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News of the Weird 4/17/14

by Chuck Shepherd

Down on the Deer Farm The billion-dollar deer-farming industry in America produces generations of bucks growing progressively larger racks of antlers mainly for eventual bragging rights by the so-called “hunters” who will pay large fees to kill them in fenced-in fields just so they can hang the grotesque antlers in their dens. Even before the farm-raised deer are stalked (reported The Indianapolis Star in March in its multipart investigation), bucks’ necks habitually slump from the weight of the freakish antlers. Most states allow such “hunting,” and in some, the activity is lightly regulated, lacking the safety rules and more-humane conditions required by open-forest hunting laws and agriculture protocols. The Indianapolis Star also highlighted several captive-deer diseases that doctors still worry might jump species to humans (as “mad cow” disease did).

Recurring Themes News of the Weird has several times chronicled the sad saga of India’s holy but severely polluted Ganges River, on which millions of Hindus are dependent—through hands-on worship—for worldly success and for salvation. Now, recent reports reveal that the second-holiest river, the Yamuna, is suffering the same fate even though the government has invested nearly $1 billion in programs to clean it up. Currently, for example, more than 400 million gallons of untreated sewage, plus various industrial chemicals, enter the river from Delhi, but still, motivated worshippers come to “bathe” for glory.

• Stories That Never Get Old: Dayton, Ohio, bus driver Rickey Wagoner, 49, survived a three-bullet shooting in February that, police said, was probably a gang initiation that randomly targeted him as he worked on his bus’s engine. A police sergeant told the Dayton Daily News that Wagoner “should probably not be here” and survived the attack only because two of the bullets were blocked by a copy of “The Message” (a contemporary version of the Bible) in Wagoner’s shirt pocket.

• Allowing dogs as “witnesses” in court cases in France has become “something of a recent trend,” reported the Paris edition of the European news site The Local in April. A 9-year-old Labrador retriever (Tango) took the witness stand in the city of Tours so the judge could observe how he reacted to the defendant, on trial for killing the dog’s owner. (For due process of law, a second dog, Norman, took the stand later, as a “control group.”) Ultimately, the judge said he learned nothing from the dogs and dismissed them.

• “Zero Tolerance”: Yet another questionable school suspension was handed down in March, in Virginia Beach, Va., when the sixth-grader who had prevented a classmate from intentionally harming himself was punished for her altruism. Adrionna Harris had convinced a boy to hand over the razor blade he was threatening himself with, and she immediately discarded it. According to the principal, that transaction meant Harris “possessed” a “dangerous weapon,” albeit for a brief time, and she was suspended for 10 days, according to school policy. (After WAVY-TV’s “On Your Side” reporters got involved, the school relented, and Harris returned to class.)

• “Arranged” Bride Fights Back: Ms. Fatima Mangre, 8, was granted a divorce from her husband, Arjun Bakridi, 14, in India’s Uttar Pradesh state in November, becoming the youngest divorcee in the country’s recorded history. Bakridi, then age 10, had married Mangre, then age 4, but his father promised that the couple would not cohabit until she turned 18. When Bakridi tried to move up the date, Mangre’s dad filed divorce papers for his daughter. The legal age for marriage in the state is 18, but a United Nations agency said the law is still widely ignored.