-Each Nov. 1 is a day (or two) of craziness in the isolated mountain village of Todos Santos Cuchumatanes, Guatemala, where Mayan tradition commands continuous horse races through town, jockeyed by increasingly drunk riders, until only a sober-enough winner remains. Collisions occur in the Race of the Souls, and occasionally someone dies, but the misfortune is met with a collective shrug and regarded as a spiritual offering for fertile crops during the coming year, according to an eyewitness this year reporting for Vice.com. Ironically, for the rest of the year, the village is largely alcohol-free except for that on hand to sell to tourists.
-Postal worker Umakant Mishra, of Kanpur city in Uttar Pradesh, India, was freed by a criminal court in December: 29 years after he was charged when a money-order account turned up 92 cents short. Mishra was called to judicial hearings 348 times over the years, but it was not until recently that the government admitted it had no witnesses for the court to hear against him. A December BBC News dispatch reported, citing "official" figures, that more than 30 million cases are pending in Indian courts.
Latest Religious Messages
The evangelical educational organization Answers in Genesis, which has established a series of children's books and a creationist museum, announced recently that it would enter the bond market to fund its most ambitious project — a creationist amusement park centered on a "life-size" reconstruction of Noah's Ark, for which it estimates it will need at least $73 million from investors. Issuing bonds might be seen as desperate since AiG has raised only $13.6 million privately since proposing the Ark-park, but a Georgetown University finance professor, contacted by Slate.com, suggested that the bonds' terms place them in the high-risk "junk bond" category (perhaps better described as "faith-based," having virtually no resale value and without an independent bond rating).
Cliches Come To Life
-In criminal cases, DNA is usually a smoking gun for the prosecution, except, of course, if there is an "evil twin." In November a judge in Colorado Springs ruled that a suspect, Army Lt. Aaron Lucas, should have the opportunity to blame his brother Brian for a string of sexual assaults because the DNA might be Brian's. Brian has not been charged and denies any involvement, but Aaron said Brian was in two crime-scene states that Aaron was never in. Said a Denver defense lawyer, "The only time I have seen (the evil-twin defense) was on 'Law and Order: SVU'."
-Four villagers in northeast Kenya, angry that cheetahs were killing their goats, lay in wait one night in November and then chased down and captured the cheetahs. Cheetahs are regarded as the fastest mammals on Earth, but they lack endurance; Kenyans are marathon prodigies. Indeed, the cheetahs were captured only when they ran out of gas after about four miles of pursuit by the Kenyans, and were handed over alive, and exhausted, to the Kenyan Wildlife Service.
Least Competent Criminals
Johnny Deleon, 20, was arrested in Houston in October, caught in the act of removing wheel caps from a Cadillac Escalade in a deli's parking lot. Even in the daylight, Deleon apparently failed to notice the many police cars in the lot (as a ceremonial planning meeting was underway in the deli). Officers, from among 30 inside, dashed out and arrested Deleon.
-Once again a fortuitous, unrelated medical exam was credited with possibly saving a life. Los Angeles television personality Julie Chang suffered a concussion in a surfing accident recently, but the routine X-ray also showed a previously unrevealed brain tumor. She was immediately scheduled for surgery and reported to colleagues that she "will be OK."
-New York animal rights activist Steven Wise pushed the envelope in December by filing a writ of habeas corpus (requiring jailers to prove any legal basis for an individual's detention) for a chimpanzee living at a Gloversville, N.Y., farm (although, in fairness, "Tommy" is being held by an animal "rescuer" who said he is seeking a proper home). (U.S. habeas corpus law has heretofore applied only to humans.)
People With Issues
Shannon Johanson of Northampton, England, is awaiting sentencing after a conviction for possessing animal pornography, which is one of the categories of "extreme" porn criminalized by a 2008 U.K. statute. The photo is of a woman "performing a sex act" with a dead fish (and, under the statute, whether "dead or alive" is irrelevant).