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According to a September profile in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Hasidic rabbi Nachum Shifren, 53--known to his fellow surfers as "Shifty"--can regularly be found on the biggest waves at Malibu, where he's easily identifiable by the long beard hanging over the collar of his wet suit. He's conducted "Passover surfaris" and beach bar mitzvahs, and his writings on the Torah include the observation that the original "surf punks" were those first brave Jews who ventured out into the Red Sea during the exodus from Egypt. "The whole religious experience," he told the reporter, ". . . is encompassed in the act of surfing."

Things People Believe

An August report from the sheriff's department of Pima County, Arizona, described a scam in which a Tucson man answered an ad seeking stars for adult videos. He was asked to wire $1,100 to help finance the shoot, which he did; he was told he'd be reimbursed and paid afterward. Over the next three days, in response to a series of promises, demands, and threats, the man sent the "producers" three more payments totaling $23,000 and got his parents to wire them another $20,000 before concluding he'd been conned. And 23-year-old Lau Yat-fai, a 5-foot-9 deliveryman who aspires to a basketball career, paid two Hong Kong "beauty centers" the equivalent of about $1,400 for electric-current treatments to make him taller. After filing a lawsuit, Lau settled with the centers in October for a partial refund and 20 free treatment sessions.

Well Put

In September a 25-year-old driver was killed in Saint-Joachim, Quebec, when another car veered into his lane and hit him. Authorities speculated that the deceased was too distracted to avoid the crash, as he was apparently engaged in sexual intercourse with a female passenger, who was seriously injured. According to a police spokesperson, having sex while behind the wheel "makes driving that much more dangerous."

Questionable Judgments

Keith Schott filed a lawsuit in September against the promoters and sponsors of a Muscular Dystrophy Association charity golf tournament in Phoenix for failing to pay a widely advertised $1 million prize promised to any player making a hole in one during the round. According to his lawyer, after Schott aced the sixth hole in front of 11 witnesses "the defendants changed the rules on the spot," telling him he'd have to do it again on videotape to collect.

In September the Madrid newspaper El Pais ran an ad for a 90-day subscription that showed two photos of the New York skyline, before 9/11 and after, with a caption that translated as "You can do a lot in one day. Just imagine what can happen in three months."

Unclear on the Concept

Like her counterpart on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Laurie David, wife of Seinfeld creator Larry David, has become a high-profile environmental activist, often speaking on global warming and fuel economy. According to an article in the September Atlantic Monthly, however, David doesn't travel on commercial flights but instead charters a private jet, which a New Republic columnist later calculated uses as much fuel in a single cross-country trip as a Hummer does in a year.

In September the Times of Roanoke, Virginia, ran an article in which city residents complained about traffic snarls and jackhammer noise resulting from a major street construction project. "I'm seven months pregnant," said Mellisa Williamson, 35. "I don't want the noise hurting my baby." The story set off a firestorm of reader mail due to the accompanying photo, which showed the clearly pregnant Williamson surveying the construction mess while smoking a cigarette.

Creme de la Weird

David Roy Truscott, 35, pleaded guilty in September to burglary and three counts of arson, committed over an eight-month period at a farm near Redruth, Cornwall, England. Police testified that in addition to stealing and damaging property, another thing Truscott liked to do at the farm was dress up in shiny red shorts and rubber gloves and masturbate while submerged to his waist in liquid manure.

Least Competent Criminals

Prosecutors in Edwardsville, Illinois, charged David Wroten, 20, with fraud in September after he allegedly paid for membership in an online dating service with a check drawn on the account of the Madison County jail, where he'd been held earlier in the year for theft. Upon his release Wroten, like all inmates, had been issued a check for the cash he had on him when he was booked, and he apparently copied the routing and account numbers. Police were confident Wroten was their man because he'd posted a photograph of himself on the dating service site.

Readers' Choice

In September, according to a report in the Tehran newspaper Mardomsalari, a local court ordered a husband to stop beating his wife altogether, even though the woman, identified only as Maryam J., had sought an order simply limiting the beatings to once a week. "Beating is part of his nature," she said, "and he cannot stop it." The husband explained, "If I do not beat her, she will not be scared enough to obey me."

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

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