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June 2001

4 June 2001

In Heflin, Louisiana, 17-year-old Matthew Hall decided to watch the sun rise on an oil field with friends. He sat on a crude oil tank. When he lit a cigarette, fumes from the vent tubes on the top of the tank apparently ignited. Hall died, and one of the other teenagers in the group of six, Marcus Jerome McKinney, was burned when the top of the tank blew off.

The Associated Press reports on a task force who aim to stop Kentuckians from making do-it-yourself garbage dumps. To this end, they have installed video cameras that monitor long stretches of rural roads where people typically dump rubbish. The video cameras have succeeded in capturing several people defecating at the dump sites. Karen Engle, a spokesperson for the task force, said the cameras have also been witness to several romantic encounters. She noted: 'One man returned to one of the dumps with four different women.' He must have dumped the women elsewhere.

Members of the Kinki police department may face trouble after being a little, well, kinky. About 42 officers got drunk, disrobed, and pranced about in the nude at a Kagawa Prefecture resort. They were celebrating the end of the academic year at the police academy. Four instructors were at the party. A police spokesman noted that things could have been worse. Neither guests at the resort nor female officers complained that they felt harassed because of the performance.

In a report on Chinese people using their own urine as a health drink, Reuters cites a report from the Xinhua news agency. Xinhua described a urine-drinking seminar held in Shenyang, northestern China. Participants were told that urine contains several active ingredients that strenghen the immune system. 'Urine contains no bacterium and is more sanitary than blood', said Professor Yang Liansheng of the Liaoning Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Miami prosecutors have dropped charges against 100-year-old Hermenergildo Rojas, who is accused of dousing his 38-year-old live-in girlfriend with petrol because she had been paying attention to other men. The prosecution was unable to locate girlfriend Janet Ali and thus could not get her to testify. Rojas claimed he simply poured water on Ali and that she cut herself as she tried to escape through a window in the couple's trailer. Rojas said he plans to move out now.
Rojas spent three days in jail two years ago after an argument with a bus driver.

Floridian Patricia Lewis's Rottweiler and pit bulls often break out of her yard, so the postal service won't deliver mail to her door. One day in October she walked to postman Don Brooks's mail truck to collect her mail. When she noticed that an envelope had been taped shut, she returned to the truck to accuse Brooks of opening all her street's mail to spread gossip. Lewis said: 'He kicked me and spit at me, and I got real upset [...]. We was cussing at each other.' But witnesses said Lewis hit Brooks in the face with a letter and grabbed his legs in an attempt to drag him out of the truck. Lewis's grand-daughter and a friend helped pull her off Brooks.
Lewis pleaded no contest this week to assault charges. She said: 'I'm the one who filed the charges on him [she rang 911 to say she would beat up the mail carrier if they didn't send someone] and they turned it around on me. People are always judging you on your past.' More than half of Lewis's 21 arrests since 1970 are related to violence.

The Dallas Morning News tells us about Fran Osborn's $1 purchase of a sealed box at a second-hand shop. She eagerly opened the box, which bore the rhinestone initials 'MPG', in her husband's car. Inside was a smaller box with a tag reading 'Millard P. Griffin/ Metrocrest Funeral Home, Carrollton'. Osborn returned the ashes to the funeral home, whose records show that the ashes were given to Griffin's wife when he died in 1996. Osborn doesn't know if anyone else will show up for the modest funeral that Metrocrest manager Brett Penn has arranged. Afterward, the ashes will be available should anyone come forward to claim them.
Osborn said: 'Someone decorated this box and did they best they could with it. But it's still kind of sad that someone could end up on the shelf of a thrift store, selling for $1.'

15 June 2001

A woman lost her lower lip while sleeping under the influence of painkillers. Warner Robins, Georgia, police determined that the 47-year-old's poodle 'Shorty' - who often licked the woman's lips after she drank sweet tea - chewed it off. The dog was discovered with blood around its mouth. Also she said the dog had previously removed her dentures and chewed them up while she slept.

