News of the Weird

Feinting spell

Bangkok economics student Panupol Sujjayakorn interrupted his studies in November to defend his World Scrabble Championship in London, one of many non-English-speaking competitors who achieved top-of-the-line ranking by memorizing up to 100,000 words in English without ever knowing their meanings. Like the others, reported the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mr. Panupol learned first those premium words that overuse the prominent Scrabble letter tiles (such as "aureolae"). (Alas, this time around, a native English speaker, Dr. Adam Logan, a number theory researcher, won the title, building actual words like "qanat" and "euripi.")

Ball bearings

Scientists at Syracuse University, recently describing for a British journal their study of body measurements of bats, found an inverse size relationship between a male bat's brain and testicles. The researchers hypothesized that both sperm and brains are metabolically costly to produce, and in species with relatively stable monogamous relationships, brains are allowed to grow, but where females are promiscuous, males that do not overdevelop testicles get left out of the race to procreate.

Sorry, Charlie

In September, based on the complaint of only one letter-writer (and that man later said he was more being provocative than complaining), the band director of C.D. Hylton High School in Prince William County, Va., dropped from his playlist the popular Charlie Daniels Band song, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," because it centers on Satan. Daniels, interviewed by The Washington Post, was appalled: "I am a Christian, and I don't write pro-devil songs.

Black Deeds

The land developer Bigg Homes, creator of the Eagle Mountain community near Salt Lake City, touted in its online promotional materials the fact that the development's "(b)lack race population percentage (is) significantly below state average." After hearing complaints, Bigg co-owner David Adams removed the phrase in November, blaming the agency that designed Bigg's materials. (Whoever wrote the phrase must have thought that Utah's "state average" of 1.3 blacks per 100 was somehow suffocating.)

Size really doesn't matter

In November, engineering student Mischa Beutling, 22, became the most recent rape defendant to profess innocence by impossibility, arguing that his penis is simply too large to have committed the crime. Beutling, who stands 6 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs 240 pounds, called a urologist to the stand in Newmarket, Ontario, to testify that Beutling's is 8.5 inches long "semi-relaxed" and 6.5 inches in circumference and that a woman who has not given birth could not accommodate it without serious injury. In December, a judge named Margaret Eberhard found Beutling guilty.

Blubberly idiots

A bold weight-loss program of the Life of Life Healing Spa in Hong Kong involves setting fire briefly to the parts of the body holding the most fat, according to a December dispatch in the London Daily Telegraph. According to owner Karen Chu, the fire follows an energy flow "reading," full-body exfoliation, high-pressure hose spray, and herb-and-potion and alcohol rub-downs (but wet towels and a fire extinguisher are at the ready). Chu said about 100 clients have undergone the treatment, with no complications, and the ones interviewed by the Daily Telegraph reporter praised the service. Chu said the treatment is based on traditional Chinese medicine, but a Hong Kong doctor interviewed by Agence France-Presse said, "I have never heard of such a thing."


Packing what you preach

Mr. Rayfran das Neves Sales was convicted in Belem, Brazil, in December of the murder of an American rain forest-activist nun, who was gunned down as she argued with Sales over who owned the land he was working. Sales claimed self-defense, in that, according to him, the nun reached into her bag as she was proclaiming that "the weapon I have (for fighting for preservation of the rain forest) is this," and Sales, sensing that she was about to pull a gun, shot her. The nun's "weapon," was, of course, her copy of what countless preachers refer to as a primary "weapon" against sin: the Bible.

Elder hostile

After trying for 22 years to get Hattie Siegel, now 83, to mow her lawn and clear other critter-infested vegetation from her yard according to regulations of the village of Tequesta, Fla., officials cracked down on the $1.8 million in fines they had levied. In December, a bankruptcy court ruled that she must liquidate her estate to pay the tab. Two other properties of hers were sold, and she stands to lose more (everything except the Tequesta house, which is protected by state law). However, Siegel has finally sought help in the matter and plans to challenge the constitutionality of the village's fines.

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