New Dating Service Caters

To Those ISO Rural Romance

From New Castle, Ind., a 52-year-old woman writes, "I butcher deer & clean fish. I have 2 small dogs. No kids."

From Buffalo, Mo., a 29-year-old explains, "I'm just your simple hard working dairywoman. My life is my cows and family."

From Cedar Falls, Iowa, a 27-year-old begins, "I grew up on a farm and then I married a big city boy but now I'm back and ready to rock. I love it out here much more."

These women and 2,400 other rural lonely hearts posted their personal ads on www.farmersonly.com, a dating service started in May exclusively for rural people and those who would join them. Founded by an ad agency owner who works with a breeders association, its slogan is "City folks just don't get it."

"I met a farmer who had just gotten divorced. She said, 'How do you meet someone standing on a farm all day?' She tried online dating, but the city guys that contacted her just didn't have a clue," said Jerry Miller, the site's Ohio-based founder. "The dating pool out in the country is very small. If you didn't marry your high school sweetheart, you'll have a tough time."

For now, more women are seeking men than the other way around, but not by much.

"I am a cattle farmer in Missouri," writes a self-described "good ol' boy" from Fenton, Mo. "It is hard to find a person who likes what I like. I like the outside, and animals."

-- Peter Slevin

Version of Michelangelo's

'Pieta' Called Blasphemous

The product of an emerging art trend that bucks traditional religious iconography among Latino artists has inspired protest in Upstate New York.

An oil painting depicting a veiled Mary holding the crumpled body of Jesus Christ has drawn a firestorm. A priest and several rosary-clutching adults prayed in front of the painting titled "Magdalene Mourning Her Lover." They say the piece is blasphemy masquerading as art.

Part of an exhibit celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, the piece by Hugo Bastidas re-creates the scene in Michelangelo's sculpture "Pieta." But Bastidas substitutes Mary Magdalene, depicted in the Bible as a fallen woman, for Mary, Jesus's mother.

"The time of Christian-bashing without consequence is over," protester Helen Westover told the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Theories that Mary Magdalene married Jesus and bore his children became an obsession after the release of Dan Brown's thriller "The Da Vinci Code," which sold millions of copies.

Bastidas once displayed the piece in an exhibit on neo-Latino art, a movement that resurrects icons of Latino culture in a postmodernist and post-historic spirit.

-- Michelle Garcia

Pizza Parlor Burglar in California

Leaves a Half-Baked Pie

A hungry burglar who was fixing himself a pepperoni pizza after pilfering a safe at a pizza parlor in San Clemente, Calif., fled with the cash but not with the dough.

The thief ran out of Sonny's Pizza & Pasta early one morning last week as the overnight crew arrived, leaving the pizza smoldering in the oven. Police theorized that the arrival of the staff crew prompted him to bolt.

The suspect broke into the restaurant at 2 a.m. and searched for a cook's apron, trying on several until he found one that fit, then began preparing a pepperoni pizza with all the fixings, Orange County Sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino told Reuters. A surveillance camera captured the whole scene, and the sheriff's department plans to publicize the videotape to help find the thief.

The overnight employees arrived at about 3 a.m. and found the pizza sizzling in the oven and the safe missing with an undisclosed amount of cash.

-- John Pomfret

Texas Sheriff Aims to Extinguish

Employees' Interest in Smoking

The Tarrant County jail in Fort Worth, the sheriff's department offices and the patrol cars that deputies drive are smoke-free. Now, under penalty from the boss, Sheriff Dee Anderson, the employees are going tobacco-free, too.

Starting Jan. 1, any uniformed employee -- about 1,050 out of 1,400 -- will be prohibited from smoking cigarettes or cigars, or chewing tobacco or dipping snuff while on the job. The same goes for any civilian employee wearing a name tag identifying him or her as a sheriff's department employee. The rule will apply even when out at lunch or driving to and from work.

"It's about the image and professionalism that we want to convey to the public," said Terry Grisham, the sheriff's department executive administrator. "If there's a family walking down main street Fort Worth and sees a deputy sheriff, with a badge and a gun, smoking, it creates a mixed message. Tobacco is wrong, and policemen are honorable and to be looked up to."

"It's not that smokers won't be employed by the sheriff," Grisham said. "You just can't smoke on duty."

The policy is intended to help improve employee health, cut medical costs and increase productivity. Grisham said some employees who work inside the jail take extra-long breaks because of the time it takes them to leave the secure facility and get back in after spending 15 minutes smoking outside. "We found there were nonsmoking employees covering duties for the smokers," Grisham said. "That's an inequitable situation."

-- Sylvia Moreno