News of the Weird: Even mass murderers need friends

Brad A. illustration

Norway is home to perhaps the most inmate-friendly prison in the world (as mentioned previously in "News of the Weird"), but the correctional system has an imminent crisis, as Anders Behring Breivik (the confessed killer of 77 people last year) is nearing formal conviction and sentencing. Officials fear the sociopathic Breivik will try to kill inmates to add to his toll, yet Norwegian law forbids solitary confinement as cruel. Consequently, according to a May report by Norway's Verdens Gang newspaper, the officials have begun a search to select, hire and train appropriate "friends" to hang out with Breivik behind bars to win his trust and prevent further mayhem. Among Breivik's favorite recreational distractions: chess and hockey.

Cultural Diversity

-Collections of comically poor translations are legion, but the Beijing municipal government, in sympathy with English-speaking restaurant-goers, published a helpful guidebook recently of what the restaurateurs were trying, though inartfully, to say. In an April interview with the authors, NBC News learned the contents of "Hand Shredded A$$ Meat" (sic) (merely donkey meat) and other baffling English descriptions (all taken from actual menus), such as "Cowboy Leg," "Red-Burned Lion Head," "Blow-up Flatfish With No Result," and the very unhelpful "Tofu Made by Woman With Freckles" and "Strange Flavor Noodles."

-In the spirit of the empowerment of dissidents around the world, activists in Ukraine and South Africa recently erected downright disrespectful statues lampooning leaders. In Kiev and the western city of Lvov, Ukraine, activists unveiled five-foot-high statues of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin urinating. (Police in both cities took them down quickly, however.) And South African artist Brett Murray museum-exhibited a red, black and yellow acrylic painting of President Jacob Zuma ("Hail to the Thief II") with his genitals exposed, an allusion to Zuma's having beaten a rape charge in 2006.

-Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced in April that it would begin a national inquiry over the alarming number of bathtub deaths in 2011 — nearly three times the number of those killed in traffic accidents. News reports pointed out that many Japanese workers relax in tubs at the end of the day, even when they have overimbibed and are vulnerable to drowning.

Latest Religious Messages

-Two veteran Church of England vicars were in the news in May for their unique approaches. Rev. Andy Kelso left the church after 25 years to start an Elvis Presley Gospel Tribute act as "Elvis Prayersley." Said Kelso, "I felt God say to me very strongly, 'Take Elvis to the church.'" And Rev. Nick Davies of Cheltenham, England, promises to continue breathing fire part-way through his sermons (to mark Pentecost, in which the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus' disciples, appearing as "tongues of flame").

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