LEAD STORY -- Even Mass Murderers Need Friends
Norway is home to perhaps the most inmate-friendly prison in the world (as mentioned previously in "News of the Weird"), but the correctional system has an imminent crisis, as Anders Behring Breivik (the confessed killer of 77 people last year) is nearing formal conviction and sentencing. Officials fear the sociopathic Breivik will try to kill inmates to add to his toll, yet Norwegian law forbids solitary confinement as cruel. Consequently, according to a May report by Norway's Verdens Gang newspaper, the officials have begun a search to select, hire and train appropriate "friends" to hang out with Breivik behind bars to win his trust and prevent further mayhem. Among Breivik's favorite recreational distractions: chess and hockey. [Daily Telegraph (London) via MSNBC, 5-31-2012]
-- Collections of comically poor translations are legion, but the Beijing municipal government, in sympathy with English-speaking restaurant-goers, published a helpful guidebook recently of what the restaurateurs were trying, though inartfully, to say. In an April interview with the authors, NBC News learned the contents of "Hand Shredded A$$ Meat" (sic) (merely donkey meat) and other baffling English descriptions (all taken from actual menus), such as "Cowboy Leg," "Red-Burned Lion Head," "Blow-up Flatfish With No Result," and the very unhelpful "Tofu Made by Woman With Freckles" and "Strange Flavor Noodles." [MSNBC, 4-20-2012]
-- Competitive facial-hair-growers are revered in some countries, with Pakistan and India featured in recent reports. Pakistani Amir Muhammad Afridi, 42, whose handlebar lip hair extends in an arc almost to the top of his head, told reporters he had to move from his rural home to the more secular Peshawar because of threats that his pride and joy was un-Islamic. And the Guinness Book record- holder, Ram Singh Chauhan, 54, of India, offered grooming tips in an interview with BBC News, revealing that he keeps his 14-foot-long moustache conditioned by cleaning and combing it for an hour each day (treated with coconut-based hair oil) and lamented that he must wind it around his neck to keep it from interfering with his daily activities. [Daily Telegraph (London), 4-9-2012] [BBC News, 5-17-2012]
-- In the spirit of the empowerment of dissidents around the world, activists in Ukraine and South Africa recently erected downright disrespectful statues lampooning leaders. In Kiev and the western city of Lvov, Ukraine, activists unveiled 5-foot-high statues of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin urinating. (Police in both cities took them down quickly, however.) And South African artist Brett Murray museum-exhibited a red, black and yellow acrylic painting of President Jacob Zuma ("Hail to the Thief II") with his genitals exposed, an allusion to Zuma's having beaten a rape charge in 2006. (The Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, which first resisted pressure, agreed in May to remove the painting.) [RIA/Novasti (Moscow), 5-8-2012] [BBC News, 5-18-2012]
-- Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced in April that it would begin a national inquiry over the alarming number of bathtub deaths in 2011 -- nearly three times the number of those killed in traffic accidents. News reports pointed out that many Japanese workers relax in tubs at the end of the day, even when they have overimbibed and are vulnerable to drowning. [Daily Telegraph (London), 4-30-2012]
Wait -- That's Illegal?
(1) In Kent, Washington, in May, Yong Hyun Kim, 21, was charged with assault at a movie house. Annoyed by a group of kids in the row behind him who were constantly talking, laughing and throwing popcorn during "Titanic," Yong slapped the nearest boy, bloodying his nose and knocking out a tooth. (2) In Pirmasens, Germany, in May, a 61-year-old woman was fined the equivalent of almost $1,000 for assault. Frustrated by telemarketers' constantly cold-calling her, she took it out on one by blowing a whistle into the telephone, allegedly causing permanent damage to the telemarketer's hearing. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5-22-2012] [The