• The Yaohnanen tribe on the South Pacific island of Tanna believe their true ancestral god is Britain's Prince Philip (based on photographs of him with the queen during a 1974 visit to Tanna's mother nation of Vanuatu) and believe he promised he would return for good on his 89th birthday (June 10, 2010). Although the prince has kept in touch, he failed to show up for the grand celebration, but fortunately, Scottish university student Marc Rayner was on the island, working as a volunteer teacher, and stepped in for the prince, which meant that he and not the duke of Edinburgh got to wear the "formal" ceremonial penis sheath appropriate for such special events.
• Iconic female beauty in Mauritania (and in a few other African societies, as News of the Weird has reported) regards "rolling layers of fat" as the height of sexiness, according to a July dispatch by Marie Claire magazine, and professional force-feeders earn the equivalent of about $200 each from parents for bulking up their young daughters in boot camps that sometimes serve animal fat as drinks and apply the cattle-thickening drug Oradexon. "The stomach flab should cascade; the thighs should overlap; and the neck should have thick ripples," said Aminetou Mint Elhacen, the feeding drill sergeant. Some girls rebel, but others embrace their new bodies. Said one, "When I realized the power I had over men, I started to enjoy being fat."
• Though most victims seemed baffled or distressed by the behavior of Sherwin Shayegan, 27, another thought him "completely harmless." From time to time (allegedly dating to at least 2006), Shayegan befriends high-school male athletes, questions them as a reporter would, and finally, jumps on their backs and demands "piggyback" rides. No other overtures are made, and the principal complaint about Shayegan, after the shock wears off, seems to be his obnoxiousness. His latest arrest took place in May in Tualatin, Ore., near his earlier haunts in Washington state.
• "It's springtime in Japan, and that means (two) things," wrote GlobalPost.com in March: penis festivals and vagina festivals. Held annually in several locations (for the last 1,500 years, some say), with the best-known taking place at Komaki City's Tagata shrine in March, they were initially spiritual -- as prayers for procreation and crop fertility. However, they have grown into carnivals for tourists and children of all ages. Most Western visitors hardly believe what they're seeing: huge, parade-float-sized phalluses heavy-lifted through the street and giggling children brandishing toy penises and vaginas (to make offerings of them at local temples).
• Another Pampered Pet: Gail Posner (the widow of legendary hostile-takeover executive Victor Posner) died in March in south Florida but left a will that endowed her beloved Chihuahua Conchita (and two other, less-loved dogs) a $3 million trust fund plus the run of her $8.3 million mansion for their remaining dog years. (After all, Conchita has a style to maintain, including a four-season wardrobe, diamond jewelry and full-time staff.) Mrs. Posner's only living child, Bret Carr, who admits he had issues with his mother, is challenging her $26 million-plus will (that left him $1 million), mostly because, he said, Mrs. Posner's staff and bodyguards suspiciously wound up with the bulk of the riches on the pretense that they would be caring for Conchita.
• More British Welfare Spongers: In May, the Daily Mail profiled the Houghtons of Crawley, West Sussex (Lee, 42, and Jane and their five youngest children), who live in free government housing and draw monthly benefits of the equivalent of about $1,600, without doing a bit of work -- because Lee has a "personality disorder" and daughter Chelsea, 16, has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and needs a caretaker to help with her baby. The Houghtons admit that they spoil their kids at Christmas with lavish gifts, and the reporter noted the presence of four TVs, two Xboxes, three DVD players, mobile phones for everyone, and a computer and laptop. Lee is unpopular with his neighbors, who call the police on him frequently because of his drinking. Said Lee, "If people want to work, good for them. I would if I could...."
• News of the Weird has been among those taunting the Scottish over the years for their culinary devotion to haggis (sheep's stomach, boiled, with liver, heart or lung, accompanied by oatmeal, suet, onions and various "spices"), but the Edinburgh chocolatier Nadia Ellingham recently answered -- with "haggis chocolates," which are thankfully meat-free but contain the familiar haggis spices.
• More Bad Multitaskers: Driver Bryan Parslow, 19, injured himself and three passengers when he crashed into a tree near Wheatland, N.Y., in May. He was playing "hold your breath" with the others and passed out. And in July, Lora Hunt, 49, was sentenced to 18 months in jail in the crash that killed a woman on a motorcycle in Lake County, Ill., in 2009. Hunt was so preoccupied painting her nails (polish was splashed all over the car's interior) that she never even moved to apply the brakes before the collision. On the other hand, Amanda McBride, 29, is such an excellent multitasker that she was able to drive herself to the hospital in Bemidji, Minn., in May while giving birth. (Her husband was in the front seat but, seizure-prone, he does not drive.) The child emerged just as Amanda pulled into the hospital parking lot. "(H)e just slid out," she said. "It really wasn't bad at all." cs
• One of the more famous cultural landmarks in Britain's South Tyneside is an 1890 toilet, "Westoe Netty," commemorated in a 1972 painting and which remained on display at the Beamish Museum. In March, it was relocated within the building because, as News of the Weird has reported about other museum-display toilets, a visitor could not resist using it. The toilet will be moved to a nonpublic part of the building and be hooked up to public plumbing.
• Face Tattoos Still a Handicap for Criminals: Royce Spottedbird Jr., 23, apparently once thought it cool to have his name tattooed on his neck. However, when he was pulled over in a routine traffic stop in April in Butte, Mont., and feared a warrant might be out on him, he gave the officer a bogus name. When he could not explain what "Royce Spottedbird Jr." was doing on his neck, he was detained for obstruction of justice and eventually pleaded guilty. (And he was wrong about the warrant.)
• News of the Weird has reported on several mothers' desires to prolong breastfeeding past the culturally normal age, some continuing well after the child's sixth birthday. The issue flared again in July in Melbourne, Australia, when a 6-year-old boy's birth mother (who had relinquished the child as an infant) used breastfeeding as a strategy to try to wrest him away from the caretakers who had raised him. During sanctioned visitations with the child, the birth mother had pressured the boy to suckle, but he rebelled, and the caretaker obtained a judicial order against further breastfeeding.
• Americans continue to agonize over government "giveaways," but as News of the Weird has noted several times, somehow federal farm subsidies continue unabated -- even though much of the money no longer goes to cuddly "family farms" but to rich urban industrialists who hardly know a plow from a sow. In the latest accounting from Environmental Working Group records, the weekly New York Press revealed such "agrarian" handout-seekers as Manhattan billionaires Leonard Lauder and David Rockefeller -- and Rockefeller's son Mark. (In fact, for 10 years now, the federal government has handed Mark $54,500 a year not to grow anything on his 5,000 acres in Idaho. According to the Press, Mark never intended to, in that he only bought the land because it was adjacent to the upscale, socialite-hangout South Fork fly-fishing lodge he runs next door.)