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In April students at the all-female Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, voted to replace all the feminine pronouns in the student constitution with gender-neutral terms. Although Smith does not admit men, an increasing number of its students consider themselves "transgendered"--and though this more often means an ambiguous identity than an overtly male one, these students are nonetheless uncomfortable being referred to with words like "she" and "her." According to Smith's dean, Maureen Mahoney, a student admitted as a female who underwent sex-reassignment surgery while enrolled would still be welcome at the school.

According to a May report in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, Dr. Yogendra Shah of Granite City, Illinois, is being investigated by a state regulatory board for performing an abortion in 1998 on a woman who was not, strictly speaking, pregnant (most likely she had a "blighted ovum," which is a fertilized egg that never develops). The woman says that Shah accepted pregnancy test results from her rather than test her himself, and that for years after the procedure--until her gynecologist requested her records from the abortion clinic--she honestly thought she'd been carrying a baby. She further claims she suffered nightmares and depression during that time because she's pro-life.

Police Blotter

From the January 7 issue of Washington State's Vancouver Columbian: "A Vancouver police officer was sent to a home in the 3100 block of S Street...when a woman called 911 to say a group of 30 cannibals from Yacolt were trying to break into her house....[O]fficers were unable to locate any cannibals."

Criminals Thinking Small: In February in West Danville, Vermont, 23-year-old Victor M. Cardoze allegedly began a crime spree by prepaying for three dollars' worth of gas at Joe's Pond Country Store, pumping three-fifty's worth, then pointing a gun at the manager and driving off. In December in Little Rock, Arkansas, 45-year-old Robert Boyer was charged with robbery after asking a Kroger clerk if he could buy lettuce by the leaf rather than by the head; when he was told no, he became "disorderly," and when the clerk summoned an off-duty sheriff's deputy, Boyer took a swing at the officer and tried to walk out of the store with his leaves.

Giving Up on Their Own Terms: In January in Panama City, Florida, 29-year-old Stephen Ray Carson, fleeing from police after allegedly robbing a liquor store, barricaded himself in a bathroom and said he wasn't surrendering until he'd finished smoking the crack he'd just bought with the proceeds of the robbery. (The standoff ended five minutes later with Carson's arrest.) And in January in Fairfield, Ohio, 36-year-old Christina L. Willis, caught by police after a 30-minute high-speed chase that had started when she dragged an officer with her car, refused to leave her vehicle until she'd finished her beer.

Chutzpah!

Surgeon David C. Arndt made news last July when he left a patient on the operating table while he ducked out to the bank to deposit a check, and then was arrested in September for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy. In February Arndt requested $15,000 in state legal-assistance funds to contest the sexual-assault charge--he says he can't afford to pay his lawyer and doesn't want a public defender.

In January 49-year-old Merle Crossman, who's serving time in Warren, Maine, for burning down his own home, filed a lawsuit against his insurance company, Middlesex Mutual, demanding it pay him $75,000 for his loss--he claims that since he pleaded no contest rather than guilty, he's still entitled to the money.

Our Civilization in Decline

During the national debate over fire codes that erupted after the February nightclub disaster in West Warwick, Rhode Island, fire safety consultant Philip R. Sherman told a Providence Journal reporter that toughening up the codes won't be a cure-all, because no regulator could possibly anticipate every potentially unsafe situation: "Clearly we have to account for dumb things [when we write the codes]. Is wrapping the room in foam plastic the level of dumbness we want to account for? Or will somebody do something dumber?"

In the Last Month

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ordered the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to reinstate a Hispanic staff member who'd been fired after she filed a work-related complaint (she was also awarded $165,000 in damages). In Jersey City, New Jersey, authorities declared a health emergency upon finding more than 150 tons of rotting fish, lobster, and squid in a padlocked warehouse (they suspect it was abandoned and its refrigerators shut off after a dispute over an electric bill in February). And Thailand's corrections department announced a contest in which inmates will vie to see who has the most contagious laugh; "tense" or mentally ill prisoners in particular will be encouraged to compete.

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

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