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News of the Weird



LEAD STORY: Pastor Joe Van Koevering speaks reverently of the "precious Jewish people," whom "God loves," but a principal mission of his Gateway Christian Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., is to speed up the end of the world (and, thus, the deaths of nonbelievers) by financially helping to send as many Jews as possible "back home" to Israel. According to the Bible's Book of Revelation, the holy war that will bring the apocalypse will start only after Jews (of an indeterminate number) return to the holy land. According to a May St. Petersburg Times story, Van Koevering became tearful when speaking of the Jews that will be left behind to fight and die, so that "true believers" can be taken away in the Rapture.

Bright Ideas: The East Valley Tribune reported in April that the police department in Mesa, Ariz., was still awaiting word about its $100,000 federal grant request to buy and train a capuchin monkey for its SWAT team. Capuchins are now used as assistance animals for the disabled, in that they can be taught to fetch things off shelves, and the police want to see if one can be trained to unlock doors and search buildings on command. The Pentagon's visionary research agency, DARPA, is considering the proposal.A male inmate and a female inmate in a Turkish prison were given additional four-month sentences in February for destruction of property after they were convicted of having made a 4-inch hole in the wall separating their cells and using it to conceive a child (according to Istanbul's largest morning newspaper, Hurriyet).

Creme de la Weird: Gregory Withrow and an associate staged a two-man protest at the California Capitol in Sacramento in April against U.S. policies on Iraq and immigration, and in favor of white supremacy, among other issues. The associate's role in the protest was to drive 6-inch nails into Withrow's hands on a cross as he stood as a martyr for six hours. Withrow had brought notes with him from a Butte County, Calif., health official (seemingly approving Withrow's plan to hurt himself) and from the Sacramento Parks Department (affirming that no permit was needed for such a protest).

The Right to Go Through Life Without Being Offended: Mr. Brij Dhir, a San Francisco law student and India-licensed attorney, recently filed a lawsuit against a northern California microbrewery for the "hate crime" of manufacturing Indica India Pale Ale with a label featuring the Hindu god Ganesh (a man with the head of an elephant) holding Indicas in one of his four hands and his trunk. In an attempt to accommodate Dhir, Lost Coast Brewery closed down the brand, but Dhir still wants at least $25,000 for his own indignation, and said $1 billion might be necessary to compensate Hindus for their trauma.

Recurring Themes: In 2002, Boston surgeon David Arndt had his license suspended after he left the operating room in the middle of a procedure to cash a check at a nearby bank. (Subsequently, Arndt was also charged with cocaine possession and sexual abuse of a minor.) In April 2005, prominent Boston plastic surgeon Joseph Upton stepped away from the operating room during a scheduled break in surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and walked down the street to Children's Hospital Boston to conduct another surgery that he had double-booked for the time, before returning to Beth Israel and satisfactorily finishing the first job. Both patients are fine, but Upton was ordered not to double-book in the future and not to leave the floor during surgeries.

Update: News of the Weird last mentioned Bhutan, a kingdom nestled between India and Tibet, in 1999, when the country had just legalized television-watching (and following a New Yorker magazine travel feature describing Bhutan's countryside paintings of the nation's Buddhist icon, the penis. Because the sainted Lama Drupka Kinley supposedly used his penis to flail away at evil spirits, followers today regard it as a symbol of fertility and demon-resistance). A March 2005 BBC News dispatch reported that penis art is still in abundance on houses and stores en route from the airport to the capital city of Thimphu, but is beginning to grate on a new generation, especially young women.

Undignified Deaths: Ricardo Guzman, 48, pleaded guilty in October to having fatally shot his partner in crime, Roberto Ortiz, in a barroom argument over who was the better burglar (New York City). And in January, a 17-year-old boy in the electricity-shunning Amish community was electrocuted when he tried to remove a downed power line that had become entangled in the wheels of his buggy (Chardon, Ohio).© 2005 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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