Foe licks the cat

The Central Intelligence Agency had a project in the 1960s called "Acoustic Kitty," in which batteries and wires were surgically installed into a cat, with an antenna in the tail, for the purpose of having the feline spy on enemy operatives during wartime, former CIA officer Victor Marchetti told London's Daily Telegraph. The idea was for the cat to transmit eavesdropped conversations to a monitoring station. The project went through five years of development, but was cancelled after the first Kitty was deployed -- and immediately was run over by a taxicab.

Too kosher for comfort

Israeli security agents scrambled to high alert in September over what they feared was a suicide parachuter from Jordan landing near the airport in the town of Eilat. It turned out merely to be Rabbi Shimon Eizenbach carrying out a pre-Yom Kippur ritual of kapparot, floating down in an ultralite glider while holding a hen in one cage (to atone for the sins of women) and a rooster in another (for men). Security forces held their fire, and the town was duly blessed.

Blanket indictment

The property-eschewing religious sect Doukhobours was in the news again recently. The sect's breakaway Freedom-ites ritually burn property and remove all their clothes. Last month, Mary Braun, age 81, was convicted of setting fire to a college building in Nelson, British Columbia. Her rap sheet for such criminal activity is lengthy, and this latest episode also appeared to be motivated by her religious beliefs. In another act of fervor, Braun tried to attend court sessions nude, but staff members covered her with blankets.

Real bombshells

In August, following an Israeli helicopter-raid on the offices of the radical organization Hamas, the High Islamic Council in Saudi Arabia decreed for the first time that females would be allowed to be suicide bombers. Two days later, a 23-year-old mother of two was arrested with 15 pounds of explosives at Tel Aviv's central bus station.

Windows on the Word

An official of the Catholic church in Yorba Linda, Calif., has told the Los Angeles Times that a recent $5.2 million court settlement concerning the behavior of a pedophile priest included a requirement that the church begin installing confessional doors that have windows to help protect parishioners from priests. Said the official, "Building a church that creates a safe and open environment will be very important."

Broken record

Several Canadian tax-evasion defendants have recently resorted to a language called "In the Truth" (invented by American David Wynn Miller) when they defend themselves in court. However, only true believers can distinguish the language from gibberish. Here's one example: "With the sovereign, hyphen, authority of the Andrew, hyphen, William, colon, Sereda (the defendant) is for the stating of the authority of the noun." Miller said he created the language to replace the "flawed syntax" of English. So far, according to recent Canadian press reports, the preferred response of most judges has been to award "In the Truth" speakers a government-paid mental examination. And the response of Canadian Immigra-tion officials has been to keep Miller out of the country.

The newlydead game

In western Kenya near Lake Victoria, the Wanga faction of the Luhya tribe continues to practice "wife inheritance," in which a woman who becomes a widow is obliged to marry another family member or risk acquiring a curse. The practice, critics say, is particularly bad in light of the region's high HIV-infection rate. According to Agence France-Presse, tradition provides that if a widow refuses to remarry, upon her death the family pays any available man to have sex with her corpse so that she can be posthumously "inherited" and her soul saved.

Which way to the Johns?

According to a Knight Ridder dispatch from Vietnam, a favorite trysting place for prostitutes and their customers is the museum that used to be part of the "Hanoi Hilton" prisoner-of-war compound, and the preferred room for sex in the museum is one in which U.S. pilots were once held and tortured. Despite recent government attempts to curtail it, sex (under the street name "boom-boom") still flourishes.

The family that preys together

William Stewart finally died of his injuries, three weeks after hanging himself in his jail cell. It marked the latest tragedy to befall his Parma, Ohio, family. His wife, Joyce Stewart, died a month before William, allegedly murdered by him. William had been stopped on suspicion of DUI but then invited arrest by snapping gratuitously at the officer, "You can't get into my car without a warrant." The garbage bags in his back seat contained pieces of Joyce. Her son, Mark DiMarco, was serving 94 years for rape and murder before he hanged himself in his cell in 1999. Joyce herself had served time for obstructing justice in his case after having become something of a housemother to Mark's gang of delinquent pals.

Short-sighted plan

After bragging that she could catch in her hand an arrow shot from a bow, a 20-year-old female karate black-belt in Jersey City, N.J,. failed in her attempt, merely deflecting the arrow into her eye, which she lost.


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