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Lead Stories

The Alaska Court of Appeals ruled last November that a judge could not revoke a man's gun permit simply because the man believed that he'd been injected with deadly chemicals and that a computer chip had been planted in his head. Timothy Wagner came to the attention of authorities when he entered a store in Anchorage dripping wet, carrying a loaded .357 handgun and saying that he'd been trying to soak the chemicals out of his body. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the appeals court "cited changes to state law in 1998 to eliminate mental illness as a factor that the Department of Public Safety can consider when processing concealed handgun permits."

Last month the Washington Post quoted documents from a chemical-safety organization alleging that executives of the Monsanto Company actively hid the danger posed to residents of Anniston, Alabama, during the 15 years the company routinely dumped millions of pounds of deadly PCBs into oozing open-pit landfills and local rivers. The company's own research found the pollution so deadly that fish in the rivers died bloody deaths ten seconds after initial exposure. Monsanto no longer produces the chemicals but does make genetically engineered food, which, it assures consumers and the government, is totally safe for human consumption.

Names in the News

Booked last month for aggravated assault and burglary in Salt Lake City: Mr. Joe Snot....Arrested for robbery last November in Ottawa, Ontario: Mr. Emmanuel Innocent....Sentenced to 60 years for murder in Washington, D.C., last December: Gene Satan Downing....Mr. Montea Mitchell, sentenced to 70 years in prison last December for an armed carjacking in Kansas City, Missouri, was originally named Murder Mitchell, because an uncle was murdered around the time of his birth. Social workers later had his name legally changed.

The Litigious Society

Last October a judge in Rio de Janeiro dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by the daughters of Brazilian soccer player Manuel dos Santos ("Garrincha"), who died in 1983, against a biographer who'd characterized Garrincha as a "sex machine" with a ten-inch penis. Judge Joao Wehbi Dib reasoned that most Brazilian men would take pride in such a reputation.

Last November, Lynn Rubin filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against the school district in Union City, California, after his son Jawaan, a sophomore, failed a tryout for the high school's varsity basketball team and was assigned to the junior varsity team. The suit stated that the family had already made logistical plans to accommodate the varsity practice schedule and calculated the damages based on the potential loss of wages from the boy's future pro basketball career.

Least Competent People

Last month in Willard, Kentucky, 32-year-old Bob Bowling shot himself in the thigh while practicing his draw on a snowman....On New Year's Day in McVeytown, Pennsylvania, Paul D. Dimoff was accidentally shot in the chest by a shotgun he'd rigged as a booby trap for burglars....And last September, 25-year-old Juan Manuel Lopez of Saint George, Utah, tried to impress a would-be girlfriend by firing his gun at the floor of her apartment and accidentally shot himself in the foot.

Buster Keaton Lives!

Last August 35-year-old James Clyde Shields was arrested for drug manufacturing near Vancouver, Washington; handcuffed with his hands behind his back; and left in the backseat of a locked police car whose engine was running. Shields managed to pull his hands down past his legs, opened the Plexiglas shield separating him from the front seat, squeezed through the space, got behind the wheel, and took off, leading police on a chase up Interstate 5 and finally crashing into a pole. A sheriff's sergeant marveled at the feat: "I know I couldn't do it."

Civilization in Decline

Hospital authorities in Australia told the Sydney Daily Telegraph that a 15-year-old boy suffering from a terminal illness had made a dying wish to experience sexual intercourse and that the hospital had arranged a visit from a prostitute; church leaders and the boy's parents were outraged.

In the Last Month

Emergency workers in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, worked for 45 minutes with hydraulic spreaders to free a two-year-old boy's head from a bongo drum....The owner of a single-engine plane in Sonoma County, California, watched helplessly as his unoccupied aircraft burst loose of its moorings, made a perfect takeoff, flew briefly, and then crashed....And in Workington, England, a 63-year-old woman watching a demonstration video of the open-heart surgery she was scheduled to undergo was so frightened that she suffered a heart attack.

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

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