According to an April article in Australia's Herald Sun, 50-year-old Tony Alleyne recently put his apartment--a cramped one-bedroom in Leicestershire, England--up for sale on eBay for roughly $2.1 million, a price he feels is justified by the years he's spent remodeling it after the interior of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The apartment's features include a full-size transporter room, complete with console; a scaled-down replica of the warp core (in the kitchen); a full battery of sound effects, keyed on doors, buttons, and switches; and a voice-activated lighting and security system. "If you're going to do something," said Alleyne, "you have to go all the way." (He began the project as therapy when his wife walked out on him in 1994.)
In April the supreme court of Connecticut heard arguments in a case that raises a sticky point in Miranda law: whether the police can use a suspect's vomit (or at least the eight bags of heroin that came up with it) against him. Though the officers arresting Vincent Betances hadn't yet read him his rights, they were alarmed at his condition--he was pale and sweating and having difficulty breathing--and asked him if he'd just swallowed heroin. He said he had, and the police called an ambulance. Betances now claims the question was unlawful "custodial interrogation," even though he could've died without immediate treatment.
Democracy in Action
In April a former pro wrestler (Masanori Murakawa, aka "the Great Sasuke") won a seat in Japan's Iwate prefectural assembly; last week, defying criticism, he reported for work wearing his trademark mask ("This is my face," he said). On March 11, several members of India's lower house of parliament, opposed to an attempt by the finance minister to raise the price of fertilizer, launched a filibuster--except instead of simply holding the floor, they shouted at the top of their lungs for four straight hours (the minister backed down). And also in March, Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee came under attack from members of the opposition Congress party, who accused him of eating beef (they carried banners reading "The cow is our mother, Atal eats her").
In February the school board in Lombardy, Ontario, removed the word "gun" from a spelling-test list to appease a first grader's offended parents. Also in February, the head teacher at a nursery school in West Yorkshire, England, asked her staff not to use "The Three Little Pigs" or other stories featuring pigs in the classroom, in order not to offend Muslim children. (The Muslim Council of Britain called the move "well-intentioned but misguided.")
The Laws of Irony Are Strictly Enforced
In January, concerned by the potential for terrorist misuse of life-science research, the CIA convened a panel of scientists to discuss the problem. The members of the panel concluded that, despite real risks, openness was absolutely crucial to their work; in April the CIA announced that it would suppress the panel's report as classified.
Recent Alarming Headlines
Dangerous Chemical Found in Women's Breasts--from a March report in the San Francisco Chronicle about high concentrations of a persistent organic pollutant in the bodies of Bay Area women, possibly the result of inhaled dust from flame-retardant foam insulation. Grisly Mexico Factory Breeds Man-Eating Flies--from a February Reuters story on the production of sterilized male screwworm flies, which are released into the wild to mate with females in hopes that the species will die out; screwworm larvae, which burrow into live flesh, can kill an adult in five days.
Least Competent People
In March in Charleston, West Virginia, a student at George Washington High School became lodged behind the shower wall in the girls' locker room, allegedly while trying to find a vantage point for peeping. (It's unclear whether he saw anything before he slipped and got stuck.) The boy waited until school was out for the day, then called his father on his cell phone. The father apparently used a hammer or pickax to free his son, but later turned him in.
A February Boston Globe dispatch from Guangzhou, China, reported that an increasingly common tactic among desperate employees who are owed back pay is to threaten public suicide; one construction foreman, whose whole crew had gone unpaid for six months, dangled over the edge of the roof of a ten-story building for two hours: "There was no other way to get what the company owed us."
In the Last Month
Pakistan's foreign ministry declared that the country has no weapons of mass destruction (except nuclear weapons) and did not believe in any form of them (except nuclear weapons). And evangelical Christian minister William Keller, 85, who has led the National Day of Prayer observance in Muncie, Indiana, for the past decade, said that Jewish and Muslim clergy were welcome to attend, but that they could not take the microphone to pray--because Keller doesn't believe "in other gods."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.