In Siliguri, West Bengal, police found 86 human skulls at a bus stop after they received complaints about the foul odour emitted by an unclaimed bag. Darjeeling district police superintendant Sanjay Chander said: 'All the skulls were neatly sawn off and some had some brain tissues sticking to them.' No arrests were made in connection with the bodiless heads. Initial tests show that at least some of the skulls were cut from their bodies five to six months ago.

At the end of May, a Naga Sadhu (naked holyman) used his genitals as part of a protest near New Delhi's Parliament. He showed his power by pulling a jeep with a rope tied to his penis, according to the India Times. He and other holymen were demanding that Goleshwar temple be declared a tourist site and that harassment of holymen cease.
In other nudes, the Chesnee, South Carolina, nudist colony held the US's first naked ballooning rally. The 'Dare To Be Bare' festival, which featured a wiener roast, took place in a secluded pasture. Resort member Dave Jones said: 'There is nothing like being in a balloon nude, where no one can see you and you aren't breaking any laws.' Although people couldn't attend the rally unless naked, participants did bring clothes with them so they could dress before the balloons landed 20 to 25 kilometres from the nudist resort.

Robert Gorghan raped and sodomised a girl from when she was eight to when she was 21. He videotaped some of the abuse, which occurred at his home in Petersburgh, New York. He got married just minutes after his sentencing to 25 years in prison. Before returning to her house with the bridal bouquet, bride Cheryl said: 'He's been my husband for a very long time in God's eyes.' Cheryl is the mother of the rape victim.

Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, expressed outrage that the US's National Hurricane Center decided to name one of this year's storms Israel. The Jerusalem Post reports that Foxman said: 'If there were a headline that said 'Jesus hits Philippines,' a lot of people would be upset.' NHC director Max Mayfield said no-one thought twice about the name and that was the only ire he had heard about.

A Texas sex offender's probation includes the controversial condition that he not have sex until he is married. In 1999, Robert Torres, now 19, was sentenced to five years on probation after he had sex with a 13-year-old girl. Since then he impregnated a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old. After learning of this, at a probation revocation hearing Judge J. Manuel Badales imposed the 'no sex until marriage' condition, extended Torres's probation for another five years, and sentenced the teenager to 30 days in jail. Torres said of the order: 'I would like to get married, but how am I going to meet anyone?' Diana Philip of the Texas ACLU called the order irresponsible as well as cruel and unusual.

Albuquerque police came to the scene of a burglary (a VCR, videotapes, and CDs were reported missing) to find an eight-year-old boy playing nearby. He pointed police in the direction of the suspect's flat and said the burglar's accomplice, a nine-year-old girl, slipped in a window to open the door. The boy said he was standing nearby telling them not to do it. Sylvanis A. Oso, 22, was arrested and the loot found in his flat.
The plot thickened when the nine-year-old girl pointed to the boy as having visited her with the intention of recruiting people to steal from a nearby flat. She claims the boy's story omits that he too crawled through the window and that he opened the door for Oso. Both police detective Rob Drager and the boy's father didn't believe the boy's story, and he eventually did admit to helping steal Pokemon cards from the flat.

16 June 2001

According to AP reports, union leaders are declaring a victory for the actors inside Walt Disney World's Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, etc. Because regular underwear bunches up and is noticeable, the workers are required to wear Disney-issued jock straps, tights, and bike shorts, which they turn in with their costumes at the end of each day. Disney launderers were supposed to wash these with hot water, but several workers complained about receiving underwear that was stained or smelt bad. Teamsters Local 385 shop steward Gary Stevenson also mentioned three cases of costumed workers getting pubic lice or scabies in the past two years. So now, after two months of negotiation, the workers will be assigned individual undergarments that they can clean at home.

Next is another search for a missing child, this time in Kissimmee, Florida. Donna Gillum rang emergency services to say she hadn't seen her daughter for an hour. She rang 911 three more times that evening while the squad car was on its way. After helicopters, police dogs, and over a dozen officers became involved in the search, Gillum thought of checking with her secondary babysitter. Investigator James Napier said: 'We go over there, and the child was there. The kid said mom took her over there around 6:30 [in the evening].' Gillum, who faces child neglect charges and may have to pay $2,000 for the search, said she didn't remember taking her daughter to the child-minder. She admitted to drinking nine beers in three hours before ringing police.

Anatoly Grigoryev, Director of Russia's Institute of Medical and Biological Problems, said women are likely to be barred from any Russian mission to Mars. He said that, although it would be several years before such a mission could occur, it is clear that women's presence would increase the 'probablity of conflicts' among the crew. Although such questions as how cosmonauts will grow their own food on Mars (Mir only raised quail and grew wheat) remain, it is reassuring to know that the problem of encouraging a 'serene' crew has been considered.

A South African court ordered Land Rover to apologise for a newspaper ad that the Advertising Standards Authority called said 'constitutes racial stereotyping and [...] makes a mockery of African culture'. The advertisement features an African woman whose breasts were blown sideways in a passing Freelander vehicle's tailwind. Landrover must publish an apology in all the publications that ran the ad. Gavin Green, Land Rover director of communications said, from London, that 'we cannot have our company or our brand portrayed in this way', and the Hunt Lasus advertising agency is no longer being used by Land Rover.

I don't know what the per capita legal award is in Jefferson County, Mississippi. The 8500-resident county has featured such settlements as $48.5 million for 12 people who claimed they were exposed to asbestos at work and $150 million for five people who claimed the diet drug Fen-Phen gave them heart problems. With at least one local defendant - such as the county's single pharmacy - and at least one local plaintiff, lawsuits there are outside the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Also, a state law allows a trial to begin just 90 days after a suit is filed, making things more difficult for the relevant corporation. Local newspaper advertisements centre on litigation, and local juries are likely to be sympathetic to plaintiffs. 'It's not real money to the [often poorly educated] jurors', said Scott Welch, of the American Board of Trial Advocates. County constable Maurice Hudson is upset because the benificiaries of the suits don't give money back to the community.

The Houston Chronicle reports on the death of Kristie Lee Tautenhahn, who, with collegues, stayed overnight at a law office in the downtown Bank of America building when flooding prevented them from going home. Police spokesman Robert Hurst said: 'The woman went down in the elevator (in the underground garage) after a broadcast was made in the building by the security department that water was coming into the parking garage and anyone in the building should go down and move their cars.' Her car was on the bottom level of the garage. The lift malfunctioned when, one floor from the bottom, it became filled with water. The 42-year-old law firm employee's body was found about three hours later (at 8:30am), when bank employees noticed that the lift had stalled.

The online magazine advertised tickets to a sold-out Madonna concert for readers who apply to have sex with magazine staff members. The site reported that 12 men had already applied to have sex with columnist Shelley Masters. Six female readers sent in applications to have sex with one of three men on staff, and four homosexual readers bid for the ticket that comes with a homosexual staff member. Applications included nude photographs. Head publisher Bernd Heusinger pointed out that prostitution is legal in Germany.

Some workers in Hudson, Florida, object to having to wear striped uniforms when they paint and lay carpet. Shawn McCarthy said that 'it makes us look like convicts' and 'they make us look like clowns'. The former was probably the intent when Pasco County Jail issued the uniforms, which replaced orange t-shirts and trousers. Sheriff's Colonel Al Nienhuis said: 'We want to make sure that there is absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind that they are inmates and that they are allowed to be out doing work.' That those who don't want to wear stripey clothes can choose not to do out-of-jail work hasn't stopped complaints about the 'degrading' black and white duds.

