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The Continuing Crisis

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The New Age movement might be growing too inclusive, according to a July report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press (published in a city where the concept of "New Age" is already highly nuanced). "(P)agans feel jilted," wrote the reporter. "Chiropractors want out (of consideration)," "channelers wonder if they belong," and "organic farmers don't want to be near pet psychics." Said one St. Paul merchant, "I have customers who completely believe in fairies and will laugh at you if you believe in Bigfoot." But, said one New Age magazine editor, the movement should "encompass anything on a spiritual path -- Bigfoot, Jesus, Buddha. Even worshipping a frog is sort of OK."

Some parents of students at the Al-Islah Muslim girls' school in Blackburn, England, discovered that a staff secretary, Shifa Patel, 28, had a Facebook page, featuring innocuous photos of herself but dressed in other than her full-body robe and headscarf, which are her everyday school attire. The photos also reveal that she has close-cropped hair. One assumption led to another, and soon Patel was accused of being a man who dresses as a woman in order to mingle with females. Patel went to the trouble of getting a doctor's certificate of her gender, but the parents refused to accept it, and in June, Patel (and the school's headmistress) resigned in despair.

A young copperhead snake trespassed into a building near Poolesville, Md., in June and delivered several venomous nips to the hand of Sam Pettengill. Often snakes do not survive such encounters because the victim's first impulse is to kill the attacker. Fortunately for this snake, it had wandered into a Buddhist temple, and Pettengill had an obligation, according to a Washington Post report. Before he set out for the hospital for treatment (which turned out to be four antivenin cycles), Pettengill took the snake in his throbbing, increasingly pain-wracked hand, circled a prayer room three times to bless it, and released it back into the woods.

World's Toughest Job: Farah Ahmed Omar was appointed recently as chief of Somalia's navy, which ordinarily would be on the front lines against the throng of pirates operating off the country's coast. Omar's job is difficult, though, because the Somalian navy has not a single boat nor a single sailor, and Omar himself has not been to sea in 23 years. However, he told a reporter he was optimistic that the piracy could be stopped.

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