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[News of the weird]

Blessings, Guaranteed

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).

Litigious Societies (1) 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. (2) The exboyfriend 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.

THE PASSING PARADE — Quixotic Malaysian designer Moto Guo made a splash at Milan’s fashion week in June when he sent model after model to the runway with facial blotches that suggested they had zits or skin conditions. One reporter was apparently convinced, concluding, “Each man and woman on the runway looked miserable.”

— Out of Control: (1) 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.” (2) Trina Hibberd of Mission Beach, Australia, finally showed concern about the python living inside her walls that she has known about for 15 years but (perhaps “Australian-ly”) had chosen to ignore. In June, it wandered out — a 15-foot-long, 90-pound Scrub Python she calls “Monty.” “All hell broke loose,” a neighbor said later, as snake-handlers took Monty to a more appropriate habitat.

WAIT, WHAT?

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. !

© 2016 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate.

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