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News Quirks 

Curses, Foiled Again Four men surrounded a man in a parking lot in Sumter, S.C., and threatened him with a poisonous snake. The victim was unharmed, however, because the attackers fled after the snake bit one of them, according to police Chief Patty Patterson. Ross Farmer, 27, was charged with assault with intent to kill because he wielded the snake.

Nearer Thy God Australia's top Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, issued new rules for eulogies at funeral masses that impose a 5-minute limit and forbid mentioning some personal aspects of a person's life. "On a few occasions," Pell's guidelines state, "inappropriate remarks glossing over the deceased's proclivities (drinking prowess, romantic conquests, etc.) or about the Church (attacking its moral teachings) have been made at funeral masses." Such comments often embarrass the priest, Pell said, and become the focus of the service.

* The New York company SafeHarbor Holding announced plans to develop a 100-acre biblical theme park outside Nashville, Tenn. Described in promotional literature as "edutainment," Bible Park USA intends to present scenes from the Old Testament on one side and stories from the New Testament on the other. It would cost between $150 million and $200 million. "This is a very serious undertaking," Armon Bar-Tur, managing director of SafeHarbor Holding, told The New York Times. "This is not some hokey park that we're talking about."

Reagan Hiller, president of the Faith Based Amusement Association, noted that dozens of traditional theme parks incorporate faith-based themes, but the closest comparable Bible-themed destination in the United States is the 15-acre Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Fla.

* Joining a national movement of churches reaching out to men, the Church for Men aims its message exclusively at guys who are "bored stiff" in conventional churches, according to founder Mike Ellis, 46. The church, located in Daytona Beach, Fla., meets one Saturday evening a month. It has a congregation of 70 men and a service featuring a rock band that performs a three-song set and a shot clock that limits the preacher's sermon to 15 minutes. During one recent service, guest preacher Tom Trageser, 45, talked about lust and finished with 5 seconds left on the clock.

Target Practice Michael Lusher, 37, was shot in the head by a small-caliber bullet while he was asleep in his mobile home in Huntington, W.Va., but didn't realize it until he awoke four hours later and noticed blood. Cpl. R.H. McQuaid of the Cabell County Sheriff's Department said the bullet that struck Lusher, one of five that someone fired across his home and truck, wasn't fatal because it apparently lost velocity as it traveled through two walls.

* A Civil War re-enactor in South Carolina was wounded during the Battle of Anderson County, even though the participants were firing blanks. Stewart Lambert, a Confederate cavalryman with the Laurens Orphans, suffered a gunpowder burn to his leg and a cut that required stitches. Frank Stegall said he was a few feet away and saw Lambert's pistol shoot when Lambert holstered it. The re-enactment resumed after an ambulance removed Lambert from the battlefield. In the original skirmish on May 1, 1865, there were no Confederate casualties.

Good as Gold Beginning in 2009, NASA said it will save millions of dollars ferrying fresh water to the International Space Station by having astronauts drink their own urine. They'll also mix in their sweat and urine from laboratory rats. According to New Scientist magazine, a crew of three at the space station now requires 572 gallons a year of fresh water, which costs around $24 million to deliver. The crew will increase to six astronauts in 2009. NASA's new "water recovery system" will recycle 93 percent of all water used on the ISS, reducing the annual demand for a six-person crew to about 442 gallons. "When you talk about drinking recycled urine, a lot of people get a little green just thinking about it," NASA engineer Layne Carter said. "But if you're comfortable being strapped to a rocket and launched into space, drinking a little recycled urine isn't going to bother you."

* Australian aquanaut Lloyd Godson, 29, survived 13 days in an underwater "biosub" breathing oxygen produced by algae soaked in his own urine. He pedaled a bicycle to generate electricity and ate meals delivered by divers. Godson entertained himself in the 2-by-3-meter capsule by playing the drums, but he spent most of the time talking to website visitors and the press. "I expected solitude," Godson said, "and got the opposite."

Profit Centers A dozen city jails across California offer pay-to-stay upgrades to inmates convicted of minor crimes. The New York Times reported that Nicole Brockett, 22, paid $82 a day for better accommodations to serve her 21-day sentence for a drunken-driving conviction at a jail in Orange County, which she found by shopping around on the Internet. "The benefits are that you are isolated and you don't have to expose yourself to the traditional county system," said Christine Parker of CSI, a private firm that runs three Orange County jails with pay-to-stay programs. "You can avoid gang issues. You are restricted in terms of the number of people you are encountering, and they are a similar persuasion such as you." Most of the programs stay full enough that marketing isn't necessary; even so, inmates are confined to cells the size of a janitor's closet and lack amenities. "It does look decent," Brockett told the Times, "but you still feel exactly where you are."

Bring Back the Guillotine At least 19 of the 38 states that have the death penalty offer sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs to condemned criminals before executing them. Condemned inmates in 11 states have taken the medications.

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Roland Sweet

Roland Sweet is the author of the syndicated column "News Quirks," which appears weekly in Seven Days.


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