More and more churches (“hundreds,” according to a June Christianity Today report) offer hesitant parishioners a “money-back guarantee” if they tithe 10 percent (or more) of their income for 90 days–but then feel that God blesses them insufficiently in return. The South Carolina megachurch NewSpring instituted such a program in the 1990s and claims that, of 7,000 recent pledgers, “fewer than 20” expressed dissatisfaction with the Lord. Advocates cite the Bible’s Book of Malachi, quoting God himself (according to Christianity Today): “Test me in this.” “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” and “see if I will not pour out so much blessing” that “there will not be room enough to store it.”
NEW WORLD ORDER
A leading Chinese orthopedic surgeon continues to believe that “full-body” transplants are the next big thing in medicine, despite worldwide skepticism about both the science and the ethics. The plan for Dr. Ren Xiaoping of Harbin Medical University calls for removing both heads (the deceased donor’s and the live recipient’s), connecting the blood vessels, stabilizing the new neck, and “bath[ing]” spinal-cord nerve endings chemically so they will connect. (Critics say it is impossible to “connect” spinal-cord nerves.) According to a June New York Times dispatch, doctors regularly denounce China’s ethical laxities (though Chinese officials term such denunciations “envy” at China’s achievements).
In June, District Attorney Jerry Jones in Monroe, Louisiana, dropped drug and gun charges against college football players Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones (who play for University of Alabama but are from Monroe)–declaring that the “main reason” for his decision is that “I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years working and sweating, while we were all in the air conditioning.”
BAD COPS, QUANTIFIED
In January, a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed only 124 of the roughly 12,000 Chicago cops were responsible for the misconduct complaints that resulted in settlements (since 2009)–with one officer, for example, identified in seven. (A June Chicago Reporter study claimed the city paid out $263 million total on misconduct litigation during 2012-2015.)
Insurance agent John Wright filed a lawsuit in Will County, Illinois, in June over teenagers playing “ding dong ditch,” in which kids ring a doorbell but run away before the resident answers. The lawsuit claims that bell-ringer Brennan Papp, 14, caused Wright “severe emotional distress, anxiety, and weight loss,” resulting in at least $30,000 of lost income. And the ex-boyfriend of Nina Zgurskaya filed a lawsuit in Siberia after she broke up with him for his reluctance to “pop the question” after a two-year courtship. The man, not named in a dispatch from Moscow, demanded compensation for his dating expenses. The trial court ruled against him, but he is appealing.
THE JOB OF THE RESEARCHER
A team of researchers is following about 30 tabbies, calicos, and others, recording their moves and sounds, to somehow learn whether housecats have dialects in their meows and alter other patterns of stress and intonation when they “speak” to other cats or to humans. In explaining the project, linguist Robert Eklund (of Sweden’s Linkoping University) personally sounded out “a pretty wide range of meows to illustrate his points,” wrote a New York magazine interviewer in April. Eklund is already an expert on feline purring (at Purring.org)–although from a distance, as he admits to being allergic to cats.
OUT OF CONTROL
Nelson Hidalgo, 47, was arrested in New York City in June and charged with criminal negligence and other crimes for parking his van near Citi Field during a Mets game and drawing players’ complaints when he ramped up the van’s 80-speaker sound system. “I know it’s illegal, but it’s the weekend,” said Hidalgo. “I usually (just) get a ticket.”
Brigham Young University professor Jason Hansen apologized in May after coaxing a student (for extra credit) to drink a small vial of his urine in class. The physiology session was on kidney function, and Hansen thought the stunt would call attention to urine’s unique properties. He confessed later that the “urine” was just food coloring with vinegar added; that he had used the stunt in previous classes; and that he usually admits the ruse at the next class session. Nonetheless, Hansen’s department chair suggested he retire the concept.
FETISHES ON PARADE
Recidivist Jesse Johnson, 20, was charged again in June (for suspicion of disturbing the peace) after he had crawled underneath a woman’s car at an Aldi store’s parking lot in Lincoln, Nebraska, waited for her to return, and then, as she was stepping into the car, reaching out to fondle her ankle. It was Johnson’s third such charge this year, and he initially tried to deny the actual touch, instead claiming that he was underneath the car “simply for the visual.” Johnson acknowledged to the judge that he needs help and that he had been in counseling but had run out of money. (At press time, the status of the latest incident was still pending.)