News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*England's Plymouth University announced in March that it would offer an "academically rigorous" bachelor's degree in surfing beginning in September. The degree will be known formally as Surf Science and Technology and will offer research opportunities in surfboard, wet suit, and accessory design, and furnish to society not only surfers and product developers, but organizers of surfing events.

*Memo to New York City Mayor Giuliani: In March more than a thousand police officers in India completed a ten-day retreat at which they practiced traditional Vippasana meditation, with top officers lauding the session as a way to prevent brutality on the job. Said one newly mellow cop: "Today I bear no malice or ill will to anyone." In addition to twelve hours of daily meditation and introspection, the retreat required total silence, no sex, and a regimen of fruit and cereals.

Man-Car Relationships in Tennessee
*In separate incidents over a 48-hour period in March, a fuming Spring Hill, Tennessee, man fired about 90 rounds from an AK-47 pointblank into his car alongside a major highway after it died on him, and another man was turned down at the courthouse in Knoxville, Tennessee, when he applied for a marriage license to make his 1996 Mustang his bride, following a split with his girlfriend.

Not My Fault
*In March former Fairfax County, Virginia, school principal Anthony M. Rizzo, Jr., age 62, escaped with a hung jury on charges that he had repeatedly raped a ten-year-old girl in the 1980s. The jury had not been allowed to know one fact about Rizzo: In 1998 he had won a permanent disability retirement from the state of Virginia, worth three times the amount of an ordinary retirement package, with the "disability" being a "psychosexual disorder" that makes him unable to supervise females without also trying to force sex on them. (At the time Rizzo was fighting for the disability, he was also denying the claims of eight female former co-workers who said they were victims of his "disorder.")

*Charlie Smith, age 45, told authorities in Austin, Texas, in February he might plead guilty to crimes in connection with a yearlong series of scams that bilked people out of more than one million dollars, but he wanted the public to know he wasn't a bad person. He told the Austin American-Statesman his nearly lifelong urge to rip off people traces to a day in 1969 when his car slipped off a jack while he was working on it, landed on him, and cracked his skull, thereby changing his moral stance.

Cultural Diversity
*The city of Yenshui, Taiwan, held a fireworks show in March to commemorate stamping out the plague bacteria by fires that burned more than 100 years ago. Villagers wearing bulky, protective clothing stand in front of the fireworks, hoping to be hit by the bottle rockets that are said to bring good luck. Apparently some of the missiles exploded after being propelled into the bulky clothing, resulting in serious injuries to about 30 lucky people.

*The Washington Post reported in January that young people in China are undergoing elective surgery to enlarge their noses in an effort to westernize their faces. "I want to become beautiful," said one young woman in Bejing as she was about to undergo surgery that would leave her with a nose twice as large as what she was born with. "If I have a bigger nose, I think I will find a wife. I already have a good job," Mr. Wen Biao, age 26, remarked.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd