April 26, 2000
Just Don't Make It an Olympic EventNearly 600 delegates from 17 nations gathered in the capital of the western Indian state of Goa this February for the first World Conference on Auto-Urine Therapy. The therapy involves drinking one's own urine. G.K. Thakkar, president of the event's host, the Water of Life Foundation, said drinking urine cured him of dysentery and eczema and made him a "bold orator." Actress Sarah Miles also swears the practice improves her health. "I once thought it was a strange practice," said retired Adm. L. Ramadas, former chief of India's navy. "But it gives me and my wife tremendous energy and stamina."Tough LessonSix-year-old Swedes will be given $7.70 each to spend as they choose. The point of the gift, authorities said, is to teach them that once the money is spent, it's gone.Profit MotiveGangsters in Taiwan are branching out from their traditional activities of gambling and narcotics, according to the Far Eastern Economic Review, and trafficking in garlic. Thanks to a government restriction on garlic imports, the price has risen about 300 percent in the past few years. Since garlic sells across the Formosa Strait in China at a tenth of the cost, the mob has struck it rich smuggling the aromatic bulb.Litigation UpdateAn Israeli woman in Haifa filed a lawsuit in small claims court against popular television weatherman Danny Rup, seeking $1,000 after he predicted sun for a day that turned out stormy. The daily newspaper Maariv reported the woman claimed that because of Rup's forecast, she left home lightly dressed. As a result, she caught the flu, missed four day's work and spent $38 on medication. After several attempts to stop the flow of junk mail he receives, Arlington, Va., resident Ram Avrahami filed a lawsuit in small claims court against U.S. News & World Report magazine for selling his name to another company without his consent. Virginia law allows celebrities to sue for damages if their names are used without permission, and Avrahami wants the court to extend the protection to all state residents. Pointing out that Avrahami's suit "hasenormous implications," Marc Rosenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said, "He is really on to the soft underbelly of the direct-marketing industry." Elsewhere in Virginia, Robert Lee Brock, who is serving 23 years at the Indian Creek Correctional Center in Chesapeake for breaking and entering and grand larceny, admitted it was his own fault that he got drunk and committed a series of crimes, so he sued himself for $5 million for violating his own religious beliefs against drinking. Since he can't work and is a ward of the state, he said the state should pay the $5 million. Conceding Brock had "presented an innovative approach to civil rights litigation," Judge Rebecca Beach Smith nonetheless dismissed his claim as "ludicrous."Loophole in the First AmendmentUnable to stop Ku Klux Klansmen from their ritual cross burnings because the practice occurred on private property and is protected by the First Amendment, officials in Modesto, Calif., devised a new tactic. They announced they would file a civil suit against Bill Albers, who identifies himself as the Imperial Wizard of the California Klan, for violating air-quality regulations by burning a 30-foot, gasoline-drenched cross in February. "I could care less what his politics are," said Philip Jay, attorney for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. "But when he's burning some burlap-wrapped, diesel-soaked cross made out of railroad ties, it's a pretty (clear) violation."Double TroubleIn Zaire, if an aid organization earns a reputation for doing good work, often another group springs up using the same name. The German weekly Die Zeit reported that the scam, called "doublement," attempts to deceive donors, especially churches in Europe. Six months after the Dalai Lama announced confirmation of 6-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's second holiest leader, the Chinese government introduced its own candidate, 6-year-old Gyaincain Norbu, as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. Seeking to win the allegiance of Tibetans and influence the choice of the next Dalai Lama, enabling it to control Tibetan Buddhism, Beijing defended its choice as a boy with "mild manner" and "fine appearance," while denouncing the rival asa "fraud" who "violated the cardinal principles of Buddhism," including once drowning a dog.You Can Call Me AlA district court in southern Sweden fined Elizabeth Hallin $680 for naming her 5-year-old son "Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116." She saidthe name is pronounced "Albin." The Hallins said they would appeal the fine, arguing that the name is "a pregnant, expressionistic development that we see as an artistic creation."Beat the ReaperIn announcing approval of a prescription nasal spray to help hardcore smokers quit by delivering a half milligram of nicotine -- the amount in a typical low-tar cigarette -- per squirt, the Food and Drug Administration warned that smokers could become as dependent on the nicotine in the spray as they are on cigarettes. The spray, Nicotrol NS, costs about the same as nicotine gum and patches. The FDA also approved a machine that filters fat from patients who cannot be helped by low-fat diets or drugs. The Liposorber works much as dialysis removes toxins from a kidney patient's body, by removing blood from the patient's body, filtering out cholesterol, then returning the filtered blood to the patient. The FDA warned the machine is not a cure since cholesterol levels creep back up within 14 days, requiring patients to undergo the treatment every two or three weeks indefinitely at between $1,500 and $2,000 a treatment.Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306. Odd-news hounds will enjoy the latest compilation, "Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: True News of the World's Least Competent People," by John J. Kohut and Roland Sweet (Plume/Penguin).