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News of the Weird 

LEAD STORY: Producers announced in February that they were still planning to bring the 3-year-old London stage show Jerry Springer, The Opera to America in early 2006, despite increasingly vituperative protests of religious groups. The show features "Jerry" mediating confessions in hell between Satan, God, Jesus, Mary, and various biblical characters, complete with a raucous audience periodically chanting "Jer-ree! Jer-ree!" Reportedly, 300 to several thousand curse words are in the script (depending on who counts), and the show's Jesus is a pudgy, diaper-wearing gay man who is apparently coprophilic (among the many alleged points of blasphemy). When the BBC televised a showing, it reported 50,000 complaints, with some physical threats directed to the station's staff and their families.

Feng Shui in Decline: In January, police in Hong Kong arrested two men on suspicion of stealing a boatload of spiritually regarded pine trees, which they allegedly intended to sell to feng shui practitioners; the scheme failed when their boat, apparently lacking feng shui's "harmony" and "positive energy," broke down. Also in January, the Hong Kong company Life Enhance introduced briefs and boxer shorts that it says will bring harmony by virtue of the dragon on the front (which gives balance in this, the "year of the rooster"). Said a Life Enhance spokeswoman, "If you have a dragon on your underpants, you will be protected."

Cutting-Edge Law Enforcement: A downtown problem in Manila (Philippines) is that pedestrians create a traffic hazard when many of them rush into the street almost indiscriminately to seek rides from passing cars. Thus, in January, police began to attach large wet blankets to some official vehicles roaming the streets, with the blankets flapping against the pedestrians, soiling their clothes and herding them back to the sidewalks. (Pedestrians who remain in the street after being flayed are arrested.)

Courtroom Follies: Jimmy Dean Watkins pleaded guilty in Fort Worth, Texas, in January for shooting his estranged wife to death and wounding her boyfriend, and was sentenced to four months in prison for the killing and 15 years for the wounding. (The jury found that he had acted against the wife with partially excusable "sudden passion" after discovering her with the boyfriend, but that shooting the boyfriend was more deliberate.)Train conductor Patrick Phillips, 52, won $8.5 million in an out-of-court settlement in February with Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, which was involved in a collision with a freight train in 2002. Phillips suffered a mild concussion in the crash, which he said then triggered his sudden desire to become a serious alcoholic (leading to his eventual dementia), whereas he said his drinking had previously been under control.

People With Issues: University of Michigan football player Larry Harrison Jr., 20, was charged with four felony counts of indecent exposure in January, and is a suspect in 12 other incidents, after being identified by several victims and police officers as the man shocking Ann Arbor, Mich., during the last half of 2004 in a public masturbation spree. And Charles J. Henry, 20, was indicted for indecent exposure in Fairbanks, Alaska, in February after four teenagers said he was similarly enjoying himself in his car while parked at Lathrop High School. (Henry defended himself to officers, claiming that he was under stress and that it was actually the girls' responsibility to avert their eyes.)

Least Competent Criminals: Ronald S. Webb, 22, was arrested for fraud in Paris, Tenn., in December after presenting a pharmacy with a legitimate prescription, to which had been conspicuously added the narcotic hydrocodone, in a different color ink. And Vincent Festa, 44, was arrested at a Radio Shack in Oyster Bay, N.Y., in December when he attempted to return for refund a computer and about $1,500 in other "Christmas gifts" but which, according to police, he had loaded in his car a week earlier at the same store and driven off without paying for.

Update: News of the Weird last reported on "furries" in 2001, after 400 of them gathered at a convention in Chicago, but the TV show "CSI" recently featured a similar convention as backdrop for a show, and the number of their practitioners has grown, with 1,700 attending "FurCon" in January in San Jose, Calif., for a weekend of dressing as animals, assuming animal personalities, petting and scratching each other, and even, after hours, engaging in what one called "cross-species mating."

© 2005 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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