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February 2001

5 February 2001

A woman was charged $2.12 at a Dairy Queen drive-through in Danville, Kentucky, and she was given $197.88 in change for her $200 note. In case a clerk might not know that a $200 note isn't legal tender, this taped-together note was clearly marked as a 'moral reserve note' and featured George W. Bush's portrait. The White House picture on the back has yard signs reading 'We like broccoli'and 'Rooms not for rent'. Police were notified of the encounter with the woman shortly after she left. They do not consider the note to be a counterfeit one, as it was parodic in nature and not intended to mimic an existing note.

In a Reuters item from Niger, a court recently decided the case of a man who beat his cousin to death with a stick, dismembered him, and ate bread soaked in the man's blood. Hassan Salou was given the minimum sentence, 10 years in prison, since the cousin, Souley Halidou, had killed two of Salou's relatives and threatend to kill more of them, as part of a land dispute. Witnesses said residents of Moli had been living in terror ever since Halidou had a town crier announce his intent to do some more killing. Also acting in Salou's favour was that he went to the police after the deed, bringing Halidou's left arm with him as proof. Halidou said: 'Why did I dip the bread in his blood? I wanted to feel that he was dead, to convince myself that he wouldn't bother anybody anymore.'

Time magazine featured an article on how the fashion industry is responding to girls' and their parents' desire for such clothes as leather trousers for prepubescent girls. The piece, about 'Rave Girl' making feather boas, lingerie, etc. for girls seven years old and up, mentioned Florida's 13-year-old Tonya Rodriguez, who has been suspended more than once for wearing spaghetti-strap tops and (in her words) 'shorts and skirts that show my stomach'. Her mother is quoted as saying that 'Tonya is making an attempt to go to school, and it's like they are trying to deter her by checking her every day'.

One episode of MTV's highly rated programme Jackass, a man dons a flameproof suit and rolls about on a barbecue, with steaks strapped to his body. A boy was severely burned when imitating this stunt, minus the suit. A friend poured petrol on Jason Lind's feet and legs and then lit him on fire. The fire reached the boy's hands before it was extinguished, said officials. Other accounts describe the teenagers as imitating a Jackass television stunt wherein a man used crutches while he was set on fire. Hehehe, fire.

In Jonesboro, Arkansas, an eight-year-old boy was suspended from South Elementary for pointing an item from his lunch at a teacher and saying 'Pow, pow, pow'. Christopher Kissinger's weapon, a battered chicken finger, was found to be in violation of school district policy. The boy's mother said: 'I think a chicken strip is something insignificant.' Principal Dan Sullivan said he would not discuss the incident but did say the school's zero-tolerance rules exist becaues the public wants them. Sullivan said one must base punishment on intent - 'it's the thought in the mind. Is a plastic fork worse than a metal fork?'

It isn't a chicken finger that made headlines in Hyannis, Massachusetts, where a student (who asked not to be identified) found part of a human finger in her lunch at Barnstable High School. A cafeteria worker had cut off part of her thumb in a vegetable slicer earlier in the week. Fellow student Nick Chamberlain said: 'Our lunch is our most valuable time, and now we have to eat fingers.'

In Hastings, Nebraska, a 34-year-old man stole a city snow-plough from a storage building and drove it to Grand Island, where he stopped at a 'Pump and Pantry' and bought a case of beer and petrol for the vehicle. The man paid by personal cheque and showed identification before driving off in the snow-plough. The clerk, suspecting that the man was drunk, rang police, who found the snow-plough at a primary school and arrested the man at a nearby residence.

The Washington Post tells us of various sorts of rubbish gracing school playgrounds. For instance, in north-east Washington, DC, a primary-school playground was visited by the condom fairy, and three four-year-olds later stumbled upon the discarded prophylactics. A preschool teacher noticed the children trying to blow up these 'balloons' and removed them. The children's parents were advised to watch for infections over the next six months.

US drug officials busted what the San Francisco Chronicle called the 'world's largest LSD lab', which happens to have been run from an abandoned missile silo in Kansas. The alleged principal perpetrators indicted were William L. Pickard, Jr, the 55-year-old deputy director of a University of California drug policy analysis programme, and Silicon Valley computer consultant Clyde Apperson.

In 1994, Kyron Henn-Lee and Thomas J. McCoy were divorced. The two, who lived in New Jersey, received joint custody of daughter Katherine. Henn-Lee's decision to take Katherine to California was met with objections from McCoy, but a three-judge panel decided that the move can take place and that McCoy can continue contact with his daughter via video over the Internet. The judges said this would be a 'creative and innovative' way for the father and daughter to remain in contact.

