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News of the Weird

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ADBUSTERS:
Lawsuits were filed in both Chicago, Ill., and Hangzhou, China, demanding that theaters stop showing advertisements and commercials (not just the "previews") that run past a movie's announced starting time. Lawyers Mark Weinberg and Zhang Yang charged the theaters with fraud because of the three- to four-minute ad blitzes they endured recently after they had been expecting the films to get under way. The Chicago lawyer demanded a refund plus $75 in damages; the lawyer in China demanded a refund plus the equivalent of $4.50.

Talking dirty:
Eve Ensler's play The Vagina Monologues, a series of explicit speeches on sexuality and repression, was performed at a hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, in March by Ensler and a troupe of local actresses (bundled in their traditional clothing) to an invited audience of 150 (who apparently loved it), according to a report in Toronto's Globe and Mail. "If [the play] can happen here, it can happen anywhere," said Ms. Hibaaq Osman, a Somali Muslim activist, who in a fit of enthusiasm renamed the capital city "Vaginabad." "Having these Pakistani women talking about vibrators [is] what it's all about."

Fetishes on Parade:
Police in Edinburgh, Scotland, put out an alert in March after a man claiming to be raising money through stunts for a charity tricked a young female shopkeeper into allowing him to cover her bare feet in baked beans and other vegetables from cans, before taking several photos and leaving. And in February, a motorist (reported as 40ish and balding) stopped on the campus of Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Mo., grabbed a passing female student's arm, licked it and quickly drove off.

Cultural Diversity:
A couple in Tianjin, China, in a February newspaper advertisement, offered an amount equal to $15,300 for a man aged 25 to 35 to step up and marry their recently deceased daughter, who was 28 and is now, according to a dream the mother had, lonely. In exchange for the dowry, the man must remain "faithful." (These "ghost marriages" were an ancient custom until outlawed by the communist regime, but have made a small comeback in recent years.)

Educators Out of Control:
New York City P.S. 192 principal Evelyn Peralta-Tessitore (an anti-alcohol crusader) was charged with DUI after police spotted her at 2:30 p.m. on a February day, alongside a Bronx road, standing by her car, urinating. And Mary Ann Swissler, a part-time professor at Seton Hall University (South Orange, N.J.), was fired after she responded to negative student course reviews with an e-mail calling most of her students "mental midgets" and the most "homophobic, sexist, racist, lying sacks of shit I have ever met in my life."

Our Civilization in Decline:
In January, at a scout camp (for ages 11-14) in Denmark, organizers established a game of tag in which kids were the Jews (wearing Stars of David) and the adults pursuing them were designated as Nazis; one scout official admitted later that the game "may have crossed the line." And in February, during the international debate on whether the forcible disarmament of Iraq needed the moral sanction of the United Nations, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bosnia accused many of the U.N. peacekeepers in the region of the enthusiastic off-duty patronization of sex slaves and child prostitutes.

Readers' Choice:
John Gladney, 40, was arrested by Columbus, Ohio, police about a block from the National City Bank that he had allegedly robbed a few minutes earlier on March 27. According to the officers, Gladney was easy to spot because of his conspicuous gait, demonstrating pain, in that he had stuffed the money bag down his pants, only to have the bank's chemical dye pack explode near his groin.

Also, in the Last Month ... :
Sister Mary Catherine Antczak (Order of Dominican Sisters), armed with financial backers' money and aiming to raise even more for an elementary school in South Los Angeles, won about $200,000 by picking six straight winners at a Santa Anita racetrack. And a New York City couple went on trial for "assaulting" their baby by feeding her mainly mixtures of dandelions, oat straw, cherry bark, slippery elm, kelp and an herb called horse tail.

2003 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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