30 June 2001

Mabel Mackall Briscoe couldn't figure out why her dog was summoned for jury duty. Then the Calvert County, Maryland, woman remembered when she was testing how easily President Clinton's voting registration initiative (aka the 'motor voter bill') would allow for fraud. The dog was 18 'dog years' old at the time Briscoe filled out the voter registration form for Holly. County registrar Charlene Sparrow explained that Maryland requires only a signature and no other means of identification for registering to vote.
The dog never voted, so Briscoe didn't think twice before asking the election board what she should do with the jury notice. The state charged Briscoe with fraud. State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr (a Democrat), is representing the 82-year-old woman pro bono.

When Jim and Laurie-Beth Brennan moved to a house in Fremont, California, their two children's allergic reactions appeared to worsen. An allergist suggested removing a large sycamore from the yard, whereupon the Brennans sought the city's permission to cut down the tree. City Landscape Architect Roger Ravenstad said the tree is a 'mitigation to another tree removal' and could be removed as long as it is replaced with another tree, allergenic or not. That is apparently not good enough. Mrs Brennan continues to accuse the city of not considering the family's special circumstances and 'telling me that this tree was more important than the health of my children'. The parents also complain that they would have to pay to replace the tree. Mrs Brennan said: 'Our next option will be to hire a lawyer and sue the city.'

In Columbus, Ohio, Mifflin Township Cemetery officials told the Ledsome family to moderate their grave decorations. Ever since Paul Ledsome, 16, died in late 1999, his family and friends have adorned his grave with such items as pinwheels, money, Mountain Dew, necklaces with angel pendants, a six-foot-tall plastic rabbit in a chair (for Easter), a motion-activated noisemaker (for Halloween) and a US flag on an eight-foot pole.
Cemetery workers removed Paul's friends' three-foot-tall birthday message, made by plastic cups along a fence. Cemetery trustee Joe Spanovich said: 'We have no objection to decorations as long as they're in good taste.' Groundskeeper Calvin McKnight added that clutter-like decorations such as pens can make mowing and weeding difficult. Diane Ledstone stated that 'it outrages me that they would even ask'. After all, 'decorating helps ease our pain'. The family received the cemetery rules when they bought the plot.

Detroit's Gregory League was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend's two-year-old daughter. It seems League left the girl in scalding bath water while he watched an American football game on television. When the child began to cry loudly, he increased the television's volume. The child, who died from her injuries, suffered second degree burns on over 90 per cent of her body.
And in similar news, Andrea Yates, of Houston, Texas, is accused of drowning her five children in her bathtub. The 36-year-old woman rang police. When they arrived, she offered the simple words 'I killed my children' and showed them the corpses of four of the children, from six months to five years of age, all lying on the bed under a sheet. The body of Yates's seven-year-old son was found later, still in the tub. Police said Yates had been treated for post-partum depression for the last two years.

Last month Jeanine S. (her surname was not revealed) became the oldest known French woman to give birth. The 62-year-old woman went to the US for impregnation because artificial insemination of post-menopausal women is banned in France. Jeanine is now also raising another baby with the same biological parents - a baby that was carried to term by the Californian egg donor. Jeanine has now revealed that her brother Robert, who helps her care for the children, is the sperm donor. Jeanine explains that she tricked Los Angeles doctors into thinking she and her handicapped brother are married. Although the babies' biological parentage doesn't involve incest, concern has been raised in France.

It was bound to happen sometime. The Tallahassee Democrat reports that Marcia Beckford's car was repossessed when it still had her toddler in it. Beckford left the 14-month-old Aysha in the parked and running car for 'just a few minutes' while she went into her flat to fetch more baby wipes. When the heavily pregnant woman heard a witness's description, she reported the vehicle as stolen. Police conducted a city-wide ground and air search; meanwhile, the Live Oak car dealership contacted authorities to report that they had repossessed the car, as is customary.

Police say Lee P. McPhatter attacked Cookie Monster at the Sesame Place theme park in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. After the monster refused to pose for a photograph with McPhatter's three-year-old daughter, McPhatter knocked over the female employee in the blue furry costume and kicked her in the head and back. McPhatter alleges that 'people started yelling at me that I should be ashamed of myself for hitting Cookie Monster. I did not kick or punch Cookie Monster'. He said anything that did happen was the monster's fault for allegedly putting a hand on his daughter's head 'aggressively' and pushing her. After all, 'Why would someone attack Cookie Monster? I would never do that in front of my daughter.'

The speaker of the state assembly in Kano, Nigeria, argues that he should not have been impeached for bleaching his skin. He said: 'I know the Koran very well and my bleaching should be viewed as my personal liberty. It does not violate our constitution.' The other reasons for impeachment included a dictatorial manner and arriving late to work. Although the idea that skin lightening marks one as effeminate is not unusual, speaker Ibrahim Abdullahi Gwarmani resents its entry into the politcal arena. He said he will try to regain his job.

In Malaysia, about 19 months after the murder of American Carolyn Jamica Noraini Abdullah, a man led police to the body and confessed that he had killed her as part of a ritual to give him winning lottery numbers. He said his brother and another man helped him. Typically the lottery-number ceremonies involve sacrifices of animals such as goats.

In Atlanta, Georgia, Michael D. Kelly climbed a crane, planning to kill himself. A crane operator found him when arriving for work in the morning. Kelly spent the day reading the Bible and writing notes, which he dropped to the ground. At one point he dropped a blank cheque. His final note said 'anal drippings'. His other notes were, according to police, 'completely irrational'.
At the end of the day Kelly hung by both arms from the side of the crane, with a noose - he found the rope on the crane - around his neck, before apparently changing his mind and trying to climb back up to safety. However he lost his grip, fell 10 metres, and died.

No good deed goes unpunished. In Orange County, Florida, a woman helped paraplegic Bobby M. Patterson, 37, reach something in a store. The next day Patterson saw her again and got a lift from her. Patterson then pulled a gun. The victim said Patterson made her stop the car and take her clothes off. He then tied her hands with her bra and stole $50 from her. When Patterson demanded sexual favours, she said someone was nearby, leading a startled and angry Patterson to stab her eight times as she tried to get away. When her hair extensions came off, she escaped.
Apparently using a metal pole to push the accelerator, Patterson tried to drive the victim's car to a petrol station less than 3 km away. However, he drove into a ditch. Patterson, who is married, is being charged with attempted forcible sodomy, robbery, abduction with the intent to defile, and using a firearm - which turned out to be a BB gun - in the commission of a felony.

In North Miami, Dago Hernandez was cleaning the swimming pool at Chateau Arms Apartments when he heard Elsie Lazare-Lewis screaming in Creole. He turned to see Lazare-Lewis holding a baby underwater with both hands. Lazre-Lewis had torn off her clothes and was still screaming when police arrived to collect her and the child. Police linked the incident to city workers' reports about 40 minutes earlier of a woman trying to throw a baby into the street, then lying atop the baby in the middle of the road, apparently trying to smother it.
Neighbours explained that Lazare-Lewis was upset becuase her husband returned to Haiti before the baby was born. Police and doctors said she may have been suffering from post-partum psychosis.

Tracy Stevens, a 30-year-old Boonville, New York, woman, poured petrol throughout her husband's bedroom, then went to their 10-year-old son's bedroom with a baseball bat. She left the house with her two children after setting it on fire. Her husband, Mark Hubbard, woke up and left the house. Hubbard told police that she planned to blame the incident on her husband. She explained that she got the idea from the case of Dawn Rosa of nearby Rome, New York. Rosa had been charged with a similar crime a few weeks earlier.

Indian officials lost the combination to a briefcase containing top secret papers. In the hours before Home Minister L.K. Advani left for a visit to Germany, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, officials brought a locksmith to a nearby police station. The startled locksmith was reportedly so flustered by the security measures that he couldn't open the briefcase. A lock and safe dealer finally managed to open the case.

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© 2001 Anna Shefl