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Thursday April 24th 2014

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by Chuck Shepherd

Chinese Education Values: To get to their school, 80 children (aged 6 to 17) in the mountaintop village of Pili, China, near the borders with Tajikistan and Afghanistan, make a 120-mile journey that includes 50 miles on foot or by camel. The most dangerous parts of the route are an inches-wide path cut into a cliff (over a 1,000-foot drop), a 600-foot-long zip-line drop and crossings of four freezing rivers (easier in winter when they are frozen solid). The kids must make the chaperoned treks four times a year—coming and going for each of two long sessions. According to one teacher, Ms. Su, the kids generally enjoy the adventure. The government is building a road to the village, but it will not be finished until 2013.

Latest Religious Messages Factory worker Billy Hyatt, who was fired in 2009 by north Georgia plastics company Pliant Corp., filed a lawsuit in August alleging illegal religious discrimination. Pliant (now called Berry Plastics) required its employees to wear stickers indicating the number of consecutive accident-free days, and March 12, 2009, was the 666th day. When Hyatt refused to wear “the mark of the beast” (embracing that number, he thought, would condemn him to hell), he was suspended and then fired.

• The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., recently celebrated 12 consecutive years of around-the-clock musical praying, which Pastor Mike Bickle and his evangelical congregation believe is necessary to fight the devil’s continuous infiltration of the realms of power in society (business, media, government, etc.). “To keep the music going,” according to an October Los Angeles Times dispatch, “the church has 25 bands playing throughout the week in two-hour sets,” divided between “devotional” music and “intercessions,” in which God is petitioned to help some cause or place. Bickle claims that there are “thousands” of 24/7 prayer groups in the world.

• Israelis lately experience attacks not just from the outside but from its own ultra-Orthodox communities (about 10 percent of the country, and growing), whose activists have jeered and stoned “immodestly” dressed women and girls (as young as 6) on the street, defaced women’s images on billboards, forced illegal gender segregation in public facilities (including buses and sidewalks), and vandalized businesses that treat women as equals (such as one ice cream shop—since female customers lick the cones in public). An especially violent minority, the Sikrikim, employ some tactics reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan in America.

Questionable Judgments Each August in Urakawa, Japan, a “hallucination and delusion competition” takes place among visiting alcoholics and sufferers of mental disorders, who in principle are helped by bonding with fellow patients and revealing their failures and successes. The Bethel Festival, named for its sponsor, brings about 600 people together for on-stage presentations (sometimes in the form of song or dance) and awards a grand prize to a standout visitor (one year, to a woman who lived for four days in a public restroom after a voice in her head told her to, and in another year, to a man who had overcome a 35-year stretch of never straying more than two yards from his mother). (Some mental-disorder professionals believe the festival is too-easily mockable by insensitive outsiders.)