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Earlier this month the Wall Street Journal reported that plastic surgeons are fielding more requests from women for firm, prominent nipples and slim, horizontal navels. Almost all such surgery in the U.S. takes place in conjunction with tummy tucks or breast enhancement, but navel sculpting as stand-alone surgery has been popular for several years in Japan.

In 1997, News of the Weird reported on a lawsuit filed by DSC Communications, Inc., against software engineer Evan Brown, claiming that it owned his idea for converting binary code into high-level source code. Brown had signed a contract granting DSC ownership of any invention or idea he created on the job but argues that he'd actually begun thinking about the source-code solution 12 years before he was hired by DSC. Last month a district judge in Texas ruled against him, stating that any professional thoughts he'd had during his ten years with DSC (since acquired by Alcatel USA) belonged to the company whether or not they'd been expressed in tangible form.

Cultural Diversity

In this year's World Cup several soccer teams from African nations were confounded when Senegal almost made the semifinals without resorting to black magic. Teams from Mali and Ivory Coast have made news by burying animal parts under their soccer fields at midnight and stationing witch doctors on the sidelines to ward off spells, and in February a Cameroonian assistant coach was dragged off the field by Malian military personnel on suspicion that he was wielding a lucky charm.

According to a June story in the Birmingham News, the manure-based "many weed tea," taken as a cold and flu remedy by generations of rural black families in Alabama, is fading away despite continued testimonials to its effectiveness. The recipe calls for filling a cloth tea bag with two sliced lemons, stalks from the lavender plant, honey, and several dried cow patties, preferably those that contain visible, undigested leaves and twigs. The brew is supposedly safe for humans if boiled long enough.

Latest Messages From Above

In March a group of Christian protesters in Lancaster, California, disrupted a pagan ceremony for the spring equinox, blasting their car stereos to drown out the songs and chants of 300 witches and warlocks. The pagans' version of "animal sacrifice" involved melting a chocolate bunny; violence was narrowly averted after a pagan leader yelled, "Sacrifice the chocolate rabbit!" and the Christians leaped from their cars and advanced on the group.

According to a June report in the Wall Street Journal, the Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia, has raised $340,000 from its ranks in the past 14 months for the specific purpose of helping randomly chosen members (59 so far) pay off their credit cards. At monthly "debt-liquidation revivals" congregants dance and chant, denouncing the devil for causing credit-card debt; the lucky winners must cut up their cards and attend counseling. Bishop Clarence Vernie Russell Jr. says he believes that the "cured" borrowers are much better tithers.

Last month 11 people were injured when monks from the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church brawled with monks from the Coptic Christian Church of Egypt at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, believed to be the site of Jesus's burial and resurrection. By agreement, the church's seating and open spaces, including its roof, have been divided among various Christian organizations, and after an Egyptian monk on the roof moved his chair into the shade, the Ethiopians responded by throwing rocks, chairs, and iron bars.

Playing Chicken

In June, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protested the oppressive living conditions and "disrespect" endured by chickens at casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Evansville, Indiana. The birds compete against gamblers in games of ticktacktoe, punching Xs and Os with their beaks.

Our Civilization in Decline

In June, 36-year-old Angel Martinez was released from a New York prison after serving 17 years for a murder he didn't commit, 13 of them after another man had confessed to the crime. Martinez's lawyer had neglected to tell him about the confession....Last month in San Antonio a 22-year-old church pastor and his brother were arrested for beating an 11-year-old boy with a rod for a full hour (which resulted in kidney failure), because allegedly he'd cheated in Bible study class....And that same month in Guadalupe, Colombia, rebels wounded eight people and destroyed 20 homes with a bomb strapped onto a horse.

In the Last Month

In New Orleans a catwalk at Aquarium of the Americas collapsed, sending ten VIP visitors into a tank with two dozen sharks; fortunately the sharks had just been fed.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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