NewsQuirks 316

That's the Spirit Austrian Judge Maria Friedinger awarded custody of a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit known as Ramtha, to Judith Z. Knight, 46. The American has made a fortune since claiming that the spirit first contacted her in the kitchen of her home in Yelm, Wash. Speaking through Knight, the gruff-voiced spirit offers followers advice on life's mysteries, especially how to invest their money. German psychic Julie Ravel, 53, initiated the legal battle, contending that she had exclusive rights to the spirit. "Ramtha feeds his thoughts and energies through me and me alone," she told the court. "I am his keeper." Not so, the judge ruled. Accepting Knight's claim ("I've had spiritual contact with Ramtha since 1978. I need him and he needs me."), Friedinger declared that Ravel had infringed on Knight's copyright by professing to have contacted Ramtha then passing details of the contact to her own followers. She awarded Knight $900. Drat! Britain has more rats than humans, according to an environmental health survey reported this June. The rodents infest one in 20 homes. Alerted by a utility worker summoned to repair a water heater, authorities in Deltona, Fla., discovered Angelo Russo, 79, living in squalor with hundreds of rats. "I don't know what he had been feeding them, but these were nice big rats, fat and fluffy," environmental health official Paul Minshew said. The rats were so tame they just sat staring at health officials and exterminators, who killed more than 250 of the rodents. Hundreds more escaped or were left to die inside the walls and attic from poisoned bait. Two Chinese soldiers on patrol on the outskirts of Beijing reported capturing a rat-like creature weighing eight pounds and measuring 24 inches long. The Xinhua news agency reported the animal had "paws like a cat and a tail as thick as a man's thumb." A Decade with Taste Termites have eaten through half of the government buildings in Jakarta, according to M. Pasaribu, who oversees government construction and maintenance in Indonesia, where 200 different types of termites eat not just wood, but also concrete, brick, metal plates and plastic pipes. Pasaribu told the Jakarta Post that the termites seemed especially fond of structures built in the 1970s. Gender Benders London subway officials announced a plan to end confusion among ticket collectors by issuing riders who are undergoing a sex change two identity cards. One will be for the rider as a woman; the other, as a man. City officials in Willowick, Ohio, demoted the fire department's first female captain to the entry-level rank of firefighter. They cited Megan Parsons's job performance, insisting that her demotion after 20 years with the department had nothing to do with her sex change last August when she had been Capt. Garry Strater. Little Things Mean a Lot Jesus Sandoval filed a $1-million lawsuit against Contra Costa County, Calif., and its hospital in Martinez for amputating his penis. Sandoval had sought treatment for a painful sore. His suit contends that a circumcision and antibiotics would have been sufficient. Six other California men filed lawsuits against a Culver City doctor who bills himself as the world's leading authority on "penile augmentation" surgery. The suits contend that procedure by Dr. Melvyn Rosenstein to make the men's sexual organs bigger instead left them numb, infected and deformed. Similar complaints from men in Los Angeles and San Francisco, who responded to ads for a growing number of doctors offering penis-enlargement operations, prompted a team of urologists from the University of California at San Francisco to investigate whether the procedure is necessary or cosmetic. After measuring 60 volunteer urology patients, the researchers concluded that a "normal" penis during an erection would be anything greater than 2.8 inches long and 3.5 inches in circumference. From these measurements, they reported that only about 2 percent of all men might actually need the surgery to lengthen and thicken the organ. One of the researchers, Dr. Tom Lue, said the procedure, which costs up to $6,000 and has proved dangerous and disfiguring, is "basically done so men can show off in the locker room." Back to the Drawing Board In Lancashire, England, Ian Lewis. 43, spent 30 years tracing his family tree back to the 17th century, traveling all over England and interviewing 2,000 relatives, before he learned that he had been adopted when he was a month old and that his real name was David Thornton. He said he would immediately start researching his new family history. Oyez Indeed! In Britain, the town crier of Chester was cleared of charges that he cries too loudly. Officials who tested Dave McGuire reported that his official yells make more noise than a passing bus but not as much as a pneumatic drill. Whitewater Scandal A federal grand jury in Phoenix charged a river guide and seven other men with dynamiting Quartzite Falls on the Salt River. Rafting enthusiasts lamented that the explosion turned the wildest rapid on the river into barely a mild thrill. Get-Poor-Quick Scheme FBI agents in Jacksonville, Fla., arrested brothers Robert Alberton, 54, and Kenneth Alberton, 49, accusing them of talking dentist John Rende into letting them chop off his finger with an ax so they could claim it was an accident and collect a fortune in insurance money. Rende at first agreed to the scheme, then changed his mind. The Albertons forcibly cut off his right index finger anyway. Unable to continue practicing dentistry, Rende collected $1.3 million. He paid the brothers $45,000. Later, they tried to extort $500,000, so he notified the FBI. Odd Endings In the Ukraine last fall, three 18-year-olds performing national service were assigned to clean a 12-foot underground food container in Charkov. While in the pit, they were overcome by pickled cabbage fumes and died, along with a 48-year-old worker who tried to rescue them. Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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