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News of the Weird, May 7, 2007

CHUCK SHEPHERD • May 6, 2007 at 7:12 AM

Lead story

Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre most recently made News of the Weird in 2004 because of continued petty territorial fighting among the six Christian denominations that share management of the church, which is home to some of Christianity's holiest sites, including that of Christ's resurrection. As Easter approached this year, three of the groups that control one 10-stall restroom could not agree how to divide responsibility for repairing it, leading to a pervasive stench in the building. Furthermore, the path of the outflow sewage pipe (which needed enlarging) passes under property of a fourth denomination, which has resisted helping unless it is granted control of one of the 10 stalls. Can't possibly be true

• Britain's General Dental Council found dentist Alan Hutchinson guilty in April of several hygiene violations, including frequent hand-washing lapses, failure to sterilize instruments that he had taken off treatment trays to clean his own ears and fingernails with, and, more than once, urinating in his surgery sink. The council said it needed another hearing to decide whether Hutchinson's habits impaired his treatment of patients.

• Following a three-year investigation by federal and local authorities in Orange County, Calif., the owners of at least 10 massage parlors were arrested in March and accused of running prostitution establishments. Among the investigators' findings was that, to reduce the cost of supplying condoms, the salons urged customers to use plastic food wrap, which management bought in large quantities. Said District Attorney Tom Rackauckas, "I really don't think about (plastic food wrap) in the same way anymore."

• Our litigious, anger-fueled, dispute-intensive society took a break in a Folcroft, Pa., courtroom in March, as landlord Genevieve Zumuda, 77, was suing tenant La Tina Osborne, 32. In the middle of Osborne's defense, Zumuda started shaking and suddenly stopped breathing, but Osborne interrupted her argument and gave Zumuda CPR until paramedics arrived. "When people are down," Osborne said, "if you can help them, you help them." Unclear on the concept

• The Scandia Family Fun Center, which operates a super thrill ride (168 feet high, spinning at 60 miles an hour, pulling 3.5 g's) called the Screamer, in Sacramento, Calif., decided in March that because of neighborhood residents' noise complaints, riders would be prohibited from screaming (and subject to ejection from the park).

• The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, released in February, revealed that 12th-graders' reading ability is at an all-time low, yet their grades for English class are at an all-time high (averaging 2.82 on a 4.0 scale, up from 2.52 15 years ago). Also, Washington state legislators, faced with 10th-graders' declining achievement test scores in math and science, are poised to just eliminate the tests altogether (while retaining those for reading and writing, which do not show declines), according to a March Seattle Times report. (Some math and science would still be tested, but only right after math and science classes, when memories are fresher and, presumably, scores would be higher.) The continuing crisis

• (1) New performance-appraisal rules by India's Ministry of Personnel, for the country's senior-level bureaucrats, included a request that females disclose the dates of their last menstrual period, according to an April Reuters dispatch (but within days of the rules' release, the ministry rescinded that provision). (2) In April, near New Orleans, motorcyclist Charles Warren, minding his own business in the left lane of Interstate 12, was hit by a bathtub (which had fallen from a pickup truck in the right lane) and was hospitalized with severe injuries.

• Tentatively scheduled for July (nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina forced the chaotic evacuation of New Orleans) is the resolution of two dog-ownership cases, in which a judge in Pinellas County, Fla., will decide, after months of relentless haggling, whether the Louisiana owners, Steven and Dorreen Couture, "abandoned" their dogs as they complied with evacuation orders, or merely left them temporarily at a shelter, which wrongly offered them for adoption. Two Florida women claimed the dogs separately, and have fought doggedly to retain them. (One is an assistant district attorney in Tampa who has been represented in part by one of the city's highest-priced lawyers.) Family values

(1) In Bridgeport, Conn., in March, Fermin Rodriguez, 21, was charged with assault for stabbing his wife several times (after an argument over her alleged infidelity); police said that following his attack, he apparently handed his knife to the couple's 2-year-old son and said, "Now, you stab Mommy." (2) According to the manager of BJ's Pawn Shop in Gretna, La., a customer came in with his diaper-clad boy of about age 2 in April and handed the kid an AK-47 from the store's shelf, instructed him how to hold it in order to "mow (people) down, kill everybody," and told him that "Daddy's going to buy you this chopper." The manager, incredulous, said he took the gun back and shooed the pair out. People different from us

Officials in Apex, N.C., finally confiscated the 80 sheep that David Watts had long been keeping in his home as pets (he slept upstairs, they downstairs), with the final straw coming when some of the sheep wandered into the local cemetery and munched on fresh floral arrangements. The town had apparently tolerated Watts's eccentricity for years because of his pleasantness. Said a next-door neighbor, "(Officials) felt like he was (merely) living an alternative lifestyle." Least competent criminals

(1) South Carolina Highway Patrol officers arrested Howard Fisher, 54, in March and seized 43 pounds of marijuana from his car, after he for some reason was unable to avoid crashing into one of their cruisers, with which they had blocked two lanes of Interstate 95 while investigating accidents. (2) Three men, allegedly carrying $4,000 worth of drugs, were arrested at a toll station on the Triborough Bridge in New York City in March because, between them, they lacked $4.50 to pay the toll. (They had asked an officer if they could mail it in, but a check of the driver's license revealed it had expired, after eight suspensions.) America's town

In March, the owner of Di's Diner in Bulls Gap, Tenn., reported that a "blond, heavy-framed female" tried to take out a catfish dinner without paying for it and that when confronted, the woman got angry and threw money at the cash register. When the owner followed her into the parking lot, the woman threw the dinner, hitting employee Tina Henry. And in April, David Moser, 28, complained that his Bulls Gap home had been burglarized and that missing were handcuffs, six packs of cigarettes, a set of $1,200 car wheels and 300 tongue rings.

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