Catch-22 Catches Disabled Veteran: David Henderson, a Korean War veteran long suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, applied 15 days past the deadline for enhanced care under a 2001 veterans-benefits law and thus was, as required by the statute, disqualified from the additional benefits. Henderson's doctor pointed out that major disorders such as Henderson's often leave victims unable to understand concepts like "deadlines." As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer asked, during argument on the case in December, did Congress (which wrote the statute) really intend to deprive Henderson of care because of the very disability for which he sought help? (A decision is expected in the spring.)
The Continuing Crisis
-- Swinging bachelors often try to impress potential mates with their fancy cars, houses and jewelry, and it appears that male bowerbirds of Papua New Guinea employ a similar mating strategy by building elaborate tree homes. National Geographic magazine noted in July that the birds can "build a hut that looks like a doll's house" or "arrange flowers, leaves and mushrooms in such an artistic manner" that researchers liken them to the craftsmanship of humans. Biologists observed females gravitating to males who had such structures as a three-foot tower of twigs, nuts and beetles, decorated with "garlands of caterpillar feces glistening with dew."
-- Best Not to Ask Why: Fredrik Hjelmqvist, 45, owner of an audio shop in Stockholm, demonstrated in November his system of broadcasting music from his stomach. He swallowed a plastic capsule containing a battery-operated audio set-up, then connected an amplifier to a stethoscope and held it against his belly, and began playing recorded music, including the Village People's "YMCA," until the battery died three hours later. Hjelmqvist admitted that the audio quality was poor but still hopes to sell the system for the equivalent of about $17,000.
-- Do They Know? (1) An October Houston Chronicle review of "authorities" on animal "consciousness" suggested that perhaps dogs are embarrassed when their owners dress them in tacky Halloween costumes. "Pet Psychic" maven Sonya Fitzpatrick said she was certain that some feel shame at their owners' poor fashion sense, but another practitioner said dogs' reactions were probably only to their physical discomfort with the clothing itself. (2) A conservation organization in China's Sichuan province routinely dresses caregivers in panda suits to socialize baby pandas that have lost their mothers so that the babies do not become accustomed to humans. However, as London's Daily Telegraph reported in a December dispatch, experts acknowledge that they have no idea whether the babies are fooled.
-- The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association announced recently that it is seeking 400 dachshunds for experiments in which a chiropractic vet will "crack the backs" of dogs for an unspecified research project. Test subjects are preferred that have "uneven leg length that is influenced with neck flexion" but which have not been under the care of a chiropractor within the previous 60 days.
-- Gloria Clark, 62, was charged in the death of her 98-year-old mother in St. George, S.C., in December after the mother's body was found among squalid conditions at her home. Though Clark denied she had been neglectful, the mother's pet parrot might have disagreed. According to the police report, the parrot, in the mother's bedroom, continually squawked -- mimicking "Help me! Help me!" followed by the sound of laughter.
News That Sounds Like a Joke
Life Imitates a Monty Python Sketch: An unnamed Danish man traveled to Vienna, Austria, in July for a trial on his lawsuit against the man who had sold him a defective cockatoo for the equivalent of about $15,000. In a demonstration for the judge in the courtroom's hallway, the bird flew "lopsided," with the probable cause (according to the purchaser) chronic gout. The judge's decision was not reported.
(1) An official release of San Francisco's Department of the Environment in July apparently cleared up a matter of controversy (according to a report in SF Weekly): Human semen is one organic waste product not required to be disposed of in special "compost" bags under the city's mandatory composting law. (However, "snot" must be properly bagged.) (2) The Green Party is occasionally criticized for its overrepresentation of whites and upper-income people, who are less likely to flinch at the added costs of environmental protections. In October, the Green Party candidate for governor of Illinois, Rich Whitney, was shocked to see that the sample ballot for the November election mistakenly displayed his name as "Rich Whitey." (Corrections were made in time for election day.)
First Things First
Darren Suchon, 42 and unemployed (and usually home all day), was charged in October with reckless driving and assault, among other things, for allegedly running his girlfriend off the road in his zeal to catch her after she drove away with his Sony PlayStation console. She had just left for work, and Suchon weaved through traffic in Palmerton, Pa., then bumped her car when he caught up with her at a traffic light, forcing her off the road. According to witnesses, Suchon rushed the car, "clawing" at it, screaming that he would "break the (expletive) window" if he didn't get his game back.
Cliches Come to Life
(1) In December, Mr. Alkis Gerd'son moved out of student housing at Canada's University of Victoria, which had been his home since 1991 (even though he long ago obtained his degree and had not taken a class in 13 years). Gerd'son claims various stress disorders (over, perhaps, finding a job?) and had until now stymied efforts to evict him by filing claims before human rights tribunals. (2) Ricardo West, a professional Michael Jackson impersonator (who staged "Michael Lives! The Michael Jackson Tribute Concert") was charged in August in Allen Park, Mich., with 12 counts of child molestation.
Fine Points of the Law
Kids Law: (1) In July, a 5-year-old boy in Dublin, Ireland, was awarded the equivalent of about $9,900 from a shopkeeper who had grabbed his arm and accused him, erroneously, of being a thief. Under the law, the boy had to prove that he has, at age 5, a "reputation in the community" for truth-telling and that his reputation had been damaged. (2) A New York City judge ruled in October that an 87-year-old woman who was accidentally knocked down by several kids racing bicycles on the sidewalk could sue the kids, including one who was 4 years old (and who is thus legally presumed to understand the difference between "reasonable" and "unreasonable" behavior).
Least Competent Criminals
Thank Goodness for Narcissists: (1) Murder suspect Earle Barranco, 24, was arrested in Charlotte, N.C., in November, three weeks after allegedly killing a man in a New York City diner. Barranco was spotted at a Charlotte Bobcats basketball game, mugging for the arena's JumboTron while decked out in the distinctive jewelry he wore during the alleged murder. At the next Bobcats game a few days later, with police monitoring that same seat, Barranco was arrested. (2) Dennis Davis, 40, and his wife were convicted in October in Britain's Staines Magistrates' Court of manufacturing a line of pirated music CDs. Davis initially denied ownership of the pirated stash but was unable to explain why the CDs bore his company's label with his own photo on it.
A News of the Weird Classic (August 2001)
In August (2001), Naples (Fla.) City Councilman Fred Tarrant demanded that local artist Ted Lay's "Famous Tongue Mona Al Monica" painting (side-by-side impressions of Mona Lisa, Albert Einstein and Monica Lewinsky sticking their tongues out) be removed from its place at a Naples municipal art center because he thinks Lewinsky's "tongue" too much resembled a penis (which Lay denied). According to a Naples Daily News report, Tarrant is in fact blind but said various "advisers" assured him that the tongue resembled a penis.
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