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News of the Weird


Stiff cash: The 12-story, earthquake-proof, $190 million Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was dedicated in Los Angeles in September, celebrated not only for the obligatory gift shop ($24.99 for house Chardonnay), the ATM, and the $12-a-day parking garage, but for the private crypts underneath at prices of $50,000 to $3 million. ("[That's] kind of like selling sky boxes," said a Notre Dame theology professor; a Loyola Marymount University professor defended the steep price, saying, "I don't think that the poor are terribly worried about where they are going to be buried.")

Just Beggin' for It: A 34-year-old woman from Texas was attacked by three lions in a pen at a game park in South Africa after she started petting one of them (Pietersburg, June). And a 30-year-old woman from Texas was critically injured by a car as she stood on the shoulder of Los Angeles' Hollywood Freeway to snap a photo of the "Hollywood" sign (June). And a 40-year-old man from Georgia, who had locked himself out of a 10th-floor, Alabama-beach condo, decided that shimmying down from the 14th-floor roof was faster than asking security guards for help, but fell 200 feet into the 4-foot-deep swimming pool, breaking three ribs (Orange Beach, July).

Trouble Up Ahead: Former Jehovah's Witness elder Bill Bowen charged in June that the sect manages a secret database of 23,720 members who have been accused of sexual abuse but that little if anything happens to those named unless a witness comes forward (a stipulation supposedly commanded by Deuteronomy 19:15, requiring witnesses to prove a sin). When Bowen complained, he was expelled from the sect for "causing divisions." Furthermore, Bowen charged, even confessed abusers are "punished" only by being kept from proselytizing door-to-door unless accompanied by another Witness.

This might hurt a little: Samuel Greenbaum, 58, one of five "mohels" in the Detroit area (qualified to conduct the Jewish circumcision ritual), was charged with DUI after being stopped June 18 on his way to perform his craft on a boy in West Bloomfield Township. He told police he was en route from another circumcision, at which he might have had a couple of glasses of wine, but felt (despite failing a Breathalyzer test) that he was alert enough to wield the scalpel-like instrument.

People Who Can't Learn From Experience: Inmate David Ivy escaped through a hole in the fence at the Shelby County (Tenn.) jail in May; officials discovered that Ivy had escaped through the same hole in 1991 and that the hole had not since been repaired. And police in Cleveland picked up Betty Horton, 44 (and with no criminal record), in July, for the third time in eight months when they were really looking for Bettie Horton, 37; an official said he couldn't guarantee it wouldn't happen again.

Recurring Themes: Border Patrol officers arrested two Texas men who drove back from Mexico with 11 pounds of marijuana but also with a dead body whose chest cavity had been cut open as if the men had originally tried to plant the drugs inside the cadaver (Falfurrias, Texas, July). A Belgian woman, 23, traveling by ferry from Greece to Italy, was detained for trying to smuggle her boyfriend in a large suitcase (Brindisi, Italy, July). A 17-year-old woman, whose plane had just landed in England from Dubai, was detained when agents realized that the mock chameleon design on her hat was a live, endangered-species chameleon (Manchester, England, July).

Our Civilization in Decline: California's program to encourage mothers to turn in unwanted babies to hospitals has drawn widespread praise, except from Waste Management Inc., which objects to the state's signs on its Dumpsters ("If we [have to tell people] not to throw babies in Dumpsters, [we] have reached the lowest point we can get to as a society") (August).

Also, in the Last Month: Germany beat Lithuania, 4-1, to advance in the European under-21 soccer championship, after Lithuanian players accidentally kicked three goals into their own net (Vilnius, Lithuania). A fourth-grade teacher was reprimanded for teaching her kids the correct use of "niggardly" ("stingy") because school officials said it was a nonessential word that could be highly offensive to some students (Wilmington, N.C.).

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