Giddyup! When a strain of equine herpes led to a temporary quarantine at horse farms in central Utah, the sponsors of the Davis County Mounted Posse Junior Queen contest in May had a dilemma, but instead of canceling the competition in which the cowgirls show their skills on horseback, they decided to conduct the show except with the girls "riding" stick "ponies" to get style points. Former queen Savanna Steed told KSL-TV the change would be good because it would better test riders' knowledge of the routines instead of their relying on their horses to make the moves.
-- Unclear on the Concept: India's Ganges River has become famously polluted, in part by reverent Hindu pilgrims who toss "offerings" (such as clothing, statues and the cremated ashes of loved ones) into it in hope of prosperous lives and holy afterlives. Hindu immigrants in New York City, without access to the Ganges, have called upon Jamaica Bay as a stand-in. The formerly quiet waters adjacent to JFK International Airport now ebb and flow with similar offerings that ultimately litter the bay's federal recreation area shoreline. Hindu community leaders in New York, with only mixed success, constantly urge greater environmental sensitivity.
-- From time to time, clever rabbis suggest ways of bypassing ancient Talmudic laws that restrict observant Jews' behavior on the Sabbath (a day of "rest"). In April, Rabbi Dror Fixler, an electro-optics expert from Bar-Ilan University in Israel, said he could foresee a day when even driving a car might be permitted on the Sabbath. The driver would wear an encephalography helmet that could catch brain signals and transmit them to a car's operating and steering system, removing the need for "action" on the driver's part (thus theoretically leaving him "at rest").
-- Mattel revealed that its best-selling fashion doll in the last year, for the age-6-and-up market, has been the teen werewolf "Monster High" model, Clawdeen Wolf, who comes with heavy makeup, a short skirt and high boots, and who supposedly spends her time "waxing, plucking and shaving." (Says Clawdeen, in promotional materials, "My hair is worthy of a shampoo commercial, and that's just what grows on my legs.") Though Mattel claims the doll celebrates girls' imperfections, a counselor told Fox News she was appalled that the company tells young girls they "need to sculpt, tweeze, wax and ... change their bodies" to attract men.
-- Cyber Making-Out: Tokyo's Kajimoto Laboratory has created a tongue-kissing machine to enable lovers to suck face over the Internet, according to a May CNN report. At separate locations, the pair place special straws in their mouths and mimic a deep kiss, which is recorded and transmitted to each other's straws. Researcher Nobuhiro Takahashi sees profit in "celebrity" tongue-kissing applications, but said more work is needed to establish individual taste, breathing and tongue moistness. (Another team of Japanese researchers, using a harness-type device, reported making similar advances -- in Internet "hugging," with sensors that mimic lovers' heartbeats and even their spine's "tingling" and stomach's "butterflies.")
-- Tacky: (1) The Columbus, Ohio, school board accepted principal Kimberly Jones' resignation in May following revelations by The Columbus Dispatch that she, though earning $90,000 a year, swore on federal forms that she made just $25,000 -- so that her own two children would qualify for reduced-price school lunches. (2) Prime Healthcare Services, with a reputation for rescuing financially failing hospitals, reported that two new acquisitions, in Victorville, Calif., and Redding, Calif., somehow curiously experienced rates about 40 and 70 times the state average in patients with a rare Third World Ghanian sickness that, conveniently, qualified the hospitals for enhanced Medicare reimbursements.
In a pre-trial motion in a Chicago court case in May, the defense lawyer for Exotic Motors Inc., which is being sued over car repairs, complained about plaintiffs' lawyers' unusual decision to permit a female paralegal to sit at their courtroom table, especially since she is a "large-breasted woman." Her "sole purpose" at the table, lamented defense lawyer Thomas Gooch, was "to draw the attention of the jury," presumably in favor of the plaintiffs. Gooch later told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that he was concerned only with her "qualifications" to sit at the table.
-- The recent Memorial Day weekend was a time of reflection for the residents of Long Island (N.Y.)'s Shelter Island, who were honoring a soldier from the neighborhood who had recently been killed in Afghanistan. The local American Legion placed new, heavy-duty American flags on telephone poles along a parade route, but only afterward was informed that Long Island Power Authority, which owns the poles, is required by state law to charge an unwaivable rental fee for the poles.
-- Principal Terry Eisenbarth apologized to parents and children at Washington Elementary School in Mount Vernon, Iowa, in May and promised to stop his ritual "whammies," in which he summons kids on their birthdays to his office, sings "Happy Birthday" to them, and ceremonially spanks the child's backside with a cushioned hockey stick (with the number of whacks equaling the child's age).
In May, based on five women's complaints, Virginia Beach, Va., police arrested restaurateur Henry Fitzsimmons, 54, for abduction and sexual assault for harshly beating them as punishment for violating the terms of the "scholarship" he supposedly offered them. The women claim that Fitzsimmons is a devotee of the "Spencer Plan" of orderly discipline, in which contracting parties adhere to agreed-on roles but at a cost of being physically disciplined if they fail. Fitzsimmons acknowledged his fascination with the Spencer Plan, but denied the assaults, pointing out that he had fired one of the women and that the other four were helping her retaliate.
(1) Former Camden, N.J., police Sgt. Jeffrey Frett pleaded guilty in May in a scheme to qualify for early retirement by arranging to be shot in the leg (to be attributed to random street violence). The plan deteriorated, police said, when Frett's wife (the designated shooter) missed his leg, merely ripping a hole in his uniform pants. (2) Ryan Martin, 29, and Erica Clayburn, 20, were charged with reckless endangerment in Derry Township, Pa., in April after Martin was shot in the jaw. The couple were playing a game resembling "Marco Polo" with a loaded handgun, with an eyes-closed Clayburn firing when Martin shouted "Gun!" (Martin was supposed to duck out of the way before Clayburn pulled the trigger.)
Arrested recently and awaiting trial for murder: Anthony Wayne Smith (former Oakland Raiders football player), Los Angeles (March); Theron Wayne Johnson, Weston, Texas (May); Michael Wayne McGray, Vancouver, British Columbia (May); Darrell Wayne Morris, Price, Utah (May). Convicted of murder: Thilbert Wayne Hager, Statesville, N.C. (October). Execution for murder stayed by U.S. Supreme Court: Daniel Wayne Cook, Phoenix (on death row since 1987) (April). Sentenced for murder: Billy Wayne Haynes, Odessa, Texas (life) (May); Jeffrey Wayne Riebe, Conway, S.C. (40 years in prison) (June).
In September (2006), according to sheriff's officials in Buffalo, N.Y., Thomas Montgomery, 47, murdered a 22-year-old colleague in an online love triangle involving a West Virginia woman, except that two of the three people involved did not exist. Ostensibly, a young Marine flirted with an 18-year-old woman, but unknown to each other, the "Marine" was actually Montgomery, and the woman was actually her mother, 45, pretending to be her daughter. The workplace colleague (not pretending to be anyone else) had struck up an online conversation with the "daughter," also, making Montgomery jealous enough to kill him. Thus, in the make-believe "triangle," the only real person is now dead.