Lead Stories

Earlier this year attorneys in Chicago and Hangzhou, China, filed lawsuits targeting movie theaters that show advertisements (as distinct from previews) before screenings, arguing that theaters were deceiving patrons about the start times of movies in order to create captive audiences for the ads. Mark Weinberg and Douglas Litowitz (in Chicago) have brought a class action suit against two theater chains, demanding a stop to the practice and $75 for every plaintiff; Zhang Yang (in China) is suing a single theater on his own behalf, asking for a refund plus $8.50 in damages.

Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues was staged in a hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, in March, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail. Ensler and a troupe of local actresses, all wearing modest traditional clothing, performed for an invitation-only audience of 150 (in a country where women aren’t supposed to bare their arms in public, advertising was out of the question). “If [this show] can happen here, it can happen anywhere,” said Hibaaq Osman, a Somali Muslim activist in the audience, who in a fit of enthusiasm renamed the capital city “Vaginabad.” “Having these Pakistani women talking about vibrators–that’s what it’s all about.”

Fetishes on Parade

In March in Edinburgh, Scotland, police put out an alert after a man who said he was raising money for charity by performing bizarre stunts persuaded a young female shop assistant to let him cover her bare feet in baked beans and other canned goods and then take photos of them. (He’d asked her to close her eyes and guess what food he was using.) And in February on the campus of Missouri Western State College, a motorist described as white, balding, and 40ish pulled up next to a female student in a parking lot, grabbed her arm, licked her hand, and drove off.

Cultural Diversity

In February in Tianjin, China, a couple placed a newspaper ad offering roughly $116,000 and an apartment to any man between 25 and 35 who would marry their daughter, who’d recently died at 28 and then appeared in her mother’s dreams to say she was lonely in the spirit world. In exchange for the dowry, the prospective husband is supposed to remain faithful to the dead woman. (Such “ghost marriages” are an ancient custom, now making a small comeback after years of suppression by the communist regime.)

On March 13 in the Lebanese city of Nabatieh, Shiite Muslims celebrated Ashura, a holiday commemorating the death of Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad and a martyr to Shiites; in a symbolic expression of grief, thousands slashed their own foreheads with swords and marched through the streets, many bleeding so profusely that their white robes were almost completely soaked.

For months many commentators in Lithuania (which is poised to join NATO and the European Union next year) have been cringing at the stubbornness of the country’s president, Rolandas Paksas, who continues to rely for advice on a mystic from Vilnius named Lena Lolisvili. Among Lolisvili’s methods of healing: She wraps patients in toilet paper, which she believes God has energized for her.

Educators Out of Control

In February in New York City, Public School 192 principal Evelyn Peralta-Tessitore (who has warned her students about the dangers of alcohol) was charged with DUI after police spotted her, at 2:30 PM on a school day, squatting behind the door of her Mercedes at a red light and urinating. And in March in South Orange, New Jersey, Mary Ann Swissler, an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University, responded to negative reviews posted at www.myprofessorsucks.com by sending her students an E-mail reading, in part, “most of you mental midgets are the most immature, sheltered, homophobic, sexist, racist, lying sacks of shit I have ever met in my life.” She was not rehired for the spring term.

Our Civilization in Decline

In January, at a Christian scout camp in Denmark for kids between 11 and 14, staff organized a game of tag in which scouts were Jews (wearing yellow Stars of David) and the adults pursuing them pretended to be Nazis; one camp official has admitted that the game “may have crossed the line.”

Readers’ Choice

On March 27 in Columbus, Ohio, 40-year-old John Gladney was arrested about a block from the National City Bank he’d allegedly robbed just minutes before. According to police, Gladney was easy to spot because he was walking strangely, in obvious pain–he’d stuffed the bag of stolen money down his pants, and the dye pack the bank had hidden in it to mark the bills had exploded near his groin.

In the Last Month

Sister Mary Catherine Antczak, principal of a Catholic elementary school in south central Los Angeles, went to Santa Anita racetrack with five other nuns and about $2,500 in donors’ money, hoping to win a little for the school, and picked six straight winners for a payoff of nearly $200,000. And in New York a vegan couple were convicted of assault for feeding their baby a diet of homemade soy formula, fruit juice, herbal tea, and a liquified mix of plantains and vegetables; at 15 months old the girl was so malnourished she could not crawl, had no teeth, and suffered from rickets and broken bones.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.