President Clinton was re-elected, they say, because unlike four years ago, people are optimistic now. However, those of us who read the newspapers closely know better. Civilization is in decline, as is clearly evident from these very disturbing, though underreported, stories highlighting a bizarre 1996.
SOUNDS LIKE A PRETTY SEVERE CALCIUM AND IRON DEFICIENCY
In Lamar, Mo., a pre-trial hearing took place in February on Joyce Lehr's lawsuit against the county for injuries suffered in a 1993 fall in the icy, unplowed parking lot of the local high school. The Carthage Press reported that Lehr claimed injuries to nearly every single part of her body. According to her petition: "All the bones, organs, muscles, tendons, tissues, nerves, veins, arteries, ligaments ... discs, cartilages, and the joints of her body were fractured, broken, ruptured, punctured, compressed, dislocated, separated, bruised, contused, narrowed, abrased, lacerated, burned, cut, torn, wrenched, swollen, strained, sprained, inflamed and infected."
THE MOST HAPLESS CRIMINALS OF THE YEAR
-- In January in Fremont, Calif., a carjacker described as 5-foot-8, about 170 pounds, yanked Cecilia Laus, 54, out of her car and drove off, leaving the woman shaken and also bewildered, since the car in question was a 1976 AMC Pacer.
-- Willie King, 37, was arrested moments after he had allegedly mugged a 94-year-old woman in a housecoat just outside her front door in New York's Greenwich Village in July. The woman is the mother of Vincent "Chin" Gigante, the reputed godfather of the Genovese crime family. (At press time, amazingly, King is still alive.)
HEY, MISTER, WANNA BUY SOME DIRTY CHEST X-RAYS?
In January, The Wall Street Journal reported on the growing fetish surrounding the act of smoking. As examples: (1) An erotic smoking video from an Oklahoma City firm, CoherentLight, described by the Journal: "The scene opens with a young blonde (Paula), dressed in a shimmering strapless gown and a veiled black hat, lighting her cigarette from a nearby candle. She takes numerous long drags." (2) A smokers' newsletter, with film reviews: Of the above video, it wrote, "(Paula) is a fabulous smoker." Another review, of the Hollywood movie "Mad Love": "Drew Barrymore smokes throughout; there are many deep inhales, although the exhales aren't great." (3) The fetish magazine Leg Show has begun to include pictorials of women smoking.
THE ONE-MAN FAMILY TREE
Houston police arrested a 46-year-old man in February and charged him with molesting his 12-year-old granddaughter. Police officers and social workers suspect that the man is not only the father of the girl's mother but of the girl, too, and, noting that the granddaughter is five months' pregnant, also suspect he is the father of what would be his own great-granddaughter. (The suspect denied all accusations.)
VOTERS WANT TO LEAVE POLITICS TO THE REAL PROSTITUTES
Several sexual service-providers ran for public office in 1996, but none was elected. Ex-prostitute Jessi Winchester, 53, lost her race for Congress from Nevada's 2nd District. Mistress Madison, 32, a San Diego dominatrix who operates the Slave Cave and runs a phone-sex service, ran unsuccessfully for Congress under the banner of Ross Perot's Reform Party. And Margo St. James finished barely out of the running in the balloting for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
WHAT DID YOU EXPECT WITH A WIND-CHILL OF MINUS 20?
Acting on the complaint of a 59-year-old female motorist in Bloomington, Minn., in January, police stopped a driver whom she said had pulled alongside her on the highway on a bitterly cold morning and flashed her by pressing a nude photograph of himself against his window.
THE YEAR OF THE RIDICULOUS SCHEME
-- The village council of Bruntingthorpe, England, began consideration in February of one member's elaborate plan to reduce the amount of dog poop in the town of 200 people (and 30 dogs): The village would DNA-test the dogs and keep the results on file for the purpose of matching the DNA to that in any unscooped dog poop lying around the village, so as to punish the appropriate owners.
-- In March an 18-year-old dockworker at Roadway Express in Dallas was arrested at a local Western Union and charged with forgery after improperly trying to cash a check made out to his employer. The man produced a photo ID that gave his name as Mr. "Roadway V. Express." After questioning him, the Western Union manager said, "OK, Mr. Express, I'll be right back (with the money)" and then called police.
-- In April the Iowa Supreme Court turned down inmate Kirk Livingood's attempt to sue Phillip Negrete based on the state's domestic abuse law. Negrete is Livingood's cellmate and, according to Livingood, beats and torments him.
-- In July, Jason Harte pleaded guilty to smashing glass doors in a New York City building with a slingshot. He is a principal in the Adam Glass Co. of Yonkers, N.Y., and is suspected by police of breaking hundreds of other windows in order to elicit business.
-- In a federal court in Boston in July, Phillip W. Cappella, 34, was sentenced to two years' probation for tax fraud. After winning the Massachusetts Megabucks lottery, Cappella attempted to evade income tax on the first of his $135,000 annual payments by falsely claiming gambling losses to offset the income. When faced with an IRS audit, Cappella paid a lottery-ticket collector $500 to rent him a pickup-truck-load of 100,000 old, losing tickets that he tried to pass off as his own.
-- The Floyd County (Ky.) coroner complained in February that ambulance drivers were taking obviously dead people to the hospital just so they could bill the county for the rides. One man was rushed to the hospital even though his suicide shotgun blast was so powerful that it blew both eyeballs out of their sockets. Another had been dead so long that rigor mortis had commenced, leaving the body bent at the waist so that it would not fit on a stretcher, but the driver said he thought he felt a pulse.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THE LEAST INTERESTING MAN IN AMERICA
According to a Seattle Times feature in March, Robert Shields, 77, of Dayton, Wash., is the author of perhaps the longest personal diary in history -- nearly 38 million words on paper stored in 81 cardboard boxes -- covering his last 24 years in five-minute segments. Example: July 25, 1993, 7 a.m.: "I cleaned out the tub and scraped my feet with my fingernails to remove layers of dead skin." 7:05 a.m.: "Passed a large, firm stool, and a pint of urine. Used 5 sheets of paper."
THEY DON'T SELL ALL-BEEF PATTIES, JUST SPECIAL SAUCE
The hog-farming Fox family of Mahaska County, Iowa, which for 10 years has been selling vials of boar semen for artificially inseminating sows, expanded its operation in January to include a drive-through window for farmers in a hurry. Said Genette Fox, of the playfulness of customers, "'(O)rder of semen and fries' -- I've heard that a million times."
BOTTOM OF THE GENE POOL
Western Kentucky University student Joe Schmidt, asked by the school newspaper whether Magic Johnson's return to pro basketball in February would put other players at risk: "It would be an honor to get HIV from playing Magic Johnson on an NBA court. He's one of the greats."
THEY HATE RAPISTS IN OKLAHOMA, BUT THEY HATE APPELLANTS EVEN MORE
In March, two convicted rapists, Allan Wayne McLaurin and Darron Bennalford Anderson, were resentenced by a jury in Tulsa, Okla., after an appeals court said their original sentences totaling 6,475 years were based on faulty jury instructions. This time, the jury said the crimes were worth an additional 260 centuries in prison -- a total of 21,250 years for McLaurin and 11,250 for Anderson.
LIFE IMITATES A RODNEY DANGERFIELD JOKE
In January, Steven Hicks, 38, and Diana Hicks, 35, were sentenced to six months in jail in Cape May, N.J., for child abandonment. While their unruly son, Christopher, 13, was hospitalized, the couple had surreptitiously packed up and moved to Inglewood, Calif.
IN THE U.S., O.J. WAS ACQUITTED; IN ITALY, HE'S SUPREME COURT MATERIAL
In March, Palestinian terrorist Youssef Magied al-Molqi, who was convicted in Italy in 1986 for the Achille Lauro hijacking and the murder of an American passenger, was given a 12-day leave for good behavior and failed to return. In August, Germano Maccari, freshly convicted of the 1978 murder of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro, was released from jail pending his appeal, as is customary under Italian law. In September, Italy's highest appeals court ruled that "occasional episodes of wife-beating," "interspersed with moments of (marital) harmony," did not amount to illegal domestic violence, which it said requires "systematic and deliberate" overpowering.
INDIA -- THE WORLD'S NO. 1 COUNTRY
Almost 600 delegates from 17 countries attended the first World Conference on Auto-Urine (i.e. your own) Therapy held in Goa, India, in February. Adherents of the 5,000-year-old therapy claim that urine's hormones, enzymes, vitamins and minerals are so rich that urine can cure illnesses such as tuberculosis and cancer.
OOHH, YEAAAH, NOW I SEE YOUR POINT
Featured at the Donn Roll Contemporary Museum in Sarasota, Fla., in May and June was Charon Luebbers' Menstrual Hut, a 6-by-6-by-5-foot isolation booth to symbolize the loneliness that society has forced upon menstruating women. Accompanying it were 28 canvasses created by Luebbers' pressing her face into whatever discharge was present in each of the 28 days of her cycle one month, to show the contrast.
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOLF BUT FEEL IT'S TOO LABORIOUS
Two Fremont, Calif., men obtained a patent early in the year for a golf club that will fire a ball up to 250 yards by an explosive charge in the club head. (The club is not expected to be approved for tournament play.) And in April, a Houston man obtained a patent for a cup that goes inside a golf hole and periscopes up after the ball goes in so that the golfer does not have to bend down to retrieve it.
INTRODUCING THE DAY-RUNNER (TM) FELON-ON-THE-GO LIMITED EDITION
Criminal suspects in 1996 seemed to be better organized than previous years' perps, judging from the numerous "to-do" lists that police are discovering. For example, two escapees from Rutland, Vt., were captured in May with a list to guide them in an imminent robbery. A 15-year-old boy was indicted for murder in Dallas in May, and evidence against him was a list that included the reminder to kill the victim. In September, former Navy Ensign Dana R. Collins, 35, was convicted of the murder of a colleague after police found a list that included "Take him out," "Cut him up/take head/fingers and toes," "Put him in 2 bags," and "Drive body to Pennsylvania. Keep head and fingers and toes -- scatter on way back." Charinassa Fairley was charged in July with killing her husband in Baton Rouge, La., after police found a step-by-step checklist: "Make a prank call to him; offer food and love; make him take a bath with you. Put on gloves" and "Make love like never before for the last time. Lay down after he falls asleep. Pop him."
THE LEAST EASILY EXPLICABLE NEWS STORY OF THE YEAR
In April, Nevada County (Calif.) judicial candidate Robert Litchfield, attempting to rectify his low standing among local lawyers, offered to kneel and wash the feet of any lawyer in the county as a gesture of his desire to serve them. Said Litchfield, "What I (offered) was an act of faith, and I don't think that's something a news reporter can understand." At the scheduled washing, Litchfield showed up with a basin and towel, but no lawyer came forth.
AT LAST, A JOB OPENING FOR AN ENGLISH GRAD STUDENT
In May, Stanford University won the right, over the University of California at Berkeley, to house the literary legacy of the late Pulitzer- and Oscar-winning writer William Saroyan, apparently because it also agreed to take custody of Saroyan's nonliterary property, which included hundreds of boxes of rocks, matchbook covers, old newspapers (numbering in the thousands), labels peeled off cans, and a plastic bag filled with about 10,000 rubber bands.
THE LEAST JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE OF THE YEAR
In July in Dadeville, Ala., Mr. Gabel Taylor, 38, who had just prevailed in an informal Bible-quoting contest, was shot to death by the loser.
THE MOST DISTURBING TREND OF THE YEAR
An increasing number of vicious criminals with the middle name of Wayne made the news in 1996. For example, Conan Wayne Hale, 20, a triple-homicide suspect who allegedly confessed to a priest in Portland, Ore., was embroiled in a constitutional court fight to have the confession ruled inadmissible. Escaped murderer Michael Wayne Thompson was recaptured in July near Farmersburg, Ind. A few days later, Danny Wayne Owens, 38, was arrested in Birmingham, Ala., for allegedly murdering a neighbor. In November, Georgia executed Ellis Wayne Felker for the 1981 murder of a college student. Also in November, the suspected rapist of a 12-year-old girl in Petaluma, Calif. (two miles from where Polly Klaas was abducted in 1993), Larry Wayne Cole, apparently died of natural causes while on the lam. And in October, the Oregon Parole Board turned down the latest bid by Richard Wayne Godwin, serving a life sentence for a 1979 rape and murder.
THE LATEST IN PERVERT TECHNOLOGY: THE SHOE-CAM
Police in Toronto, Ontario, arrested a 62-year-old retired schoolteacher in September for allegedly videotaping under the skirts of about 30 women via a pinpoint-sized lens protruding from the toe of his shoe, connected by wires to a camera hidden in his waist pouch.
COINCIDENCE OF THE YEAR
In May, Quebec legislator Andre Boulerice denounced voter fraud during a committee meeting, citing one particular example of bogus names registered to vote in Old Montreal. "I know there are famous people in my (district)," said Boulerice, "but I doubt 'Omar Sharif' would be voting (here)," especially since, according to voter records, he shares an apartment with "Martina Navratilova." The next day, neighbors of the couple reported, Sharif, son of the actor, is indeed married to a stockbroker named Martina Navratilova.
NO PARANOID SHOULD BE WITHOUT ONE
The London insurance brokerage Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson announced in August it would begin to offer policies to cover people worried about alien abduction. A premium of about $155 a year would pay about $160,000 to an abductee (provided the abductor was not from Earth) and double that if the insured is impregnated during the abduction. Since alien powers are unknown, men can purchase the impregnation rider, also. Said Goodfellow director Simon Burgess, "I personally would not buy (this) policy."
EMILY POST WOULD BE PROUD
Postal worker Douglas C. Yee, 50, was indicted in February in San Mateo, Calif., for pulling off bulk-mail scams totaling $800,000. Found in Yee's garbage were notes he had written to God expressing gratitude for His continued help in evading police. Read one, "Lord, I am having a difficult time myself seeing you as a God who hides crime, yet your Word says that it's your privilege (or glory) to do just that."
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