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Respect your elders, evil juju and more 

The Cabral Chrysler dealership in Manteca, Calif., was so desperate for a sale in October that one of its employees picked up potential customer Donald Davis, 67, at his nursing home, brought the pajamas-and-slippers-clad, dementia-suffering resident in to sign papers, handed him the keys to his new pickup truck (with the requested chrome wheels!), and sent him on his way (even tossing Davis' wheelchair into the truck's bed as Davis sped away). Shortly afterward, Davis led police on a high-speed chase 50 miles from Manteca. He was stopped and detained (but at a hospital the next morning, he passed away from heart failure). The Cabral salesman said Davis had called him twice the day before, insisting on buying a new truck.

Cultural Diversity: At an out-of-the-way Iranian cemetery on the border with Turkmenistan lies an ancient burial ground guarded by a majestic tower and marked with headstones, some of which resemble penises and some of which resemble breasts, supposedly in honor of the prophet Khalid Nabi, who was born a Christian but who became a hero of Islam when his daughter visited the Prophet Muhammad and converted her father. The site is growing in popularity among young Iranians, but officials struggle to embrace it fully as a tourist destination.

It sounds like a "demonstration" sport showcased from time to time at international games, but kabaddi is highly competitive — featured at the recent Asian Games and usually dominated by south Asian teams. According to a November Agence France-Presse dispatch, teams "[join] hands, holding their breath and raiding opponents, chanting 'kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi' as they do so." Players tout the sport's benefits to health and happiness (the breath-holding, under stress), claiming it will add years to one's life. India and Iran played for the championship at the Asian Games this year (but the result seems not to have been widely reported).

Though the death and injury rates for motorbikers in Nigeria are high, compliance with a helmet law is notoriously bad — because so many riders fear "juju," which is the presence of supernatural spirits inside head coverings. Juju supposedly captures a person's brain and takes it away, leading most riders to "comply" with the helmet law by wearing only a thin cloth hat that spiritualists assure them will not allow "juju" to take hold (such as Ralph Ibuzo's Original Lapa Guard, which, in addition to preventing brain disappearance also supposedly prevents disease).

Latest Religious Messages: Imagine the surprise in November when a burglar rummaging through the St. Benno Church in Munich, Germany, was suddenly attacked. He had bent down to open the donation box, and just then, a statue of St. Antonius fell on top of him, momentarily knocking him to the floor and forcing him to flee empty-handed.

Mixed Message: Larry Falter, the owner of a Superior, Wis., jewelry store and an elder in a local messianic church, began staging in November a "Second Coming" sale, supposedly to commemorate the Day of the Lord when Jesus returns, triggering the Apocalypse. Among the responses by local residents: Why would anyone planning to be taken away need jewelry anyway, and, especially, why would Falter need to sell his jewelry instead of just giving it away? (Falter said that he owes money to people right now and is obliged to pay them back as best he can before departing.)

Questionable Judgments: In November, Singapore's Information Ministry denounced the country's water polo team for wearing swim trunks in a likeness of the nation's flag (stars and a crescent) — especially since, on the men's trunks, the inch-thick, 5-inch-long crescent is placed vertically on the front in what appears to be an "are you glad to see me?" design. The team's manager denied even the "slightest intention" of insulting the country.

An unnamed plumber in Stockholm, Sweden, was arrested in August for attempting to procure sex from an underage girl after he had confronted the girl's father on the telephone. According to the plumber, the girl's sex services were advertised on the Internet, and the plumber paid online and scheduled a session, but the girl failed to show up. The plumber somehow found the girl's home telephone number and demanded a refund from her father, who reported him to police.

People With Issues: "Dr." Berlyn Aussieahshowna, 37, was arrested in Boise, Idaho, in November and charged with practicing medicine without a license after she convinced at least two women to let her fondle their breasts under the guise that she was performing a breast "exam." According to police investigators, Aussieahshowna is neither a doctor nor even Berlyn Aussieahshowna. She is Kristina Ross, and is not even a biological female, although she was identified in a 2004 arrest as a male-to-female transsexual. Authorities were puzzled why the two women were duped since both times, "Dr." Aussieahshowna performed her "consultations," including the exams, in bars.

Update: When News of the Weird reported in 2004 on Disney fanatic George Reiger of Bethlehem, Pa., he was in full glory, with a 5,000-piece collection of Disney character and movie memorabilia and some 2,000 tattoos covering almost all of his body. He said then that he had been married six times, but that each wife had left him, unable to compete with Disney for his affection. In November 2010, Reiger, now 56, opening up to the Philadelphia Inquirer, admitted that he had not been married at all and was in fact extremely lonely in his Disney obsession, but that he had finally found the love of a woman and wanted to end his fanaticism and remove the tattoos.

Bright Ideas: Robbery Modus Operandi: 1) Caroline Slusher, 32, and two associates were indicted in Willoughby, Ohio, in the November "armed" robbery of a BP gas station convenience store. After a clerk caught Slusher shoplifting, Slusher raised her arm menacingly and threatened to touch the clerk, claiming she was infected with the highly destructive bacteria MRSA. The clerk backed off, and the three fled. 2) Nakita Norman, 44, aided by two distracting associates, was captured on surveillance video stuffing two fur coats down the front of her pants, directly into the crotch area, and departing the Sword Furs store in Westlake, Ohio. Norman was arrested based on informants' tips.

Now, Which One Is the Brake? (all-new): Elderly drivers' recent lapses of concentration, confusing the brake pedal with the gas: A woman, 83, accidentally plowed into Lickity Split Yogurt in Carmichael, Calif. (August). A man, 89, accidentally drove into the waters off the Dunedin (Fla.) Marina (but was rescued before his car sunk) (August). A man in his 80s accidentally drove through the front window of the Petco store in Chico, Calif. (August). A woman, 89, accidentally backed over her husband while pulling out of her garage in Allentown, Pa. (April). A woman in her 70s accidentally drove into an optometry office in Anaheim, Calif., in March. A woman, 73, accidentally crashed into a Pizza Hut in Houston (March). A woman, 82, arriving for her appointment at Classic Hair Design in Plainfield Township, Mich., accidentally drove through the front window (April).

A News of the Weird Classic (June 1996): Autobiography of the Least Interesting Man in America: According to a Seattle Times feature in March (1996), Robert Shields, 77 (since deceased), of Dayton, Wash., was the author of perhaps the longest personal diary in history — nearly 38 million words on paper stored in 81 cardboard boxes — covering the previous 24 years in five-minute increments. Example: July 25, 1993, 7 a.m.: "I cleaned out the tub and scraped my feet with my fingernails to remove layers of dead skin." 7:05 a.m.: "Passed a large, firm stool, and a pint of urine. Used 5 sheets of paper."

© 2010 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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