the Massachusetts Turnpike with sirens blaring and lights flashing, en route to help battle a brushfire around the town of Westfield, were delayed when a toll-taker insisted on charging each driver. A turnpike spokesman said the toll-taker had been counseled. And in February an ambulance rushing a severely burned man from Gibraltar to Seville, Spain, could not escape the four-dollar toll.

*Firefighters in Kawasaki, Japan, freed a five-month-old girl from a coin-operated, 13-by-13-by-24-inch locker in April after her parents had deposited her there while they dined at a nearby restaurant. The parents were reprimanded, but not arrested.

The New PTA
*In March in Richmond, California: The father of a fourth-grader stabbed a teacher in a disagreement over the girl's progress. In February in Danville, Kentucky: The grandmother of a middle-school student smashed the teacher in the head with the nameplate on his desk in a disagreement about the student's progress. In March in Boston: In the process of disputing his child's D-minus in conduct, the father of a high school student punched the teacher in the face, breaking his jaw. (The father is an associate minister of the Greater Love Tabernacle.)

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd