Headlines show strange world in which we all live

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Want proof that truth really is far stranger than fiction?

Just take a few minutes to skim national and world headlines in newspapers and on the Internet.

Our world is changing daily and these headlines are proof that we must not take our culture for granted and that the strange depths to which humanity can sink should not surprise us.

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Still, I am often shocked and amazed at what happens in real life, many times far more strange than anything you would read in a fiction novel or see in a Hollywood movie.

Here are a few examples that caught my attention over the weekend as I browsed MSNBC:

&t; Two men were arrested last week in Nashville, Tenn., on murder charges. Nothing all that uncommon about that part of the story

The horrifying part? Tara Cole was a homeless woman who did nothing to provoke these men.

Cole was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was pushed into the river and lost her life through a random act of violence that made no sense.

What makes this story even more chilling is that officials say violence against homeless people is one the rise.

These are not crimes of passion. They are not crimes of robbery or drug needs. These are simple acts of evil and we are seeing it more and more than ever before.

&t;Austrian police solved a mystery recently that was nearly a decade old, while at the same time revealing that what goes on behind closed doors in an ordinary quiet neighborhood can often be anything but normal.

Officials say Natascha Kampusch was kidnapped from Vienna more than 8 years ago, kept in a basement and likely sexually abused.

Her abductor knew the walls were closing in on him so he took his own life by jumping in front of a train.

Add Tom Cruise or Nicole Kidman and that may sound like more than enough for a Hollywood drama, but the real twist is that the details make it even stranger.

Kampusch’s abductor had built a windowless room beneath his house that was only accessible through a hatch sealed with a metal door.

While it certainly was not luxurious it did include books, movies and a TV.

But perhaps the strangest part is that the girl did not try to escape, despite the fact that she often worked with her captor in his garden — the place where she was found when she did escape.

&t; This next one is equally strange and sad.

John Giljam knew he would be great inventor. The South Carolina resident dreamed of inventing something that would change people’s lives.

The irony is that he may have done just that — but the government wouldn’t allow him to use it.

See, Giljam is the inventor of the world’s first bus/boat hybrid. His “Hydra Terra” is unsinkable and can move quickly on land and water.

Sounds like the perfect piece of equipment to use for rescue efforts following Hurricane Katrina, right?

Yep, but the good old government said, “thanks, but no thanks.”

Giljam not only offered his own vehicle and his services as its operator, he also contacted dozens of his customers to see if they would be willing to do the same.

Response after response came in, all with the same result: We will do what we can to save lives.

Sounds like the next great Disney movie, huh?

Not so fast.

One small problem arose. FEMA and everyone else declined the offer for help, saying that they couldn’t authorize it.

Sad but true.

These three stories are just a sample of the many strange things that happen everyday in our lives.

Who needs Hollywood? All you have to do is read the headlines.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.