Sri Lanka has, as an "unwritten symbol of pride and culture," the world's highest per-capita rate for eye-donation, according to a January Associated Press dispatch from Colombo. Underpinning this national purpose is the country's Buddhist tradition that celebrates afterlives. "He's dead," said a relative of an eye recipient about the donor, "but he's still alive. His eye can still see the world." Doctors even report instances in which Sri Lankans consider giving up an eyeball while still alive, as a measure of virtue. A new state-of-the-art clinic, funded by Singaporean donors, is expected to nearly double Sri Lanka's eyeball exports.
-- Melissa Torres was a passenger in an April 2011 auto accident in Texas City, Texas, in which the five people involved were reported "uninjured" by police, and indeed, Torres was released from the Mainland Medical Center emergency room after a routine evaluation (for which she was billed $4,850). In fact, records from April 2011 until September showed her balance as $4,850. However, in December, Mainland learned that Torres had made an insurance claim against the driver and settled it for $30,000. The hospital quickly "updated" her balance to $20,211 and filed a claim against the settlement.
-- Hospitals, of course, are obligated to render emergency care to anyone who needs it, even to undocumented immigrants and irrespective of ability to pay. However, various state laws, such as New York's, also prohibit hospitals from releasing a patient who has no safe place to be discharged to. A January New York Times report noted that New York City hospitals currently house about 300 of those "continuing care" patients, with many in the five-year-long range and one patient now in his 13th year. (In some states, even, the laws' wording permits "pop drops," in which adult children leave "ailing" parents at a hospital when the children decide they need a break.)
-- A November Comtel airlines charter flight from India to Birmingham, England, stopped in Vienna, Austria, to refuel, but the pilots learned that Comtel's account was overdrawn and that the airport required the equivalent of about $31,000 for refueling and take-off charges, and thus, if the passengers were in a hurry, they needed to come up with the cash. After a six-hour standoff, many of the 180 passengers were let off the plane, one by one, to visit an ATM, and eventually a settlement was reached.
Paul Rothschild, 40, was facing a Dec. 9 court date in Lake County, Ill., on a charge of indecent solicitation of a minor -- a charge that could have sent him to prison for five years. Apparently oblivious of the imminent danger, Rothschild was arrested on Dec. 7 after a months-long campaign to entice another minor girl to engage in sex.
-- In November, Rickie La Touche, 30, was convicted in England's Preston Crown Court of killing his wife in a rage over her having allegedly destroyed the Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker memorabilia that he had collected since childhood. And in January, a judge in Portland, Ore., ordered a 45-day jail sentence, plus mental evaluation, for David Canterbury, 33, after he attacked Toys R Us customers with a lightsaber in each hand. And in February in Brooklyn, N.Y., Flynn Michael expanded his search for his stolen $400 custom-made lightsaber. "I guess that's the joke," said Michael, self-pityingly. "Some Jedi I turned out to be."
-- Recent Newsmakers: In a Christmas Eve alcohol-related auto accident in Buffalo, N.Y., the injured victims included Chad Beers, and the man charged was Richard Booze Jr. In Burnett County, Wis., in October, Scott Martini, 51, was arrested for suspicion of DUI, which would be his fourth offense. In Madison, Wis., in January, police filed weapon and drug charges against the 30-year-old man who had legally changed his name to Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop. And charged with vandalism of a Rhode Island state troopers' barracks in November was the 27-year-old Mr. Wanker Rene.
-- In 2011, for the first time in 10 years, Jose was not the most popular baby name in Texas (it was Jacob), but more interesting were the outlier names from the birth register examined by the Houston Press in December. Among last year's Houston babies were boys with the first names Aa'den, Z'yun, Goodness, Godswill, Clever, Handsome, Sir Genius and Dallas Cowboys. Girls' names included Gorgeousg'zaiya, A'Miracle, Dae'Gorgeous and Praisegod. The newspaper had previously combed the register of convicts in Harris County (Houston) and found Willie Nelson de Ochoa, Shi'tia Alford, Petrono Tum Pu, Charmin Crew and Anal Exceus.
-- Bill Robinson, 66, of Decatur, Ga., was arrested on a misdemeanor firearm charge in December for gathering holiday mistletoe in the "best way" he knew -- shooting it out of a tree with a 12-gauge shotgun. The fact that the tree was in the parking lot of the suburban North DeKalb Mall (filled with holiday shoppers) apparently completely escaped his attention. "Well," said Robinson to WGCL-TV, "about the time I did it, I got to thinking about it. ... I guess I assumed that everybody knew what I was doing."
-- Not Ready for Prime Time: Mostafa Hendi was charged with attempted robbery of the We Buy Gold store in Hendersonville, N.C., in December, but clerk Derek Mothershead stopped him. As Hendi reached for the money, Mothershead punched him in the face, momentarily knocking him out cold. He held Hendi down with one hand and called 911 with the other, and as the two waited for police, Mothershead handed Hendi cleanser and paper towels and ordered him to clean up his blood off of the floor.
-- Needed to Think It Through Better: Car salesman Frank Ready was showing his inventory to Pedro Prieto and Yordan Llauger at his lot in Austin, Texas, in December, and they had settled on a Nissan Maxima for around $9,000. "They asked if I took Visa," Ready told KVUE-TV. "I said, 'Yeah.'" The next day, Prieto and Llauger returned with 90 $100 Visa gift cards. Naturally, Ready called police, who later found at least 28 counterfeit credit cards on the pair and charged them and a third person with fraud and identity theft.
Almost No Longer Weird: (1) Fifteen firefighters on three crews (estimated cost per hour, the equivalent of $1,400) were dispatched to Norwich market in Norwich, England, in January to rescue a gull entangled on tree branches and, according to the animal rescue society, "in distress." (2) Women in Dado village on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao went "on strike" last year to persuade the men to stop their fighting over land disputes. ("If you do bad things," a September Agence France-Presse dispatch quoted one woman, "you will be cut off, here," motioning below her waist.) These sex strikes do not always work, but, reported AFP, this one did.
Recent Public Appearances of Jesus and/or the Virgin Mary: Wiltshire, England, June (Jesus in candle wax dripping from a church's pulpit). Anderson County, S.C., July (Jesus on a Walmart receipt). Kinston, N.C., June (Jesus' body on a cross formed by kudzu on a telephone pole). Orpington, England, December (Jesus on a sock). Fortitude Valley, Australia, January (Jesus on a tomato that had remained in an office refrigerator a little too long). Yuma, Ariz., August (Mary in a dried mango slice). Blue Springs, Mo., December (Jesus on crayons melted for a science class project ("(W)hat better sign to get than (one) right in front of you?" asked the student's mother.).