News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*Now they tell us: Researchers at Bristol University in England, announcing in February the results of a study of 14,000 children, said bathing every day is not good for a kid. According to the study, children who take regular baths are 25 percent more likely to develop asthma and allergies because their immune systems are still evolving.

*In February sheriff's deputies had a drug house in the northwest Florida town of Callaway under surveillance. When four men emerged and drove off in a rental car, deputies decided to make the arrests. Several squad cars surrounded the car; by the time officers opened the door, the men were covered in white powder: A hidden bag of cocaine had been sliced open by the air-conditioner fan blade.

Can't Possibly Be True
*Robert Gettman Boone, age 51, was arrested at his home in a Baltimore suburb in January and charged with firing two-foot-long bombs from his front yard, across a busy thoroughfare, and into a lot behind a car wash. According to police, Boone told them: "There's nothing to get excited about"; he was "just doing some experiments with high explosives." (It took authorities almost eight hours to remove all the explosives from his home.)

*In September police at Los Angeles International Airport stopped Mark L. Kulp, age 34, at a metal detector before his flight home to East Grand Forks, Minnesota. In his carry-on bags, Kulp had several guns, 100 rounds of ammunition, knives, handcuffs, a ski mask, and a fake sheriff's badge. The police confiscated the equipment, detained Kulp, and learned that he was wanted in Minnesota for threatening a police officer. They decided they could not arrest him, however, because the guns were not loaded. When Minnesota authorities declined to send anyone to pick him up, Kulp was released.

Cultural Diversity
*What price capital punishment: In October the family of a British nurse, convicted of murder in the United Arab Emirates, announced that it had raised the $1.2 million needed to reduce her sentence from death to life imprisonment. And the death penalty given to Assa Larsanova by a Muslim court in Chechnya for murdering her husband was commuted by the president after the husband's relatives said they would accept 100 cows in compensation, as provided by law.

*Five teenage girls attempted suicide in September in Turkey rather than submit to the "virginity test" required of girls in government-run foster homes. Many families still have physicians give their daughters the test as part of a Muslim-based social code; even Turkey's minister of women's affairs, who is a woman, has defended the practice. Some fathers whose daughters have been killed in accidents insist that the test be performed on the corpse -- for the fathers' peace of mind.

*Fundamentalist Muslim blues: In November ten men were imprisoned by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for watching someone dance. And in February a court in Tehran, Iran, pronounced a death sentence on German businessman Helmut Hofer, age 56, for having sex with his Muslim girlfriend. (To avoid punishment, he could convert to Islam and marry the woman.) And in October the Malaysian state of Kelantan, which had previously mandated that the house lights be kept on during movies to discourage making out, ordered that supermarket lines and public swimming pools be segregated by gender.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd