Bizarre but true stories about real people collected by syndicated columnist Chuck Shepherd.

In May, The Times of London, interviewing witnesses in Diyala province in Iraq, described scenes from the hard-core Salafist version of Islam being enforced (similar to what the Taliban imposed in Afghanistan), including breaking the fingers of those who repeatedly smoked cigarettes, prohibiting grocers from displaying bananas (as "obscene"), and requiring them to screen cucumbers from tomatoes (as the latter are "feminine vegetables"). One local man said he assumed that another restriction that farmers modestly cover their goats' "nether regions" was just a rumor, until he saw a goat wearing boxer shorts.

In April, Bishop Michael Babin, for 25 years a leader of Genesis Ministries International in Oceanside, Calif., was charged (along with his son) with beating a golfer unconscious after accusing the man of stealing his ball at a local course. (Two years ago, Babin was nominated for a Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Award.)

China's Xinhua news agency reported in May that the country is sponsoring an Internet blitz for votes for the Great Wall in the current international contest to name the new "Seven Wonders of the World" (among, for instance, the Acropolis, Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal). Leaders are worried that if the wall fails to be voted in, the country will be shamed.

In a Palmerston, New Zealand, court in March, lawyer Janet Robertshawe was called as a witness on behalf of an "alternative health" practitioner who had been charged with taking indecent liberties with female clients, and Robertshawe (a long-time client) agreed to help demonstrate the man's massage technique. Just feet from the jury, she removed her top and lay on a massage table while he gave her a vigorous, deep mashing, which shook her chest-covering towel off several times. Robertshawe later testified (while clothed) that the man's treatments had worked wonders for her: "I guess the treatments aren't for the faint-hearted.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)