Lead Story

Reuters reported in November that Russian faith healer Boris Zolotov has become popular for his traveling seminars in which he induces mass orgasms in women by mental telepathy. Typically he begins a session by shouting, “Who wants an orgasm?” and dozens of women yell back, “I do.” With loud music in the background, he encourages women to throw themselves into a heap in the center of the room while he chants and implores them to move feverishly. At a session in Zelenograd the Reuters reporter wrote that “about 30 appear to have had a sexual climax.”

Frontiers of Science

A University of Pennsylvania archaeological chemist and two colleagues, writing in the journal Nature in November, reported finding beer residue in jars in Iran and Iraq that are more than 5,000 years old.

The Washington Post reported in October that the government of India has specially bred 60-pound snapping turtles to reduce pollution in the holy Ganges River. Devout Hindus believe that the river offers rebirth and eternal salvation to one’s ashes, but some Hindu families cannot afford enough firewood for a total cremation and thus burn as much as they can before throwing the corpse into the river. The turtles eat the possibly hundreds of partially cremated bodies.

Recent prices for stays and procedures at the Kremlovka hospital in Moscow (formerly the main facility for members of the Politburo and the Supreme Soviet): the equivalent of $2 a day for a room, $100 for a gallbladder operation, 15 cents per tooth for dental fillings.

According to a recent study by researchers at the University of California at Irvine, violent criminals have five times as much manganese in their hair as do law-abiding citizens. The researchers have no explanation for the discrepancy but seem confident that the higher level of the metal is a symptom rather than a cause of violent behavior.

A speech pathologist at Nova University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, offers classes on the proper way to yell. She told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper that research indicates that 37 percent of women with vocal damage were at one point high school cheerleaders, and a third of current cheerleaders have such problems. Among the techniques she recommends: use husky shouts instead of high-pitched screeches.

In October researchers at Auburn University and Wayne State University surveyed the prevalence of country and western music on radio in 49 metropolitan areas and found that the more C and W, the higher the suicide rate.

Not Good at Closing the Deal

Constable Paul Fletcher of Fort Erie, Ontario, told reporters in December that a man armed with a club tried to force a woman to drive him home with her to get money for him, but as he waited for her to unlock the passenger door from inside she sped away.

The November robbery of an Office Depot store in Lennox, California, just after closing was aborted when the robber, after locking the employees in an office, walked out the back door to tell his accomplices that the coast was clear to come inside. The door locked behind him.

A man wearing a wig and glue-on mustache and sideburns tried to rob a Seattle currency exchange in November, presenting clerk Kevin McCarthy with a handwritten note. The note, said McCarthy, “was just a bunch of gibberish. I didn’t even try to read it; it was just ridiculous.” The man declined McCarthy’s request for clearer instructions and left swearing.

On November 18 a man wearing a sweatshirt with the hood pulled tightly over his head and a mask covering all but his eyes pounded on the front door of the Security Federal Savings Bank in Durham, North Carolina, scaring employees inside. He fled after several loud attempts to push open the door, which opens when pulled. (Durham police say precisely the same thing happened at another bank on October 22.)

Ronald Melvin Gower, 31, was arrested in Princeton, Kentucky, in July after he tried to rob the First Bank and Trust Company with a toy gun. One teller refused to hand over money, and while the robber tried to persuade her, another employee, who happened to be carrying a Polaroid camera, snapped the robber’s picture. At that point Gower allegedly backed away, said he was just kidding, and asked for change for a $100 bill. (Gower had placed a rolled-up stocking under his baseball cap to use as a mask but had forgotten to pull it down over his face when he entered the bank.)

Henry County, Georgia, jail inmate Mackey Junior Pope, 28, was apprehended in February after an escape attempt. Using a smuggled-in gun, he got the drop on four guards, locked them in a cell, and then crept along a hallway toward the front of the building. However Pope had neglected to take the guards’ walkie-talkies, and the front desk guards were waiting for him.

The Weirdo-American Community

In November the New York Board of Regents overruled the state health commissioner and declined to revoke the medical license of dermatologist Stephen Kurzweil even though Kurzweil has said he believes he was marked with a leg scar by aliens operating near the South Pole. Kurzweil also believes that space aliens gave technology to Nazis to use against Jews and that aliens have been answering his office phone. One board member said there was nothing to suggest that any of Dr. Kurzweil’s patients were harmed by his “eccentricity.”

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