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[NEWS OF THE WEIRD]

by Chuck Shepherd

FIRST AMENDMENT BLUES

· In the public libraries of Seattle (as in most public libraries), patrons are not allowed to eat or sleep (or even appear to be sleeping) or be shirtless or barefoot or have bad body odor or talk  too loudly — because other patrons might be disturbed. However, in Seattle, as the Post-Intelligencer reported in September, librarians do permit patrons to watch hardcore 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.”

CULTURAL DIVERSITY

· 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 nightingalefeces facials and live-fish pedicures.)

· Unclear on the concept: Among people earnestly devoted to palmistry (the foretelling of the future by “expert” examination of the inner surface of the hand), a few in Japan have resorted to what seems like cheating: altering their palm lines with cosmetic surgery. According to a July Daily Beast dispatch from Tokyo, Dr. Takaaki Matsuoka is a leading practitioner, preferring an electric scalpel over laser surgery in that the latter more often eventually heals over, obviously defeating the purpose. He must be careful to add or move only the lines requested by the patient (e.g., “marriage” line, “romance” line, “money-luck” line, “financial” success line).

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.

· Smiting skeptics: Measles, despite being highly contagious, was virtually eradicated in America until a small number of skeptics, using now-discredited “research,” tied childhood vaccinations with the rise of autism, and now the disease is returning. About half the members of the Eagle Mountain International Church near Dallas have declined to vaccinate their children, and as of late August, at least 20 church members have experienced the disease. The head pastor denied that he preaches against the immunizations (although he did tell NPR, cryptically, “[T]he [medical] facts are facts, but then we know the truth. That always overcomes facts.”).

· 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, hatesaturated demonstrations denouncing homosexuals and American tolerance.) Ten days later, Meridian prosecutors charged a Satanic Temple official with misdemeanor desecration of a grave.

QUESTIONABLE JUDGMENTS

· 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.

© 2013 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate.

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