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In December 1996 Phillip Johnson, 32, of Johnson Bottom, Kentucky, shot himself in the left shoulder with his .22-caliber rifle, "to see how it felt," he told ambulance personnel. On October 2, 1997, an ambulance crew was again called to Johnson's home, where they found him bleeding from another shot fired from a .22-caliber rifle in his left shoulder. A source told the Mountain Citizen that Johnson said the December shooting "felt so good" he had to do it again.

The government of Italy revealed in September that it had asked a court in Rome to take jurisdiction of a lawsuit it plans to file against Youssef Magied al-Molqi, who was convicted of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking. The government says that al-Molqi embarrassed the country when he failed to return from a prison pass last year, and now it wants to sue him for the harm done to its international image and for betraying the trust of jail officials. Al-Molqi is still at large.

At the Vatican's request, Brazil's leading religious artist, Claudio Pastro, is giving the image of Jesus Christ a makeover for the third millennium. According to an October report from Knight-Ridder, the new look will be one of serenity and victory, rather than suffering, and Jesus will have traces of Asian, black, and Indian features.

The Litigious Society

In New Britain, Connecticut, Daniel Lima filed a lawsuit in May against the Minnichaug Golf Course for at least $15,000 in damages after he was hit in the nose by an errant shot. The shot was Lima's: his ball hit a yardage marker, bounced back, and hit him in the face.

In March New Jersey Nets basketball coach John Calipari admitted that in a moment of rage he called reporter Dan Garcia of the Newark Star-Ledger a "fucking Mexican idiot." The National Basketball Association fined Calipari $25,000 for the outburst, and Garcia accepted Calipari's apology. Nevertheless, in July Garcia filed a lawsuit against Calipari and the Nets to the tune of $5 million.

In June in Detroit, Robert L. Wiggins Jr., coach of a Pony League baseball team that was eliminated from a tournament in a playoff game, filed in federal court for a temporary halt of the tournament and $75,000 in damages, claiming his team should have won the game and thus remained in the running. Wiggins offered to present testimony from parents and spectators that several of the umpires' calls in the third inning were wrong and his team should have won 12-8 instead of losing 10-9.

In October heart surgeon Charles Butler, 54, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, won an award of $3.96 million after he sued Wal-Mart for injuries he suffered in a store parking lot. Butler tripped over a trailer hitch while walking to his car, hurting his spine so badly that he now suffers from trembling hands and can no longer operate. Wal-Mart argued unsuccessfully that Butler should have seen the 18-foot-long, 6-foot-high trailer and avoided it.

Edward Caudill, 32, filed a lawsuit in September in Greenup, Kentucky, against Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, claiming his father's death was hastened when medical personnel did not give him blood after a car accident in 1996, allegedly because his father's wife objected on religious grounds. The wife herself died from her injuries about four hours after her husband. Because Caudill's father died first, his estate was inherited by the wife (and after her death, by her family) and not by Caudill. Caudill pointed out that his father had never signed any document declining life-saving procedures; thus, the hospital was legally required to try to save him.

Newspapers in Stockholm, Sweden, reported in March that a prostitute's $200 lawsuit against a client who failed to show for an appointment had been ordered to trial by an appeals court after being rejected by a lower court. In April the parties settled.

The Continuing Crisis

In August Minneapolis Jewel was elected queen of the hobos for the third time at the annual national hobo convention in Britt, Iowa. The king was a fellow from Helena, Montana, known as Frog. Asked about the changing demographics at the convention, Jewel said, "The old-timers are dying out, the ones who rode the steam trains. So it's nice to see these younger kids coming in."

In October sheriff's deputies in House Springs, Missouri, reported that someone launched a cannonball that crashed into the trailer home of Leonard and Kathy Mickelson and lodged in a bathroom wall. Authorities did not immediately know if the cannonball was thrown, catapulted, or actually fired from a cannon.

Texas and cheerleaders, again: In September a federal grand jury in Tyler, Texas, indicted the wife of a high school principal for writing and mailing a death threat. According to the indictment, the wife, Tamela Ellis, sent school trustee Ginger Motley a note warning her to stop criticizing the school administration or Motley's daughter, who is a cheerleader, would "never [live long enough to] cheer at her first football game."

According to a Times of London report in August, trains in Johannesburg, South Africa, are being equipped with fans to blow away marijuana smoke. In August one driver had to stop a train for almost an hour because he was so dizzy from the secondhand smoke.

According to a report in the June issue of the magazine of the Ontario College of Nurses, one of the college's members was suspended for six months for "vulgar and offensive" behavior. According to the report, she broke wind in front of a patient's wife, who took offense. The nurse then asked the wife if she "wanted more" before passing gas directly into her face.

Road rage lite: Danny L. Jones, 44, described by coworkers at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles as "Mister Rogers friendly," was charged in August with aggravated menacing. Jones had used the office computer to track down motorists who had offended him and write them nasty letters. In them, he typically threatened to "poke your eyes out," "cut your head off and hand it to you on a platter," or "dispose of you like trash." Said a bureau spokesperson, "From what I hear, [Jones] was a [keep]-to-himself-type person."

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration by Shawn Belshwender.

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