Russian Orthodox church teaches teens how to jump off buildings

Three totally weird stories from the global press

Jack Rodolico By Jack Rodolico

As Latitude News scans the global press for relevant stories all week, we keep a stockpile of oddball headlines we call the Mishmash. Below you’ll find the best of the weirdest. Be sure to send us a note if you see something fun you’d like to see in next week’s column.

Russian Orthodox church teaches teens how to jump off buildings

It seemed a little ridiculous to me to call “Parkour” an art or sport until I watched the video below. The uninhibited style of urban acrobatics began in France in the 1990’s and now has a cult following in cities around the world.

This heart-wrenching sport is making waves in St. Petersburg, Russia, where a Parkour artist has been teaching the sport to orphans, prisoners, recovering drug addicts and teens on probation. The Orthodox Church, which has come under fire recently for elitism and overtly pledging its allegiance to Vladimir Putin, also works with at-risk youth who, without guidance, would likely end up on the street.

“It has to be about more than glory, fame and showing off a well-toned body,” Evgeny Krynin, a Russian Parkour artist, tells the BBC. “Many of them . . . have few aspirations and a great deal of anger inside them. But you have to be calm and concentrated to perfect a difficult movement. When they succeed, of course it gives them a sense of pride. It teaches them that every obstacle can be overcome with enough perseverance.”

The Russian Orthodox Church has been widely criticized for a series of missteps recently: a deacon in St. Petersburg allegedly beat up two elderly women, a drunken father superior killed two road workers with his BMW sports car, and the church hierarchy was vocal in its endorsement of punishing the punk protest band Pussy Riot. And then, as the BBC reports, there was this little gem:

When the head of the church Patriarch Kirill himself was photographed wearing a $32,000 (£20,000) Swiss watch, the Church made things worse by airbrushing it out – and forgetting to erase its reflection on a shiny table.

So teaching kids how to leap down a stairwell like Spiderman? Pretty tame stuff, really.

British police Taser blind stroke victim with “samurai sword”

Every aspect of this story is ridiculous, except for Colin Farmer, 61, for whom it is tragic.

As the UK’s Metro reports, Farmer was walking to meet friends for a drink. Using his walking stick to navigate the pavement, he suddenly heard a man screaming, but says he had no clue whom the man was screaming at. The next moment, Farmer was hit in the back with a 50,000-volt Taser.

“I said ‘I’m blind, I’m blind. I’m blind’. This policeman knelt on me and dragged my arms round my back and handcuffed me so tight I’ve had bruises since . . . I was absolutely terrified. I thought any second I’m going to have another stroke and this one will kill me.'”

The “weapon”? The Chief Superintendent of the town’s police force says it received reports of a man roaming the streets with a samurai sword. Apparently, there are no ninjas on the police force — if only there had been, they certainly would have realized Farmer’s walking stick was no sword.

While offering the police’s regrets, the superintendent says, “We have clearly put this man through a traumatic experience and we are extremely sorry for that . . . we have launched an urgent investigation to understand what lessons can be learned.”

Here’s a lesson: Go easy with the Tasers.

Chasing down an illegal hero . . . er, immigrant

A manhunt is underway in Italy for a suspected illegal immigrant from Morocco. Local authorities would like to thank him for pulling a family of three from a sinking vehicle.

On an evening shrouded in fog, a family of three veered into a canal on a highway between Avezzano and San Benedetto in Abruzzo. Before firefighters arrived, a Moroccan man “appeared out of the fog and helped the family to safety,” according to Corriere della Sera. He then disappeared into the night.

Witnesses say the man stripped off his clothes and jumped into the water before pulling the family from the car. The father remains hospitalized, but the wife and son are mending and want to track down their rescuer.

The Italian newspaper assumes the man was one of Italy’s thousands of undocumented Moroccan immigrants. Gianni Chiodi, chair of the Abruzzo regional authority, is vowing to help the man on a path to legal residence if he comes forward.

Chodi says the Moroccan’s actions show “outstanding human spirit by this young man with no name. If it is true that he is an illegal, I think this action redeems any formal illegality on his part. I don’t know what can be done. I’ve no idea what the law can do in cases like this but there is no doubt that he is welcome here in Italy.”