Don't Panic! Lighten Up!S


Chippendales Arrested: Too Sexy; Texas DA declines to prosecute

Free the Chippendales Eight! A Texas prosecutor has decided not to press charges against a cadre of male adult dancers who were busted earlier this month at a Lubbock sports bar for dancing suggestively in front of 1100 female fans.


Religion, drugs affect brain similarly

Revelers' beer bingeing episodes on Fat Tuesday and somber Catholic masses on Ash Wednesday are traditionally viewed as far removed from each other. One day is filled with an excess of food, drink and hedonistic pleasure seeking. The other is a day when the devout begin to cleanse themselves with an ashen mark of the cross on the forehead and forego those bad habits - well at least for 40 days. The mood may be different, but religion, drugs, drug users and the devout share a kinship in their experiences, attitudes and behavior.

Comment: While religion may, indeed, affect the brain in ways similar to drugs, that doesn't mean that drug induced "religious states" are the same thing. Just as drinking too much coffee to ward off tiredness can lead to psychotic states because the caffeine molecule binds to the adenosine receptor and blocks the adenosine "tiredness" signal which leads to a cascade of bodily reactions, including sleep, so can drugs block natural neurotransmitters produced within the body in response to true religious states that lead to another cascade of reactions that the drug induced states block. Drugs short circuit the receptors they bind with, blocking natural processes.

Religious experiences certainly can be counterfeited, by various mind- altering techniques or drugs, but the true experience can be measured by its power to bring about personal and moral transformation towards what is good and constructive - what Zoroastrians call the path of ASHA, or Righteousness.
Concerning the original shamanic experience ... narcotics are only a vulgar substitute for "pure" trance.

The use of intoxicants is a recent innovation and points to a decadence in shamanic technique. Narcotic intoxication is called on to provide an imitation of a state that the shaman is no longer capable of attaining otherwise. Decadence or vulgarization of a mystical technique - in ancient and modern India, and indeed all through the East, we constantly find this strange mixture of "difficult ways" and "easy ways" of realizing mystical ecstasy or some other decisive experience. [Eliade, Shamanism, Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, pp. 396-401.]

Bizarro Earth

Text messages land teacher in hot water

A middle school teacher trying to buy pot was arrested after she sent text messages to state trooper instead of a dealer, police said.

Trooper Trevor Pervine was at dinner with his wife and parents celebrating a birthday when his phone started buzzing with messages about a marijuana purchase.

At first, Pervine thought the messages were from friends playing a joke, Kentucky State Police spokesman Barry Meadows said. But a couple of phone calls put that idea to rest, and Pervine responded to set up a meeting, Meadows said.

Authorities say Ann Greenfield, 34, arrived at the meeting point and found Pervine and other law enforcement officers waiting for her.

Magic Wand

Virgin Mary appears on pizza pan

When an image of the Virgin Mary appeared on one of their pizza pans on Ash Wednesday the dinner ladies at Pugh Elementary School in Houston knew that it had to be more than just the cheese and pepperoni talking. This had to be a message from God.

Guadalupe Rodriguez, 59, who had scrubbed at the greasy stain to no avail, hastened to the head teacher for a second opinion. Indeed, the principal confirmed, the school kitchens seemed to have been singled out for divine intervention.

Within hours the apparition had become the talk of Houston and the pan a focus for pilgrims. One woman arrived at dawn the next day to seek healing for her disabled grandson; another prayed for God's blessing on her eight-year-old's forthcoming hospital operation. Throughout the weekend worshippers flocked to the home where the pan is now on display to pay their respects. "I see an image of the Blessed Mother. It's a sign that something is going to happen," one visitor, Vincent Santiago, said.

Black Cat

5,000-year-old artificial eyeball found

A 5,000-year-old golden artificial eye that once stared out mesmerisingly from the face of a female soothsayer or priestess in ancient Persia has been unearthed by Iranian and Italian archaeologists.

The eyeball - the earliest artificial eye found - would have transfixed those who saw it, convincing them that the woman - thought to have been strikingly tall - had occult powers and could see into the future, archaeologists said.

Bizarro Earth

Sex is banned from funeral tributes

Roman Catholics in Australia have been ordered to keep funeral Mass eulogies short and to steer clear of tales of sex and drunkenness, after a reported increase in "inappropriate" statements.

In new guidelines, Cardinal George Pell, the country's most senior Catholic, has imposed a five-minute deadline and deemed some areas of a person's life off limits.

"On not a few occasions, 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," Cardinal Pell's guidelines say.


N.J. Town to Set Barking Dog Time Limit

The city of Clifton is not going to the dogs. At least not if the City Council has anything to do about it.

Later this month, the council is expected to introduce an ordinance setting a limit on how long dogs can bark.

Noisy canines will be defined as those that bark for more than 30 minutes on two consecutive days.

The city already has nuisance and "noise laws that can be used to address annoying and disturbing noises such as constant barking." But officials said those laws are sometimes difficult to enforce.


Mint plans 100-kilogram gold coin worth $2 million

You could never flip it, pop it into a vending machine or jangle it in your pocket.

The Royal Canadian Mint's newest coin will weigh 100 kilograms - that's 220 pounds, or nearly as much as a linebacker - and will be the size of a party pizza.

The non-circulating, pure gold coin will have a face value of $1 million, but at current bullion prices will be worth a staggering $2 million.

Rumours of the new coin, which would be the highest denomination in the world, have been circulating since early this month when cabinet approved the project in a short announcement.

But the mint had been keeping mum on details of its plans until Wednesday, when it posted a regulatory notice on a government website.


Customers get billion-dollar power bills

WEATHERFORD, Texas - Perhaps his $24 billion electric bill will teach Richard Redden not to leave the heat running. Thanks to a printing error, Redden and more than 1,300 Weatherford utility customers this week received billion-dollar electric bills marked as late notices.

Irving-bases DataProse, which prints customer bills for Weatherford Electric, said the company was embarrassed by the error.


Jesus appears atop mobile phone mast

Large crowds gathered yesterday around a mobile phone mast in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu after locals spotted Jesus Christ atop the structure, Kampala's The Monitor reports.

Witness Eric Odongo, who claimed he "first saw clouds on top of the mast and that Jesus appeared to be standing amidst clouds", told the paper: "I saw Jesus standing on top of the mast. He was standing between two people and was putting on a white cloth. His hair was black."