Chuck Shepherd

China's public-park restrooms have for years suffered toilet-paper theft by local residents who raid dispensers for their own homes (a cultural habit, wrote Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, expressing taxpayer feelings of "owning" public facilities), but the government recently fought back with technology.

At Beijing's popular Temple of Heaven park, dispensers now have facial-recognition scanners beside the six toilets, with pre-cut paper (about 24 inches long) issued only to users who pose for a picture. Just one slug of paper can be dispensed to the same face in a 9-minute period, catastrophic for the diarrhea-stricken and requiring calling an attendant to override the machine.

Latest religious messages

• Babies born on the Indonesian island of Bali are still today treated regally under an obscure Hindu tradition, according to a February New York Times report, and must not be allowed to touch the earth for 105 days (in some areas, 210). Carrying the infant in a bucket and setting that on the ground is apparently acceptable. Each birth is actually a rebirth, they say, with ancestors returning as their own descendants. Accidentally touching the ground does not condemn the baby, but may leave questions about negative influences.

• Catholic priest Juan Carlos Martinez, 40, apologized shortly after realizing, as he said, he had gone "too far" in celebrating March's Carnival in a town in the Galicia area of Spain. Martinez said he acted inappropriately in dressing as Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, reclining on a red satin sheet on a parade float carrying men dressed as classic Playboy "Bunnies." Despite apparent public support for Father Martinez, his archbishop asked him to attend a "spiritual retreat" to reflect on his behavior.

Eyewitness news

On the morning of March 20 in Winter Park, Fla., Charles Howard, standing outside his home being interviewed live by a WFTV reporter, denied he had committed a crime in a widely reported series of voice mail messages to a U.S. congressman that contained threats to "wrap a rope around your neck and hang you from a lamp post."

He boasted that "proof" of his having done nothing wrong was that if he had, he would have already been arrested. "Three minutes later," according to the reporter, agents drove up and arrested Howard.

The passing parade

• A 23-year-old Albuquerque, N.M., woman performed cartwheels instead of a standard field sobriety test at a DWI stop in February, but she did poorly and was charged anyway. On the other hand, student Blayk Puckett, stopped by University of Central Arkansas police, helped shield himself from a DWI by juggling for the officer.

• Oreos fans sampling the limited-edition Peeps Oreos in February expressed alarm that not only their tongues and saliva turned pink, but also their stools — and leaving a pink ring in the bowl. A gastroenterologist told Live Science it was nothing to worry about.

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