FIRST AMENDMENT BLUES
In the public libraries of Seattle (as in most public libraries), patrons are not allowed to eat, sleep (or even appear to be sleeping), be shirtless, go barefoot, have bad body odor or talk too loudly–because other patrons might be disturbed. But in Seattle, as the Post-Intelligencer reported in September, librarians do permit patrons to watch hard-core pornography on public computers, without apparent restriction, no matter who (adult or child) is walking by or sitting inches away at the next screen (although librarians politely ask porn-watchers to consider their neighbors). Said a library spokesperson: “[P]atrons have a right to view constitutionally protected material no matter where they are in the building, and the library does not censor.”
Japan and Korea seem to be the birthplaces in the quest for youthful and beautiful skin, with the latest “elixir” (as usual, based on traditional, centuries-old beliefs) being snail mucus–applied by specially bred live snails that slither across customers’ faces. The Clinical Salon in central Tokyo sells the 60-minute Celebrity Escargot Course session for the equivalent of about $250 and even convinced a London Daily Telegraph reporter to try one in July. (Previously, News of the Weird has informed readers of Asian nightingale-feces facials and live-fish pedicures.)
LATEST RELIGIOUS MESSAGES
Iran’s INSA news service reported in January that officials in Shiraz had acquired a finger-amputation machine to perhaps streamline the gruesome punishment often meted out to convicted thieves. (A masked enforcer turns a guillotine-like wheel to slice off the finger in the manner of a rotary saw.) Iran is already known for its reliance on extreme Islamic Sharia, which prescribes amputations, public lashings and death by stoning, and Middle East commentators believe the government will now step up its amputating of fingers, even for the crime of adultery.
Outraged Jewish leaders complain periodically about Mormons who, in the name of their church, posthumously baptize deceased Jews (even Holocaust victims)–beneficently, of course, to help them qualify for heaven. Church officials promised to stop, but in 2012 reports still surfaced that not all Mormons got the memo. Thus inspired, a “religious” order called the Satanic Temple conducted a July “pink mass” over the Meridian, Miss., grave of the mother of the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, Rev. Fred Phelps Jr.–posthumously “turning” her gay. (Westboro infamously stages small, hate-saturated demonstrations denouncing homosexuals and American tolerance.) Ten days later, Meridian prosecutors charged a Satanic Temple official with misdemeanor desecration of a grave.
Australia’s chief diplomat in Taipei, Taiwan, said in August that he was suing local veterinarian Yang Dong-sheng for fraud because Dr. Yang backed out of euthanizing the diplomat Kevin Magee’s sick, 10-year-old dog. Instead, Dr. Yang “rescued” the dog, who is now thriving after he patiently treated her. Magee’s lawsuit claims, in essence, that his family vet recommended euthanization, that he had paid for euthanization, and that “Benji” should have been put down. Dr. Yang said the fee Magee paid was for “medical care” and not necessarily euthanization. (Benji, frolicking outside when a reporter visited, was not available for comment.)
THIS IS JUSTICE?
In August, a prosecutor in Houston filed aggravated rape charges against a 10-year-old girl (“Ashley”) who had been arrested in June and held for four days in a juvenile detention center. A neighbor had seen Ashley touching a four-year-old boy “in his private area,” according to a KRIV-TV report–in other words, apparently playing the time-honored, rite-of-passage game of “doctor.”
SQUIRRELS GONE WILD
Smithsonian Magazine detailed in August the exhaustive measures that military officials have taken to finally block relentless Richardson’s ground squirrels from tunneling beneath Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and interfering with the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles that are on 24/7 standby. For example, officials had to use trial-and-error to plant underground screens deeper into the ground than the squirrels cared to dig. A day after that report was published, a bus driver in Gothenburg, Sweden, crashed into a tree (with six passengers requiring hospital treatment) after swerving to avoid a squirrel in the road. On the same day, a New York Times reporter disclosed that his own news monitoring for 2013 revealed that squirrels have caused 50 power outages in 24 states in the U.S. since Memorial Day after invading electric company substations.