-- Cynthia Lane told reporters in February that she would file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission because Windsor Regional Hospital had labeled her Down syndrome child on charts as "FLK," which several health care personnel told her was a commonly used term meaning "funny looking kid." Said the hospital's chief of pediatrics, "A lot of parents dislike the term."
-- State-of-the-art veterinary care was described in a January New York magazine story on Manhattan's Animal Medical Center, including kidney dialysis (at $55,000 a year), cataract removals, hip replacements, anterior-cruciate ligament repairs, root canals and brain surgery. CPR on small animals (such as, witnessed by the reporter, a pet rat) consists of placing the animal's head inside a doctor's mouth. The New York Times reported in January that veterinary care flourishes in Canada because the private sector runs it, unlike human health care; one man, long wait-listed for an MRI at Ontario hospitals, quickly booked time at an animal hospital.
"Who wants old ugly Kevin Green, anyway?" (uttered by a 17-year-old Atlanta woman who was then shot to death by Kevin's other girlfriend, who was convicted in December). "Make me (stop humming Christmas carols)" (uttered in December by a 78-year-old Menlo Park, Calif., man who was then strangled by his roommate). "I killed your dog" (uttered tauntingly by a 37-year-old Whitelaw, Alberta, woman to her rifle-holding husband, who then shot her to death, according to his December confession; she had already admitted having an affair with an old boyfriend).
-- In December, after a four-year legal battle, the Texas Supreme Court invalidated the VitaPro soybean meat substitute contract with the state prison system because of evidence that prisoners had become demoralized with their VitaPro diets, which had "led to adverse health effects, including rampant flatulence."
-- Former pastor Eric Daniel Harris, 37, pled guilty in November to the 1996 arson that burned down the Kentucky Missionary Baptist Church in Saline County, Ark. According to a federal prosecutor, Harris said he did it because "there was a division among church members, and they needed a project to unify them."
-- In October, a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court accepted driver John Carlin's argument on appeal that it was impossible for him to comply with the police's Breathalyzer demand because he had to urinate so bad that he could not blow firmly into the device. Said Judge Rochelle Friedman, "The difficulty of such a task is obvious." Officers had denied Carlin a restroom break until he consented to make the standard two blows; the first registered 0.18 (over the legal limit), and he refused to take the second.
-- According to reports of an NCAA investigation published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel in February, an official in the University of Tennessee English department last year claimed that a star football player plagiarized a class paper, but the university concluded that an athletic department tutor had merely misinterpreted the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. The athletic tutor said she thought the act allowed a student with a learning disability to talk to her about a classroom topic and that the tutor could then draft a paper for the student.
Not My Fault
-- Jack Ramsay, who is a member of the Canadian Parliament and who was convicted in November of the 1969 attempted rape of a 14-year-old girl while a member of the Mounted Police, said the crime "would never have happened" if she had not let him see her panties. Ramsay admitted recently that while questioning the girl as a crime victim in 1969, he needed to know whether she understood the concept of sexual intercourse and thus asked her to demonstrate it. Ramsay said it was when she unfastened her jeans that he caught the fateful glimpse of her panties. (Ramsay has been ousted from the Reform Party but has not resigned his seat.)
-- In recent months, a New York woman and a Massachusetts woman received huge windfalls to their checking accounts due to data-processing errors, and now both are fighting to keep the money, in both instances citing their banks' incompetence. Susan Madakor, 40, has spent $230,000 of her $700,000 that should have gone to a United Nations environmental agency, and retired Centerville, Mass., schoolteacher Joan L. Phillips has spent most of the $800,000 accumulated since 1990 when her pension checks mysteriously increased from $800 a month to $8,000.
-- The family of 15-year-old Lance Landers said it would appeal a January Alabama court decision barring the diagnosed-"emotionally conflicted" student from public schools. His mother insists he be mainstreamed into the school system under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, even though he has allegedly assaulted his mother, threatened to kill students, punched the driver of a moving school bus, spit in cafeteria food, thrown batteries at students, ranted during classes, and regularly addressed the principal, "Hello, motherfucker!"
People Who Are Not Like You and Me
Joseph Motyka, 32, was arrested on Jan. 1 in Chicago and charged with child endangerment because he, not content with a firecracker celebration of the New Year, had brought home a quarter-stick of dynamite. Motyka's 3-year-old daughter discovered it and put it into a candle, and the resultant explosion took off her right hand and caused hearing and vision loss.
Hard to Get Into Prison These Days
Matthew Harley, 27, sentenced to prison on weapons charges in 1995, surrendered at a courthouse in Portsmouth, Va., but was sent home, where he continued with his life until September 1999, when authorities finally came for him. And Doris Preston, 74, sentenced to five years' minimum for arson in 1991, went home to Columbus, Ohio, on bail but was not called back until September 1999. And in August, parole-violating rapist Gerald Bennett, 30, tried politely to surrender at the police station in Glenolden, Pa., but was turned away because of a records glitch and remained free for six more days, during which time, according to police, he killed one woman and raped another before being caught.
Least Competent Criminals
-- Miguel Avalos-Rivera, 28, was arrested in Fairfax, Va., in November after being found screaming in pain in a car; his hand had gotten stuck in the dashboard as he tried to steal the stereo, and he had broken three of his fingers. And Jimmy Cooksey, 36, also was discovered screaming in pain in October; sheriff's deputies in Dallas said he had tried to steal electricity by connecting powerline wires with a homemade pole, but took 36,000 volts, burning him so badly that he lost both legs and is still hospitalized (though no criminal charge was filed).
Also, in the Last Month ...
A couple parked in a Loudon County, Va., nighttime lovers' lane was so startled by an approaching sheriff's cruiser that the man abruptly drove off, accidentally right into the Potomac River before being rescued. A 7-year-old girl was stabbed 25 times (not life-threateningly) by a playmate emulating Chucky in "Child's Play 2," which he had seen three days earlier (Brasilia, Brazil). A rapist sentenced to two life terms plus 110 years asked the judge for a lethal injection, saying, "I can't do that much time" (Prince George's County, Md.). A drug-dealing couple were arrested for trying to collect a $40 debt by dangling a guy out a window while the woman bit his testicles (Evansville, Ind.). A math teacher was arrested for forcing a 13-year-old boy to take his restroom break in a classroom trashcan (Montgomery, Ala.).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Weird@compuserve.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)
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