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LEAD STORY: Eating disorders have such a hold on many young women that some Internet sites glorify anorexia and bulimia as a quasi-divinity, using religious language to command obedience to a goddess of thinness known as "Ana," according to a May story in Minneapolis' Star Tribune. Said one Minnesota college freshman, "Ana is definitely a higher power, not higher than God, but higher than myself." There are Ana prayers, Ana psalms and Ana commandments. One site has instructions for a ritual at an altar, culminating in a blood contract "with the anorexia deity." An Arizona doctor reported that a 13-year-old anorexia patient suddenly spoke "an incantation, like a hex, as if to scare me off."

The Entrepreneurial Spirit: Almost ready for release is Spanish designer Pep Torres' "Your Turn" washing machine, developed to encourage sharing of housework. Household users, such as a husband and wife, initially register their fingerprints, and Your Turn will then not operate by the same person's print twice in a row. Another product, still in development, is Briton James Larsson's use of lie-detector technology on restaurant utensils so that socially incompetent diners can better gauge how their dinner dates feel about them, by measuring stress as they eat. Reasoned Larsson, "Geeks have major challenges dating."

Science on the Cutting Edge: Professor Mikhail Sokolshchik of Russia's National Medical Surgical Center performed a two-stage penile lengthening early this year on a 28-year-old virgin, adding 5 inches to what was an almost dysfunctionally small organ. Sokolshchik first removed the tip and stitched it onto the patient's forearm so that he could graft more tissue onto it (from elsewhere on the arm). After the tip lengthened, he reattached it to its proper place. According to an April dispatch from Moscow in London's Daily Telegraph, Sokolshchik is optimistic that all functions will be restored (though he said the man will probably be permanently semi-erect).In April, two former Cornell University entomologists, in what they said was a show of respect, named three new species of beetles that feed on slime mold after President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. "We admire these leaders," said Quentin Wheeler, for their "courage" "to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy."

Updates: News of the Weird has already reported that some people have a fondness for inserting 3-inch steel hooks in their skin and hanging from pulleys for minutes, or even an hour, at a time. In April, about 100 such aficionados attended a gathering in Providence, R.I., and participants seemed thrilled, according to a Reuters dispatch. A Connecticut teen: "It was euphoric. It was spiritual. I'd do it again today if I wasn't so sore." A Canadian man: "The first couple of times, I didn't enjoy it. The first time, I blacked out, and one time I was convulsing. But the third time I got better. I wasn't blacking out anymore."

Least Competent Criminals: Vickey Siles, 35, was arrested in New Haven, Ind., last year and charged with altering a check from the Globe Life and Accident Co. The check was for $1, but Siles had badly obliterated the amount and written in "$4,000,000.00." Furthermore, she believed that she could cash a check for that amount at a neighborhood check-cashing shop (but a clerk alerted authorities). The job was so pitifully done that in March 2005, a judge gave her only a suspended sentence and probation. A Chicago gas-station clerk tricked a robber in February by telling him there was more money "up there," pointing toward the ceiling. The robber looked, then said, "What are you talking about? There's no money up there." However, there was a surveillance camera there, and police got a full-face shot of the robber, according to WMAQ-TV.

Gas Pedal? Brake Pedal? Whatever (all-new): Accidents by elderly drivers who police suspect momentarily confused the gas pedal for the brake: Age 88, crashed into a bank (killing a customer), St. Pete Beach, Fla. (February). Age 85, crashed into a post office, West Salem, Ore. (December). Age 87, crashed into an animal hospital, Lynchburg, Va. (December). Age 88, hit two cars and two people in a Wal-Mart parking lot, Pembroke Pines, Fla. (January). Age 81, crashed into a car dealership after hitting her husband, a salesman, a car and a tree, Fort Myers, Fla. (April). Age 84, crashed into her son, waiting to be picked up at the front door upon discharge from a hospital, Manchester, N.H. (May). (He had to be readmitted.)

© 2005 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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