Karaoke fans get tanked

In a move that many Americans probably would like their government to emulate, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen recently banned karaoke clubs from his nation. To prove that he's serious about not having to listen to one more rendition of "Feelings," the Cambodi-an ruler now has an-nounced that all karaoke bars still open in the country will be destroyed by military tanks.

On the seventh day, it closes

The Answers in Genesis ministry in Florence, Ky., is building a $14-million creationism museum to compete with natural-science museums. The ministry says the exhibits will demonstrate that the world was created in six literal days, just as the Bible says. According to a December Los Angeles Times report, a centerpiece of the museum will be a large double-helix of DNA to suggest that humans are so complex that they could not possibly have evolved. The museum also will feature a life-size dinosaur, with the helpful information: "Created on Day Six." Ministry director Ken Ham said he is targeting mistaken Christians who do not take the Bible literally. "This is a cultural war," he said. "They need to know: We're coming."

Funny money

The king of Tonga (an island between Fiji and American Samoa) has an actual court jester. Until recently, the post was held by Jesse Bogdonoff, appointed by the king out of gratitude when Bogdonoff discovered that income from the king's lucrative passport-selling business was being deposited in an interest-free Bank of America account instead of an interest-bearing account. Earning interest on the money made the king jolly -- until reports surfaced that jester Bogdonoff and some colleagues may have absconded with (instead of investing) much of the king's money themselves. In recent years, Tonga reportedly has made $40 million selling special passports (at $5,000 to $8,000 each) to prominent people in trouble, such as Imelda Marcos and other international miscreants. The position of court jester is once again open.

Keepers of the family flame

In an Associated Press report on arson in Tennessee and Kentucky, a government investigator said that the two leading causes of the crime are boredom and the fact that arsonists appear to be following in their fathers' footsteps. "My daddy did it, so I'm doing it," the investigator quoted several fire-starters as saying. And one burner claimed, "It passes from one generation to the next, like child abuse." A retired arson and bomb analyst for the FBI endorsed the father-son connection and said it was unique to the Tennessee-Kentucky region.

They have to spell it out

There has been an even bigger worldwide jump in exorcisms lately than in 1973 when the movie "The Exorcist" was released, according to several recent press reports. Officially sanctioned Roman Catholic exorcisms have jumped from only one in 1995 to at least 15 in 2001; the church now has 10 appointed exorcists on duty in the U.S. Meanwhile, a Fordham University researcher reveals that there may be as many as 500 protestant evangelical exorcism ministries in this country. The researcher, Michael Cuneo, said he had attended about 50 of their exorcisms and seen "lots of fireworks, lots of dramatic activity" but nothing he would retgard as supernatural. Cuneo suggested that exorcisms will continue to grow in number as people's feelings of helplessness increase.

Sole man

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia recently approved a rare petition from a man to become an official hermit under the Catholic Church's canons. Brother Richard Withers, 46, has taken most of the same vows that priests do, except that he spends almost all of his time away from people, in contemplation based on his "desire to be alone with God." Brother Withers has a paying job (which he works at in silence) one day a week and spends much of the rest of his time exchanging e-mail with other hermits. Ã? Hiding from the public may be a good idea for clergymen, based on new information from the Church of England. The union representing 1,500 of the church's personnel has arranged for martial arts training after statistics showed being a vicar is more dangerous than being a probation officer.

Tone it down

London's The Guardian reports that U.S. firm OSI Pharmaceuticals is nearing the end of clinical trials for a cream that will make light-skinned people dark and dark-skinned people light. But what happens with repeated use only Michael Jackson may know. Ã? Willie Prince Cook, 21, upon his arrest for peeping into a ladies'-room stall at a county courthouse in Rockville, Md., said he was in the building on business -- specifically, to pick up his new marriage license.

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