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Lifestyles of the full and clueless



The 60,000 delegates from 182 countries to the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, luxuriated not only in four- and five-star accommodations but an elegant food-and-drink layout that included tons of lobster, oysters, filet mignon, salmon, caviar, pâ?°t? de foie gras, champagne, fine wines and mineral water -- while an estimated 60 African children per day die from contaminated water. The conference center, which cleared out hundreds of nearby trees to accommodate delegates' limousines, is only a few miles from the squalid neighborhood of Alexandra, one of Africa's poorest. Incidentally, poverty in Africa is up 35 percent since the last such summit, in 1992.

Angry lob

Dodgeball players in San Francisco have recently formed two adult leagues -- the San Francisco Bombardment Society and the S.F. Blood Warriors -- that follow similar rules to those governing the kids' playground game. According to one organizer, the game "is a nice way of pegging people in the face and getting away with it." And, he said, "Certain things never change. Some people look like they're going to get hit, so you go after [them]."

Backward, Christian soldier

Last February in Dix Hills, N.Y., Sophia Reitan fell and broke her arm after a minister of the Pentecostal Upper Room Tabernacle pushed the evil spirits from her forehead, causing her to swoon backward. No one caught her, and she settled with the church for $80,000.

In Loxley, Ala., street preacher Orlando Bethel, who was scheduled to sing at the June funeral of his wife's uncle, was beaten by parishioners and tossed from the Pine Grove Baptist Church after he screamed from the pulpit that the deceased was a "drunkard" and a "fornicator" who was now "burning in Hell," and that the parishioners would be right behind him. Bethel defended his outburst by claiming that the "Holy Ghost" had ordered him to tell the truth.

Sick puppy

Last July in Winnipeg, Manitoba, DNA evidence was used to convict a man of bestiality after two dogs were found dressed in women's underwear in his garage.

Meanwhile, researchers at England's Cambridge University are training dogs to screen patients for prostate and lung cancers by detecting the distinct smells of tumors on patients' breath. One researcher reported a success rate of 87 percent, which rivals that of some expensive technology. The genesis of the research was a 1989 journal article reporting that a border collie had attacked a woman's mole, which turned out to be a malignant melanoma. The dog ignored her after the mole was removed.

Sturgeon general warning

Over a three-month period this summer, three 5-foot-long sturgeons jumped from Florida rivers directly onto anglers, sending them to the hospital. Total damage: a cracked sternum, five broken ribs, two collapsed lungs, several broken teeth and various lacerations. According to a wildlife expert, sturgeons are docile, are pursued by no predators and apparently jump only "because they can."

Flighty types

Passenger Maxim Segalov, an apparently harmless college student, forced the unscheduled landing of an American Airlines flight last August in Salt Lake City when he alarmed the crew by trying to recharge a size-AA battery by heating it with his cigarette lighter. He was subsequently ejected from the plane.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in July that a passenger was detained at St. Louis' Lambert Field because random inspection of his checked luggage uncovered his cute personal alarm clock, which is an old-fashioned model outfitted with six sticks of toy dynamite.

One gesture deserves another

Among the problem motorists cited in a July Toronto Star roundup: (1) A 26-year-old man gave the finger to a fellow driver who had helpfully motioned for him to fasten his seat belt. The good Samaritan was actually a policeman in an unmarked car, who, taking umbrage, stopped the man and discovered that his license had been suspended since 1999. (2) A middle-aged man was let off with a warning for swerving across the road because his dog was licking his ear. The police officer discovered that the man was also shoeless, with only banana peels wrapped around his feet -- a supposed remedy for bunions.

You're out of ordah, mate

A 25-year-old man in Melbourne, Australia, was shot and killed by a friend last July as the two were acting out their favorite scenes from movies. The dead man was said to have been portraying Al Pacino.

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