Dateline: China—Desperate to cash in on the popularity of James Cameron’s smash hit film Avatar, tourism officials in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park held an official ceremony last Monday to change the name of Nan Tian Yi Zhu Mountain, which means Southern Sky Column Mountain, to Avatar Hallelujah Mountain. The towering land formation, which juts nearly vertically up from a sea of mist, was reportedly a major inspiration for the film’s floating Hallelujah Mountains. The Zhangjiajie government website says Hollywood photographer Scott Hansen spent time shooting there in 2008 for the movie. “Many pictures he took then become prototypes for various elements in the Avatar movie,” noted the website. The park is now offering package visits to tourists, including a “magical tour to Avatar-Pandora” and a “miracle tour to Avatar’s floating mountain.”
Dateline: Papua New Guinea—ABC News Australia reported on a tribal feud in Papua New Guinea’s southern highlands that was allegedly sparked by what could be the first case of “sexting” in the South Seas. The violence flared two Saturdays ago when a young man from the Tapo clan in Tari sent what was described as a “pornographic text message” to a woman in the neighboring Pipi clan. The offended female showed the text to her brother, who gathered up as many clansman as he could find and attacked the Tapos with “homemade guns, bush knives and bows and arrows.” One man was killed in the initial clash and another was dragged off a bus and killed with an ax the following day in an act of retaliation. “Two people have died, several have been wounded, several houses have been burnt down,” Superintendent Jimmy Onopia told ABC News’ Papua New Guinea correspondent. Police in the area are hoping to negotiate a peaceful resolution.
Dateline: Russia—More than 100 Russian Orthodox believers celebrating the Christian feast day of Epiphany in Irkutsk, Siberia, were hospitalized after knocking back tainted holy water. A total of 117 people, including 48 children, were taken to hospitals for acute intestinal pain after drinking water from several wells in and around a local church. According to Britain’s Sky News, many Orthodox Russians consider any water obtained on Epiphany to be holy. Irkutsk Investigative Committee’s spokesperson, Vladimir Salovarov, told reporters a total of 204 people required some sort of medical treatment. The source of the illness has not yet been identified.
Dateline: Ohio—A woman who weighs more than 350 pounds has pleaded guilty to killing her much smaller boyfriend by sitting on him. Police in Cleveland said that Mia Landingham and her boyfriend Mikal Middleston-Bey got into an argument in August. During the altercation, Landingham punched Middleston-Bey—who weighed 120 pounds—in the face, knocking him down. She then sat on his head. When she got up, Middleston-Bey was dead. In court, Landingham apologized for squashing the father of her three children. “I just want to say that I am sincerely sorry about this situation,” Landingham announced. “I wish I could take it back.” Landingham was sentenced to three years probation and 100 hours community service after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter. After the sentencing, the victim’s family expressed frustration at the judge’s decision. “So basically you can say that I can go sit on on somebody and get probation?” said one of the victim’s sisters. “I feel there wasn’t no justice.”
Dateline: Wisconsin—An inmate serving a life sentence at Waupun prison for first-degree intentional homicide has lost a multiyear legal battle challenging the prison’s policy banning Dungeons & Dragons. Kevin T. Singer had alleged that in taking away his ability to play the popular role-playing game, prison officials were violating his First Amendment rights. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed last Monday, deciding that shouting, “I’ll slay the orc with my +2 dancing sword!” is not constitutionally protected. Singer, 33, told the court he has been a D&D fanatic since he was a child. After the prison’s ban went into effect in 2004, prison officials confiscated dozens of Dungeons & Dragons books and magazines from his cell—including a 96-page module the inmate had written himself. The ban was enacted after an inmate sent an anonymous letter expressing concern that the game was fostering “gang” activity within the prison. In the end, the court ruled with prison officials who concluded the game “promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors and possible gambling.” Singer was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 after bludgeoning his sister’s boyfriend to death with a sledgehammer.