— News of the Weird has several times chronicled the sad saga of India’s holy but severely polluted Ganges River, on which millions of Hindus are dependent — through hands-on worship — for worldly success and for salvation. Now, recent reports reveal that the second-holiest river, the Yamuna, is suffering the same fate even though the government has invested nearly $1 billion in programs to clean it up. Currently, for example, more than 400 million gallons of untreated sewage, plus various industrial chemicals, enter the river from Delhi, but still, motivated worshippers come to “bathe” for glory.
— Stories That Never Get Old: Dayton, Ohio, bus driver Rickey Wagoner, 49, survived a three-bullet shooting in February that, police said, was probably a gang initiation that randomly targeted him as he worked on his bus’s engine. A police sergeant told the Dayton Daily News that Wagoner “should probably not be here” and survived the attack only because two of the bullets were blocked by a copy of “The Message” (a contemporary version of the Bible) in Wagoner’s shirt pocket.
— The most recent “monument” offered by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would be its proposed 10-foot tombstone along U.S. 129 in Gainesville, Ga., to honor the “several” chickens that were killed when a truck overturned in January. No humans were hurt in the collision, and had the chickens survived, they would have shortly been slaughtered. (The Georgia Department of Transportation rejected the proposal.)
— Allowing dogs as “witnesses” in court cases in France has become “something of a recent trend,” reported the Paris edition of the European news site The Local in April. A 9-year-old Labrador retriever (Tango) took the witness stand in the city of Tours so the judge could observe how he reacted to the defendant, on trial for killing the dog’s owner. (For due process of law, a second dog, Norman, took the stand later, as a “control group.”) Ultimately, the judge said he learned nothing from the dogs and dismissed them.
— “Zero Tolerance”: Yet another questionable school suspension was handed down in March, in Virginia Beach, Va., when the sixth-grader who had prevented a classmate from intentionally harming himself was punished for her altruism. Adrionna Harris had convinced a boy to hand over the razor blade he was threatening himself with, and she immediately discarded it. According to the principal, that transaction meant Harris “possessed” a “dangerous weapon,” albeit for a brief time, and she was suspended for 10 days, according to school policy. (After WAVY-TV’s “On Your Side” reporters got involved, the school relented, and Harris returned to class.)
— “Arranged” Bride Fights Back: Ms. Fatima Mangre, 8, was granted a divorce from her husband, Arjun Bakridi, 14, in India’s Uttar Pradesh state in November, becoming the youngest divorcee in the country’s recorded history. Bakridi, then age 10, had married Mangre, then age 4, but his father promised that the couple would not cohabit until she turned 18. When Bakridi tried to move up the date, Mangre’s dad filed divorce papers for his daughter. The legal age for marriage in the state is 18, but a United Nations agency said the law is still widely ignored.
— Not an Urban Legend: (1) A county official in Portland, Ore., said his office gets “20 to 30 calls” about rats in toilets every year, like the one Daniel Powers reported in March when he spotted the “little guy with beady eyes” looking up at him. (2) The problem is more severe in India, where an emergency crew rushed to the Mumbai-area home of Vipul Desai in February to remove a 6-foot-long cobra from the toilet (but not before it “repeatedly” popped its head out of the commode, terrorizing Desai’s wife and daughter). A team from a wildlife rescue association flooded the toilet, grabbed the snake and released it in the forest.
— People sometimes stage ruses to avoid unpleasant tasks, such as the student who calls in a bomb threat when he’s unprepared for an exam, but Dwayne Yeager’s motivation was simply laziness. Yeager, 31, called police in Brandon, Fla., in March, reporting a “burglary” at his home, but after questioning, officers charged him with making up the “crime” just so he could stay home from work that day. (Coincidentally, in Kittery, Maine, three days earlier, the U.S. Navy formally decommissioned its nuclear submarine USS Miami, which had suffered irreparable fire damage in 2012 caused by a shipyard worker. The worker started what he wrongly believed would be a small blaze — so that he could get off work for the day — a decision now costing him 17 years in federal prison.)
— In December, at a Home Depot in Banks County, Ga., yet another prankster put glue on a restroom toilet seat, trapping an unwary shopper seeking to relieve herself. Twelve days after the incident, the victim told WSB-TV that she was still in pain. Paramedics had unstuck her with a liberal application of WD-40, but she believes an emergency room would have been more appropriate.
— Among the $43 million worth of “renovations” that the former German “Bishop of Bling,” Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, ordered spent on his home and office before he was forcibly retired by Pope Francis in March: a 6-foot-deep fish tank filled with Koi carp, costing $300,000; a $917,000 garden (the “Garden of Silence”); solid-bronze window frames all around ($2.38 million); and LED lights built into floors, walls, steps, window frames and handrails ($894,000). One expense did prove too extravagant for the bishop, according to The Washington Post: employees. (He had reduced his staff during his tenure.)
— “Jane Doe,” the second of two victims of reckless, anal-oriented medical and law-enforcement drug searches reported in News of the Weird in January, has now filed her lawsuit to be compensated for the repeated, nonconsensual probes and tests ordered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers who had selected her for a random search and refused to believe, despite one negative test after another, that she was not carrying drugs. (None were ever found.) The lawsuit includes University Medical Center of El Paso, Texas, whose personnel seemed super-willing to cooperate with CBP and audaciously even sent the victim a $5,000 bill for the procedures (subsequently withdrawn). (The other victim, David Eckert, treated similarly by New Mexico law enforcement and doctors, who also never found drugs, has settled his lawsuit with county and city police for $1.6 million, with the portion against medical authorities still pending.)