News of the Weird August 06 2008

Angry Lesbians, snapping turtles and more

LEAD STORY: While Iran's leaders saber-rattle and quote the Quran, the country's multitudes of young adults are embracing New Age self-help, as exemplified by the best-selling books and sold-out seminars of motivational guru Alireza Azmandian, according to a June Wall Street Journal dispatch from Tehran. Though young adults in Turkey and Egypt have stepped up their religious fervor, that is not so in Iran. Said a 25-year-old aerospace engineer: "Religion doesn't offer me answers anymore," but "Azmandian's seminar changed my life." The Oprah Winfrey-touted book The Secret is in its 10th printing in Farsi; yoga and meditation are big; and advertising abounds on the virtues of feng shui and financial management.

The Continuing Crisis: Randall Popkes, 41, and his son, Joshua Williams, 22, were arrested in West Des Moines, Iowa, in May and charged with an attempting to crack a safe at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club. A security officer had noted their license plate as they sped away after a frustrating session in which they had cut into the safe but could not open it. In fact, they had left behind a note for management, according to the Des Moines Register: "Expletive you and your safe."

At press time, a court in Athens, Greece, was considering a challenge brought by three residents of the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea to prevent a Greek gay and lesbian organization from referring to homosexual women as lesbians, arguing that such usage insults their heritage, since Lesbos residents have traditionally been called "Lesbians." On the other hand, Lesbos was also the birthplace of the poet Sappho, a heroic woman among gays and lesbians for her early references to her love of other women.

Yikes! The Panda Chinese Restaurant in York, Pa., was already in trouble in an early June city sanitation inspection, with demerits piling up because of accumulated grease, insects in the seating area and rotting lettuce, according to a York Daily Record report. Then, in the middle of an inspector's visit, he came upon a live snapping turtle in the restaurant's main sink. Said the inspector, "I had to sit down and gather myself before I could speak." The manager said he had seen the turtle outside and had brought it in for safety: "It was wrong that we put it in the sink."

Oops! 1) A June accident with nitric acid at the Albion Chemicals plant in Belfast, Northern Ireland, caused the release of an ominous cloud, but authorities said it was predominantly nitrous oxide, otherwise known as "laughing gas." An Associated Press dispatch reported no unusual "giggling" in the area. 2) A scheduling accident at the Eagle Trace Golf Club in Broomfield, Colo., in June caused insufficient time between the end of an early morning junior golf association event (kids age 7 to 12) and a noontime charity tournament sponsored by Shotgun Willie's strip club, with scantily clad dancers cavorting around the course. One mother told WUSA-TV that her little golfer asked, "Mom, why is she only wearing underwear?"

Family Values: 1) Darrell Walker, 30, was arrested in Bartlesville, Okla., in May after his 8-year-old son told police that his dad routinely shoots him (and his younger sister) in the leg with a BB gun if they misbehave. 2) Robert Cisero, 46, was arrested in Medford, Ore., in June after (according to police) he hit his teenage daughter in the ankle with a hammer to feign a "skating" injury, for which she could get a prescription for pain medication, which he then commandeered.

The New York Daily News reported in June that members of gangs such as the Bloods and the Latin Kings, who become parents, are routinely having their babies "blessed" into their gangs in religious ceremonies in which the swaddling clothes are the gang's colors. (The Bloods call such babies "Blood drops" or "Blood stains.") The Daily News described the parents "teaching chubby little fingers to make gang signs" even before the toddlers learn to talk. One Episcopal priest said he has "blessed in" about 300 such kids to two gangs.

Wedgies in the News: 1) In July, the Utah Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Erik Low, now 40, ruling that a jury should have considered the possibility of a lesser crime than manslaughter in the 2003 shooting death of a man who had just 15 seconds earlier during a fight given Low what was described as a violent wedgie. 2) In June, a 20-year-old window cleaner on Australia's Gold Coast survived a nine-story plunge, suffering only a broken arm and, from falling on his harness, a super wedgie.

User-Friendly Research Projects: 1) In May, NASA sought subjects for a study into the effects of microgravity on the human body and offered each participant $17,000 to lie in bed for 90 straight days. 2) In April, England's University of East Anglia advertised for subjects for a study of whether a natural compound found in cocoa could cut the risk of heart disease among diabetic women; the participants must be willing to eat chocolates every day for a year.

Least Competent Criminals: According to police in Canton, Mich., Joseph Webster, 54, walked into a Comerica bank in June, gave the teller a robbery note and claimed he had a bomb strapped to his body. A nearby customer overheard, pulled out his licensed 9 mm handgun and told Webster, "You are not robbing this bank." Webster insisted: "But I have a bomb." The customer: "I don't care." Webster then quietly sat down in a chair, where he remained until police arrived.