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Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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Valuing Education

To get to their school, 80 children (aged 6 to 17) in the mountaintop village of Pili, China, near the borders with Tajikistan and Afghanistan, make a 120-mile journey that includes 50 miles on foot or by camel. Dangerous parts of the route include an inches-wide path cut into a cliff (over a 1,000-foot drop), a 600-foot-long zip-line drop and crossings of four freezing rivers (easier in winter when they are frozen solid). The kids must make the chaperoned treks four times a year—coming and going for each of two long sessions. According to one teacher, Ms. Su, the kids generally enjoy the adventure. The government is building a road to the village, but it will not be finished until 2013.

Least Competent Criminal

A lawyer's first rule of cross-examination is to never ask a question you don't already know the answer to, but criminal defendants who act as their own lawyers typically do not get that memo. Philome Cesar, charged with about 25 robberies in the area of Allentown, Pa., began questioning his alleged victims at his trial in November. Please describe, he asked the first, what the robber sounded like. Answered victim Daryl Evans, "He sounded like you." After Cesar asked a second victim the same question and received the same answer, he decided to stop asking that question. (He was convicted of 19 counts.)

Adopting Success

Globally, Japan has been the exception to the rule that family-run businesses do not perform as well as those run by professional managers. Japanese corporations often seem to have a talented son to take over for the father. The main reason for that, according to an August report by “Freakonomics Radio,” is that family leaders usually recruit an ideal "son" and then adopt him. They also often encourage their daughters to marry the men. (Japanese adage: "You can't choose your sons, but you can choose your sons-in-law.") If the man is already married, sometimes he and his wife will both get adopted. In fact, while the vast majority of U.S. adoptions are of children, 98% of Japan's adoptions are of adults.

Architectural Waste

Dubai is a city of towering, architecturally brilliant skyscrapers, but since all of them were built in the last several decades, the city's central sewer system has not been able to keep up. Consequently, reported NPR's "Fresh Air" in November, only a few are hooked up to the municipal system, and the remainder must hire fleets of tanker trucks to carry away the wastewater. The trucks then must queue up, sometimes for 24 hours at a time, to dispose of it at treatment plants.

Latest Religious Messages

The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., recently celebrated 12 consecutive years of around-the-clock musical praying, which Pastor Mike Bickle and his evangelical congregation believe is necessary to fight the devil's continuous infiltration of the realms of power in society (business, media, government, etc.). "To keep the music going," according to an October Los Angeles Times dispatch, "the church has 25 bands playing throughout the week in two-hour sets," divided between "devotional" music and "intercessions," in which God is petitioned to help some cause or place. Bickle claims that there are "thousands" of 24/7 prayer groups in the world.

Bright Ideas

How does an extortionist (or kidnapper) safely collect money that has been dropped off for him? In July, police staking out a vacant field in Colerain Township, Ohio, waited for about an hour after leaving $22,000 in a bucket for alleged extortionist Frank Pence, but Pence failed to show. Then, one officer noticed the money slowly moving across the field. Reportedly, Pence was pulling the bucket with a very long fishing line from a distant spot from the drop site.

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd