Bureaucrat's Delight: An update of the official index for classifying medical conditions (for research and quality control, and for insurance claims) was released recently, to take effect in October 2013, and replaced the current 18,000 codes with 140,000 much more specific ones. A September Wall Street Journal report noted, for example, 72 different codes for injuries involving birds, depending on the type. "Bitten by turtle" is different from "struck by turtle." Different codes cover injuries in "opera houses," on squash courts, and exactly where in or around a mobile home an injury occurred. "Walked into lamppost, initial encounter" is distinct from "walked into lamppost, subsequent encounter." Codes cover conditions stemming from encounters with extraterrestrials and conditions resulting from "burn due to water skis on fire." "Bizarre personal appearance" has a code, as well as "very low level of personal hygiene."
-- A small number of environmental and animal rights activists employ violence and physical threats in attempts to achieve their goals, and similar tactics have recently been used by another group bent on intimidating scientists: sufferers of "chronic fatigue syndrome." London's Observer reported in August that medical researchers who even suggest that the illness might have a "psychological" component have been subject to vitriolic abuse, stalking, disruptions to the scientists' workplaces, and even death threats. In at least one case, the activists succeeded: A psychiatry professor said he had moved his area of research from chronic fatigue to Gulf War syndrome. "That has taken me to Iraq and Afghanistan where ... I feel a lot safer."
-- Political Correctness Lives: British authorities threatened Iain Turnbull, 63, with a fine (equivalent of $1,530) in August because he refused to complete the mandatory census earlier this year. Turnbull, from Wales, was protesting that the government, intending to be progressively "inclusive," made available census questionnaires and instructions in such languages as Urdu, Punjabi and Tagalog -- but not Welsh (one of Britain's native languages, spoken by a half-million citizens).
-- Although the Patriot Act, drafted in the days after 9-11 and quickly enacted into law, was designed expressly to give prosecutors more leeway to challenge suspected terrorism, one of its key provisions has since then been used more than 100 times as often for drug investigations as for terrorism. New York magazine reported in September that "sneak and peek" warrants (enabling searches without notifying the targets) have been obtained only 15 times for terrorism threats but 1,618 times in drug cases.
The Litigious Society
-- In 2009 Diane Schuler, with a 0.19 blood-alcohol reading (and marijuana in her system), drove the wrong way for two miles on a New York freeway, finally crashing into another car, killing three people and herself. In July 2011, her widower, Dave Schuler, filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging that the collision was the state's fault for not posting signs warning motorists like Diane Schuler that they were going the wrong way. (Dave Schuler's own private investigator told The Daily Cortlandt newspaper that he tried to discourage Schuler from filing the lawsuit, to no avail.)
-- "(My) client was devastated by what happened," said the lawyer for Jean Pierre in announcing Pierre's $80 million lawsuit in August against the city of Newburgh, N.Y. Pierre's estranged girlfriend had committed suicide by driving into a city lake, taking the couple's three small children to their deaths, also. In the time before he became devastated, Pierre had been arrested for failure to pay child support and for endangering one of his children (found wandering the street in freezing weather on a Super Bowl Sunday), and friends of his girlfriend told the New York Post that Pierre constantly abused her, including immediately before her final drive.
-- Chicago's WLS Radio reported that a man (unnamed in the story) filed a $600,000 lawsuit on Sept. 2 against the Grossinger City Autoplex in the city, claiming that five employees had physically harassed him during business hours over a two-month period in 2009. Included was the man's claim that he had been given multiple "wedgies," one of which was a "hanging" wedgie.
-- Cicero, Ill., Town President Larry Dominick, the defendant in sexual harassment lawsuits filed by two female employees, gave depositions in the cases, in March 2009 and February 2011, but provided challenging answers on one issue. Asked in 2009 whether he had "ever touched" the plaintiff, Dominick, under oath, said "No." However, in 2011, Dominick (again under oath) gave a narrative of his relationship with the same plaintiff beginning in 2005, admitting that he had had sex with her numerous times at her home. (Dominick claimed to have misinterpreted the earlier question.)
-- Unclear on the Concept: (1) Pennsylvania state Rep. Michael Sturla, an opponent of increased natural-gas drilling in his district, warned in August that one effect of the drilling would be an increase of sexually transmitted diseases "amongst the womenfolk." (He said later that he had heard that from a hospital administrator.) (2) Nicholas Davis was arrested in a public park in Seattle in August while, according to a police officer, "masturbating violently." The officer said Davis explained, "There just isn't enough free love in Seattle."
Creme de la Weird
A female Wisconsin prison chaplain was charged in September with several crimes in an alleged attempt to stage a fake hostage situation with an inmate for the purpose of gaining transfers of both to another prison in the state. Prosecutors said the chaplain, a Wiccan priest named Jamyi Witch, 52, instructed the inmate at Oshkosh Correctional Institution to come to her office, barricade the door, throw things around the room, and role-play with Witch as if she were his mother. While the office was under siege, the pair allegedly had consensual sex, and Witch supplied the man with drugs and sang him lullabies, supposedly to calm him down, ending the drama (until charges were filed).
Least Competent Criminals
Anthony Watson, sentenced to prison in 1992 for crimes that included rape and robbery, became a notorious jailhouse lawyer (even drafting a book, "A Guide to the Plea Circus") and through successful challenges had reduced his 160-year sentence to 26 -- and a release date of 2018. However, he filed one appeal too many. A court ruled in his favor on that final appeal and ordered a new trial altogether (vacating the convictions and sentence but also the reductions Watson had worked so hard for). At the retrial in March 2011, he was found guilty again and this time sentenced to four consecutive life terms.
The most notorious fetishist toe-sucker of the last 20 years, Michael Wyatt, now age 50, who had been arrested in the 1990s in Conway, Ark., and nearby towns, returned to the news in August 2011. Two Conway women reported in separate incidents that a man had approached them, complimented their toes, and asked to suck them (and in one case, to imagine out loud doing violent things to the toes). Both women picked Wyatt out of a police lineup, but a third woman, reporting a similar incident, could not identify the perpetrator. Wyatt earlier served one year of a four-year prison term but was last heard from, according to news databases, in 1999.
A News of the Weird Classic (February 1996)
Overenthusiastic Parent/Sports Involvement: In October (1995), Richard King, 36, pleaded guilty to making threatening and obscene phone calls to two boys who were star players on his son's Little League team in Blue Springs, Mo., to get them to reconsider their plans to quit the team. According to prosecutors, King called the boys several times while he was on a business trip in China and threatened to kill one kid and his parents and to commit sodomy on the kid's whole family.
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