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News of the Weird

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In May several news organizations profiled 70-year-old Charlotte Chambers, a reserve defensive back for the Orlando Starz of the Independent Women's Football League. Said the team's chief executive: "Last year, I thought I should tell the other teams to go easy and not hit her too hard. But now I'm afraid she's going to hurt somebody." Chambers, who stands five foot four and weighs 140 pounds, had this to add: "I say, 'You better hit me [first], because I'm laying you out.'"

According to a May report in the New York Times, an industry has sprung up in New York City over the past few years: that of advisers who counsel parents on how to get a child accepted at a prestigious nursery school (practically a prerequisite for admission to a prestigious kindergarten). The advisers charge as much as $300 an hour (or a flat $3,000), and though figures like these--and the $300,000 price tag of a complete 14-year ride in tony private schools--could easily discourage the most devoted mom and dad, the best nursery schools are still swamped with hopefuls. Columbia Grammar, a notch below the even more competitive "Baby Ivies," recently received more than 500 applications for 34 kindergarten slots.

Can't Possibly Be True

In May, ambulance driver Mike Ferguson--a 36-year veteran with a clean license--was ticketed twice by speed cameras on England's A1 highway between Leeds and Cambridge as he rushed a liver to transplant. (Cameras in two different jurisdictions caught him at 104 mph.) After Ferguson explained himself to police in Cambridgeshire they dismissed his ticket, but the Lincolnshire police have insisted on sending the case to prosecutors; a court date has been set for October.

The Florida legislature finally amended its open-government law in May to prohibit the release of police photos of sex-crime victims. Due to the liberal public-records provisions in the previous version of the "Government in the Sunshine" law, a state appeals court had ruled that jailed sex offender Dale W. Weeks was entitled to investigative photographs depicting the genitals of a woman he'd been convicted of torturing, raping, and sodomizing. (Prison officials declared the photos contraband and refused to hand them over to Weeks.)

A federal appeals court in San Francisco overturned the armed robbery conviction of Deshon Rene Odom in May, concluding that although there had been a gun in Odom's waistband, he hadn't brandished it or even mentioned it to anyone at the bank he robbed--and therefore he had not, in the strict legal sense, been armed. (Odom's victims saw the weapon only because his shirt rode up.) The court said that the bank robbery statute speaks only of using a gun, not just having one--if Odom had waved around a toy pistol that looked real, for instance, that would've qualified as "armed" robbery.

Inexplicable

Ken Rohrer, an elementary school principal in Michigan City, Indiana, resigned in April, 12 days after making his daily announcements on the school's closed-circuit TV system while costumed as Iraqi "Minister of Disinformation" Niknak-Padiwak Givudogabon. In character, he denounced "lying" Americans and the "puppets" of the Bush administration, and noted bitterly that the upcoming school ice cream social would be held as scheduled, even though Iraqis were "starving because of U.S. sanctions."

South Carolina's house of representatives is working on a resolution to commission a statue, to be raised on the grounds of the statehouse, that would recognize the state's antiabortion movement; in the original resolution, pulled in late April, the statue was to be a six-foot fetus. (Some supporters have suggested that a better way to celebrate unborn children might be to focus on a later developmental stage--they've proposed a design featuring a few kids at play.)

The Virtues of Patience

Police, when faced with thieves who've swallowed their contraband, usually have to let nature take its course in order to recover the incriminating material. But in March, after robbery suspect Peter J. Mannix allegedly downed a three-carat diamond worth over $37,000, Chicago police used White Castle sliders to coax it out. (The process still took four days.)

Our Civilization in Decline

Early this month in Davidson County, Tennessee, judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle rejected the appeal of death-row inmate Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman, 52, ruling that the state's lethal-injection cocktail is constitutional, even though one of the three drugs (Pavulon) is banned in Tennessee for animal euthanasia. And in May, a computer analysis conducted by the Associated Press revealed that American companies that have moved their headquarters abroad to avoid paying U.S. taxes (depriving the federal treasury of an estimated $4 billion annually) were awarded a total of nearly $1 billion in U.S. government contracts during the fiscal year ending September 2002.

In the Last Month

In Fargo, North Dakota, convicted underwear thief Ronald Ernst (whose record includes 17 other charges, mostly for lewd behavior or indecent exposure) filed a lawsuit against a police detective and two attorneys, claiming they'd called too much attention to his case. Australia's federal court rebuffed the country's tax office by ruling that convicted heroin dealer Francesco Dominico La Rosa could deduct from his 1994-'95 income about $150,000 stolen in a failed drug raid. And officials in Berryville, Arkansas, have been perplexed by the finely crafted counterfeit currency showing up around town--not least because the forger is risking a federal conviction to float fake one-dollar bills.

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

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