News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In July a St. Paul, Minnesota, jury acquitted the well-to-do Gerald and Judy Dick and an adult daughter of all but one of the shoplifting counts brought against them by Roseville, Minnesota, police, who had charged family members with engaging the services of a personal shoplifter to steal expensive items for them from a department store. Though police testified that their sting operation was successful and that Mrs. Dick had uttered, "You caught us red-handed," jurors said the police work was sloppy. The allegedly stolen items were not admitted into evidence because there was no search warrant, and the audio tape of the sting was first withheld by police, then was found to have been doctored. Mrs. Dick was convicted on one count of attempting to receive stolen goods.

*The New York Post reported in June that New York State has provided about 25 free organ-transplant operations (costing taxpayers about one million dollars) for illegal aliens during the eighteen months since Gov. George Pataki promised to end the practice. Officials cited by the Post said they knew of "dozens" of cases over the years in which foreigners flew into the city, applied for Medicaid, received the expensive transplant surgery (including sex changes), then flew home.

Recent Protests
*In December at least 2000 workers at a Sanyo Universal Electric company plant in Bangkok burned down the eight-story headquarters building along with the factory, a warehouse, and an inventory of refrigerators and TV sets. The workers were upset that they were to receive a bonus of only three months' wages, which is generous by Thai standards but still only about half of their last year's bonus.

*Items recently hurled in anger: a live pig, thrown into the office of the Massachusetts Bar Association in Boston in February to express contempt for the legal profession; rotting bison entrails thrown at U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman in March in Montana, by a man protesting the thinning of the bison herd; about $4000 hurled by a man in front of city hall in Seoul, South Korea, to protest corrupt politicians; and bags of excrement and rocks, heaved by ultra-Orthodox Jews at other Jews in Jerusalem in June, to protest both genders praying together.

Cultural Diversity
*A January New York Times story reported about attempts to eliminate the practice in parts of Ghana of giving a virgin daughter to a priest to atone for a sin committed by someone in the girl's family. One example cited was that of a twelve-year-old girl, the product of a rape, given to a local priest by the rapist as a slave (sexual and otherwise) in hopes of appeasing spirits who would otherwise treat the rapist and his family harshly. If the sin is egregious, the family must provide girls for several generations.

*A May report in the Jakarta Post described the daily rush of ill people to the home of Cecilia Subini and her husband Florentinus Suparmo in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, to be therapeutically licked and nuzzled by their bull Joko Andhini. Thousands believe in the power of Joko's body, saliva, and urine (which some rub on their skin and others drink) to cure maladies such as incontinence, arthritis, stroke, rash, diabetes, and cancer. And an Associated Press dispatch from Hyderabad, India, in June touted the success of a sardine-and-herb treatment for asthma. Hundreds of thousands of sufferers travel to the home of the Goud family on the one astrologically auspicious day of the year for swallowing the fish.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd