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Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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Bargaining With God

The Aug. 6 revival spectacular in Houston was billed as a day of prayer and attended by 30,000 people at Reliant Stadium. It was also touted as a day of fasting, which apparently took at least a few worshippers by surprise. Reliant's concession stands, which were open all day, only added to the temptation to ignore the fast. One man from San Angelo, Texas, told the Texas Tribune that it was OK for him to eat because of an "agreement I made with God earlier."



Cultural Diversity

  • The convenient Russian myth that beer (up to 10% alcohol by volume) is a "soft drink" will end shortly, following the enactment of restrictions signed by President Dmitry Medvedev in July. Beer had been rapidly replacing vodka as the country's primary alcoholic beverage, as some people drank it around the clock in public places because it was considered the same as a cola.

  • Until recently, impoverished Indonesians sought to cure various illnesses—such as diabetes and high blood pressure—by lying on railroad tracks as trains approached, thus allowing electrical charges from the tracks to course through their bodies for alleged therapeutic benefits. A combination of anecdotal successes and dissatisfaction with health care led to instances in which hundreds of people at a time would lay on the tracks, according to an August Associated Press dispatch.
  • What Goes Around, Comes Around: In February, 12 villagers from a South African shantytown allegedly burned down a pastor's home and killed him out of anger and fear that he was using an "invisible penis" to seduce women. The accused, who are due to answer for their superstition in court in September, according to African Eye News Service, became 11 in May when one of the men died mysteriously. The remaining 11 men reportedly are terrified that the pastor's family has placed an active curse on them.

Latest Religious Messages

Fed up with the theft of Bibles from the Basilica of San Salvatore al Monte in Florence, Italy, the Franciscan priests in charge posted signs and spoke prayers urging the pilferer to repent. In the event that he or she does not, reported London's Daily Telegraph in August, the prayer asked that the thief be afflicted with "a strong bout of the (runs)."

Least Competent Criminals

Charged with crimes that could send him to prison for life, Gary LaBon, 50, nonetheless chose to defend himself at trial and told the jury in August that any kidnapping, rape or assault he might have committed on a 69-year-old woman in Hawthorne, Calif., in 2009 was "self-defense." LaBon insisted that he was in fear for his life because the woman was a "gang member." Judge Kathryn Solorzano took the unusual step of advising the jury to "disregard most of what LaBon said during his argument," according to the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif. (Jurors quickly convicted LaBon of the most serious counts, and he awaits sentencing.)

A News of the Weird Classic

A two-week spree of five customer holdups in front of ATMs in Cambridge, Mass., came to an end in November 2003 with the arrest of Richard McCabe, 38. In four of the five robberies, bank security cameras photographed the perpetrator. McCabe apparently was so disliked by so many people that when police released the photos, more than 100 people called to rat him out. A detective said that many “people knew him personally from dealing with him in the past. They were actually quite eager to come forward and tell us who he was.”

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd

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