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News of the Weird

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Lead story: Most of the Japanese World War II suicide-mission dive-bombers ("kamikazes") were successful, but a few failed pilots are still alive (their missions aborted because of weather or equipment failure), according to a Los Angeles Times dispatch in September. These days, they resent being compared to extremist Islamic suicide bombers, who, the kamikazes say, act out of hatred rather than love of country and who do not always aim at military-only targets. On the other hand, one of the survivors said, many kamikaze "volunteers" were, contrary to legend, reluctant to die but caught up in patriotic fervor.

More scenes of the surreal: Attorneys for the city of Monte Sereno, Calif. (pop. 3,400), said in October they would proceed with the civil and criminal cases against defiant residents Joe and Darla Padgett over the Padgetts' 2-feet-too-high fence (and illegal chopping down of a tree), which has so far cost the modestly budgeted city $170,000 to prosecute, with no end in sight.

America's real gun problem (continued): David Toumey, who is the county coroner in Bloomington, Ind., was hospitalized after accidentally shooting himself in the leg in September while demonstrating gun safety at a recreational facility. And a 61-year-old man accidentally, fatally shot himself in September in Rose Bud, Ark., as a result of showing off with his pistol before church. (He had removed the clip, held the gun to his head, and pulled the trigger, thinking it would not fire, but some will fire a bullet thus left in the chamber.)

New Hampshire moms gone wild: Police in Sandown, N.H., charged Suzanne Viviani, 47, with threatening her daughter (age 22) with a knife held to her head because the daughter had snatched cocaine out of Suzanne's bra during a confrontation in August. (The two women reconciled and were booked into the same jail cell.) And in October, 40 miles away in Belmont, N.H., police charged Jacqueline Weiner, 36, with assault after her husband, Steven, held Jacqueline's 10-year-old son down while she stabbed him repeatedly in the arm with a kitchen knife because the boy and his brother had destroyed Jacqueline's favorite toy animal.

Latest religious messages: Even though wild monkeys rampage through towns in India, destroying property, eating villagers' food and physically attacking people, they are considered holy to Hindus and are pretty much left alone. According to a September dispatch in London's The Independent, however, as attacks have grown in number and severity recently, police have been finding dozens of monkey carcasses with slashed throats. Police believe that the bodies were the result of contract killings, ordered in the belief that paying someone else to harm monkeys was not quite the sacrilege of doing it directly.

Questionable judgments: In October, the school board in Puyallup, Wash., canceled Halloween activities because of complaints from local Wiccans that the pointy-nose, broomstick-riding "witch" icon of the holiday was offensive to their religion, which refers to its priestesses as witches. (In several other cities, in response to complaints from Christians, officials moved trick-or-treating day to Oct. 30 because Oct. 31 fell on a Sunday, which might be inappropriate to celebrate what to some is "the Devil's Night.")In September, the Oakland (Calif.) police suspended their successful traffic safety program of random drunk-driving checkpoints because they had received too many complaints from illegal aliens, who were being arrested not because they were driving drunk but because, as illegals, they lack driver's licenses.

People who shouldn't have access to matches: David Mason, on a Braathens airline flight home to England from Norway in February, set fire to some pornographic magazines he had brought aboard, saying he had been offended by the pictures; he was convicted in August of endangering a flight (although cabin attendants quickly extinguished the fire).

2004 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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