9 February 2001

In Omaha, Nebraska, a Van Halen fan decided to have a bit of fun as police tried to talk a man out of jumping off a building. Although the police claim that the potential suicide couldn't hear 'Jump' being played over the police radio frequency they were using, others did. The culprit only aired about 30 seconds of the song. After several hours, the man was convinced not to jump.

In Indiana, Rhonda and Barry Conrad lost a child. This was the second time Rhonda had had a stillborn baby. The couple knew Benjamin David would be born dead, and they arranged to see the body after it was born. However, Hendricks Community Hospital staff 'came right out and told us that there had been a mistake that the baby had been misplaced, had been lost and from what they could figure out, that the baby had gone through their laundry', said Rhonda. It is unknown why the baby was washed, bleached, and dried. The Conrads are suing the hospital for up to $1.25 million. '[Benjamin] was treated disrespectfully', said Rhonda, who plans to try again to have a child.

A Reservoir Hills, South Africa, family returned home to find a burglar in their bathtub. Marlan Naicker said he and his wife heard water running. When he saw the 'strange man in the bath', he raised the camera he was carrying and took a photograph. The man then 'brushed past me, grabbed his track-suit pants and dashed out of the house', he said. After the man left, the couple discovered three bags containing clothing, jewellery, and other valuables. Police have been given the photograph.

An inmate in Elmira, New York, claims to have traded over $8 million in securities since 1998. Michael Mathie was a cocaine-addicted high-school dropout imprisoned in 1989 for his role in hitting Paul Vincent Lamariana, 49, with a tyre iron, choking him with a power cord, stuffing him in a plastic bag, and wrapping him in carpet before dumping him on a Long Island roadside. Mathie, who is serving 10 to 30 years, calls his father collect from a pay telephone. His father then trades on the Internet. Mathie said he pays his father $500 to $1200 per month for the phone calls. Mathie's 1999 adjusted gross income was $899,969. Although it is illegal to run his own business from prison, Mathie's investing isn't considered a business since his father is the one doing the trading.
Jim Flateau, speaking for the New York corrections department, said: 'Certainly, since the transaction is occurring outside prison, it's not something over which we would exercise any control.' He pointed out that inmates have a First Amendment right to discuss whatever they want on the phone, as long as it is legal.

Some Miami Seaquarium employees have received public scorn for eating the meat of a leatherback sea turtle. The turtle, a member of a protected species, died after colliding with a boat. Two employees, Dr Maya Dougherty, who had conducted the necropsy, and animal-care supervisr Chris Plante, had letters of reprimand placed in their files. In the absence of a 'dead animal disposal' procedure being given in the Seaquarium's permit to handle endangered animals, they had allowed a park worker to take some of the turtle's meat home for a stew. The food was brought to work the next day.

Reuters reports that a Munich court fined a man the equivalent of $600 for urinating on a woman's leg after drinking too much. The 22-year-old German was in a crowded Oktoberfest beer tent after drinking two litres of beer, he explained. He felt an urgent need and decided to try to relieve himself 'in an inconspicuous way'. He said: 'I didn't mean to hit anyone.'

The Morgan Stanley Dean Witter brokerage firm is doing damage control after angry customers began to close their investment accounts in objection to the company's choice of guest speaker. Not all of the 6000 angry calls were complaints about the choice of Bill Clinton. Some complained about his $100,000 speaking fee. At the engagement one man walked around with a megaphone, shouting 'Sexual predator alert! Bill Clinton in the neighborhood!' One protester's sign, saying 'Sell the penthouse and get a trailer - it's so you!', alluded to Clinton's taxpayer-funded retirement home. All the company's brokers and representatives were given scripts telling them how to respond to callers' threats to close their accounts.

Chris W. Frandsen, 35, was arrested after a resident called police to complain that a naked man was trying to break into a house. As police began to surround him, the man tried to steal a van that had been left running at a home nearby. Less than a week earlier, Spokane city police had arrested Frandsen for (allegedly) stealing a car and trying to break into a doctor's home, unclad.
Police said they found Frandsen's clothes at the scene. These included a woman's flowered robe. Frandsen told police God directed him to the second home after he was released from prison over the weekend.

15 February 2001

Cigarettes kill. A 29-year-old Woodbine, Jew Jersey, man was surprised by his own practical joke when he and his room-mate were hosting a party on Sunday. Anthony Saduk, Jr, loaded a muzzle-loader rifle with cigarrette butts and kitchen roll wadding. He aimed the rifle at his room-mate, Wesley Geisinger, and fired. Geisinger, hit in the chest, was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy determined that three cigarrette butts had penetrated the man's rib cage directly above his heart. In another incident at the same party, Saduk allegedly shot at Geisinger and Joseph Johnson.
It isn't just partiers who can fall prey to such things. Sergeant Richard M. Robak, Jr, died during routine army night training at Fort Benning when another soldier was mistakenly given live ammunition (this is rather difficult not to notice in most cases, but military police have ruled out criminal intent). The shooter's name was not released.

This may be a bit old. In science and technology news, two goats in Plattsburgh, New York, are protected by security guards. An orb weaver spider gene had been introduced into the 20-week-old goats' chromosomes (their father was given an injection), and the US military hope to gain from the goats' production of silk from their mammary glands. Geneticist Jeffrey Turner described the goats' milk as looking and tasting real enough, but its proteins can be filtered to leave a white powder that can be spun. Turner said that 'it was a purely serendipitous find; the silk gland of spiders and the milk gland of goats are almost identical'. So remember that: 'Teats equal spinnerets.'

Albert Lerner was in Apartment 712, and Gleb Dobromyslov was in Apartment 512. Detective Sergeant Angel Vazquez said that water trickled down through 612 to 512 for several months. Lerner would complain about Dobromyslov doing his laundry in the bathtub, and the resident of Apartment 612 would try to calm things down, to no avail. The man in 612 heard noises but called police rather than intervening. As this neighbour watched Lerner hurry away with a package, Dobromyslov didn't do much of anything, being dead on his living room floor. After Lerner dumped the package's contents, a .357 revolver, into a skip, he bought groceries. When he returned in the evening, the police asked him to come to the station to help them catch the killer. He confessed when confronted.

The Boston Herald reported on Justina Talbot and her boyfriend, who decided to prepare their two daughters for future husbands. Boyfriend Fernand Daviau claimed at his trial that both believed it was God's will for him to have sex with his children, which had been going on for four years, since the girls were six and 10 years old.

Reuters reports that Godwin Collins Onunwah has been removed from the classroom at Los Angeles's Gage Middle School, where he had been teaching special education students. You may have heard about him. This is the teacher who is accused of sealing a rabbit in a plastic bag so his students could watch it die as part of 'an experiment'. When the rabbit didn't die, he put it in the closet for the weekend. He has been assigned elsewhere.

In Ahmadabad, in Gujarat, India, conservative Muslims decided to throw away their television sets after Mufti Imtiaz said television had caused Gujurat's January earthquake. Piles of televisions were being smashed in the streets, pushed from rooftops, etc. Nearby Surat also lost at least 400 televisions as a result. Shopkeeper Abdulbhai Guliwala, explaining why he threw his teleivion set off his roof, asked 'can't you see the devastation caused by the earthquake?'. The mufti's message has spread from city to city via a recorded message.

Gun fun occurred in Washington, DC, when officers were getting ready for their roll call on Sunday. Police heard a gunshot in the Capitol's terrace level's break room. Capitol Police spokesman Lieutenant Dan Nichols said no-one was injured in the incident, in which an officer 'had a discharge of his weapon in the Capitol break room'. What Nichols meant to say, undoubtedly, is that the officer was 'toying with his Glock'. There is no word yet as to whether or not the room will get a new refrigerator.

A Milwaukee man decided to go for a drive on Monday. Blong Yang was speeding. Michigan police decided not to pursue him once he decided to outrun them at 160 km/h. In Milwaukee, he slowed down and led the police on a chase down side streets until he went down a marked dead-end street and ended up driving through the side of a house. The 85-year-old female resident fared better than he did. His corpse ended up in her bedroom. A teenaged passenger was unharmed.

In Minco, Oklahoma, a ouija board told a woman to stab her son-in-law to death. Carol Sue Elvaker, her daughter Tammy Roach, and Tammy's two daughters were using the board for entertainment as he slept. Elvaker, 53, complied with the board's request and stabbed Brian Roach in the chest. Elvaker had hoped to kill Roach's 10-year-old daughter but instead left the house with Tammy, who hid the knife first, and the two aforementioned grandchildren. Elvaker was driving. After she crashed the car into a road sign and (apparently) broke her ankles, she tried pushing her 15-year-old grand-daughter into traffic, authorities said. Despite her injuries, Elvaker managed to run from the scene, jump over the highway median barrier, and make her way - naked - into a wooded area, where police later found her.
Relatives told police that Elvaker does not have a history of mental illness or odd behavior.

An Ashfield, Australia, family hooked up a motion detector to their Webcam after they were burgled. Six months later, the camera showed two bearded men smash the glass door. Ivan Lim's clever idea of having the camera send him a warning by e-mail proved unsuccessful, because one of the burglars accidentally knocked the appropriate plug out of the socket.
After the police arrived, they watched the footage of the burglary. They were pleased to be given a compact disc containing the video. They were not pleased by Ivan's brother Oscar, who put some of the images online and wrote there 'WANTED DEAD or ALIVE'.

For Valentine's Day, we present another Australian, Mitch Hallen, who married his Sony Widescreen television. Twelve guests and a priest witnessed the ceremony, wherein a gold ring was placed atop the set and another on Hallen's finger. The 43-year-old Hallen, predictably, said he decided to give up on women after two divorces. He explained that his television set 'gives me countless hours of pleasure without fussing, fighting or backchat', in contrast to 'another damn woman'.

19 February 2001

Procter & Gamble have filed for patents on 'smart' menstrual pads. The panty-liners will contain guam guaiac wood resin, which reacts to the presence of blood, and a sensor that reacts to acidity. Both markers are supposed to warn women by turning bluish-purple four hours before menstruation begins. For those who would prefer to know when they are about to ovulate, another variety of panty-liner has a plastic film coated with soft silicone whose thickness responds to changes in oestrogen levels. The change in thickness changes light reflection, yielding a purple spot on a gold background, according to the patent filing.
The application also claims inventions that test for pregnancy and detect infections such as chlamydia and HIV. When all these panty-liner varieties hit shops, will women take even longer to decide what to wear?

As an aeroplane flew over Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, it let loose a large wad of faecal matter. Canadian viewers were treated to news coverage replete with references to 'brown smelly matter'. Perhaps the Ministry of the Environment wasn't quite sure of the nature of the 'brown smelly matter', which fell near a school. They have extracted samples for further analysis.

In Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima, Japan, police admitted to failing to notice a dead woman. When a car driven by Yuri Kohiyama collided with a station wagon driven by Atsushi Kobayashi, neither the four police officers investigating the accident nor the three paramedics who took Kohiyama and her daughter to the hospital for treatment of slight injuries noticed that 66-year-old Namiko Ogura was in the car as well, face-down in the back seat. The car was taken to a junkyard, where Ogura was found six hours later by Kohiyama's family, who came to collect some personal property.

Two television sets were stolen from a house in Tallahassee, Florida. Some time after the burglary, the police arrived. Shortly afterward, they arrested the two burglars when they returned to the house. Jaron Grosby and Wesley Jackson were found outside the home with their ill-gotten gains. They admitted to officers that they had returned to collect more items from the house: two remote controls.

According to AP reports, Pierre Carlton sneaked into an Atlanta, Georgia, prison with ease. Dexter Mathis promised him cash and crack cocaine if he would serve Mathis's 20-month prison term for him. With Mathis's biography memorised, Carlton hopped into Mathis's car to turn himself in at a US marshal's office. Carlton proved a model prisoner, authorities said. He ended his drug dependency and earned his high-school equivalency certificate before he tired of pretending. After Carlton decided not to show up at a halfway house shortly before 'his' sentence was completed, police found the real Mathis.
Mathis now faces charges that could add five years to his original sentence. His lawyer claims Mathis was trying to be helpful by suggesting that Carlton go somewhere to kick his drugs habit, but authorities doubt this, claiming that Mathis was Carlton's drug supplier.

It is probably not news that 'expansion-minded' sects are gaining a foothold in Russia, thanks largely to gifts, funding, and free trips to the West for those organising such projects as a nationwide teaching project run by the Moonies. Moscow city council member Irina Bogontseva is setting up a kindergarten that uses Scientology teaching manuals, and a new city drug rehabilitation centre will use L. Ron Hubbard's 'auditing sessions' - which use a crude lie detector - rather than more conventional methods. I tell you of this to pass on a quote from Bogontseva: 'All I want to do is beat those Soviet approaches out of my teachers, be it Montessori, Hubbard, or Waldorf schools, whatever - as long as they forget about Soviet education. Then all will be fine.' I'm convinced.

Whale watchers got more than they paid for, reports the Associated Press, when a 20-foot humpback came on board. Doug Phillips, co-owner of Na Pali Eco Adventures, said the passengers were eating when the whale landed on the back of the 40-foot catamaran. The one-year-old whale broke Sandra Gieb's knee before slipping back into the water.

Many men despair of having a valentine on Valentine's Day, but Robert Teller did something about this problem. The Albuquerque, New Mexico, man broke into ex-girlfriend Jeanette Francia's home and threatened her and her two children with an ice pick. He then took her to a mass civil wedding ceremony presided over by volunteer judges. A child's ring featuring a green frog was used in the ceremony.
Metro Court Judge Denise Barela Shepherd later said that 'I couldn't figure out why she looked so mad' but 'she kept reassuring me that she was fine and wanted to proceed'. Francia later told police she had feared she would be harmed if she told the judge she didn't really want to marry Teller. When the children called their grandmother from school to say Francia was in danger, the wedding was exposed for what it really was.

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© 2001 Anna Shefl