In May in Portage County, Ohio, motorist Catherine Donkers was arrested for "improper child restraint," among other things--she was breast-feeding her baby while she drove. Donkers has failed to pay the $100 fine that would have settled the charges; instead her husband, Brad Barnhill, is demanding that the matter go to trial, and that he be the defendant: his church, the First Christian Fellowship for Eternal Sovereignty, teaches that a husband is solely responsible for his wife's actions. (The principal task of the Fellowship, according to its founder, is to defend "God-given rights" from the "encroachment of the Beast," aka the federal government.) Barnhill says that at his next court appearance he plans to make a citizen's arrest of the assistant prosecutor in the case.
According to a June report from the Associated Press, more and more chickens are being kept as pets in suburban homes. Among the anecdotes offered as evidence: A wife and mother in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, keeps nine chickens, which she says are "aesthetically pleasing," even "cool." A woman in Cedar Hill, Missouri, has raised 38 chickens as pets over the past decade, and says "the best part" has been "knowing them as individuals." And another Bala Cynwyd woman says her eight chickens faithfully follow her around the yard and are "very sweet. They give back."
The Continuing Crisis
New Frontiers in Political Correctness: In March in El Paso, Texas, 12-year-old Sal Santana II was suspended from his middle school for three days on a sexual harassment charge after he stuck his tongue out at a student who'd said she wouldn't be his girlfriend. And in April the National Society for Epilepsy in Britain said it had received several inquiries from teacher trainees who claimed they'd been instructed to avoid the term "brainstorm" in their classes because it's offensive to epileptics. Suggested substitute: "thought shower." (The society, incidentally, deems "brainstorm" innocuous.)
Just Can't Stop Myself: After a TV station in Washington ran a story about the "fiancee" of U.S. army colonel Kassem Saleh, a 29-year veteran then stationed in Afghanistan, more than 50 other women in the U.S. and Canada eventually realized they were betrothed to the same man. Saleh had struck up E-mail romances with the women, writing "intoxicating love letters" that one victim said were "better than Yeats" and assuring each of them that they would soon marry (some claim he sent them engagement rings). Saleh created at least one skeptic among his prospective brides, though: he's five foot ten, but had told her on-line he was six foot three; in advance of his first meeting with her, he claimed he'd shrunk about five inches due to repeated parachute jumps. (Saleh issued a public apology to the women in June, after the New York Times outed him; no word on whether he's apologized to his wife.)
Anthony Perks, an endocrinologist and honorary professor of gynecology at the University of British Columbia, has laid out yet another theory (reported in the July issue of Discover) about the symbolism of Stonehenge: The inner and outer circles of paired, capped monoliths represent the labia minora and labia majora, and the altar stone is in the position of the clitoris. "Stonehenge," he said, "could represent the opening by which the earth mother gave birth to the plants and animals on which ancient people so depended."
Least Competent Criminals
In June in Albany, Oregon, a man apparently attempted to break into a warehouse and fled the scene before police arrived, leaving behind bolt cutters, burned clothing, and part of his scalp. Officers said he'd tried to cut through a 480-volt power line and probably had "severe" burns.
In May in Grants Pass, Oregon, 22-year-old Albert Jackson Dowdy tried to break into a home by smashing a glass door with a paint can, but the can bounced off and broke open. Dowdy eventually got inside, according to police (total take: a can of tuna fish and a box of oatmeal), but on his way out stepped in the spilled paint. Officers followed the paint footprints to a nearby motel and arrested him.
The District of Calamity
In June a National Assessment of Educational Progress report revealed that students in Washington, D.C., have the lowest reading scores in the country, even though the district spends more money per pupil than every state but New Jersey and its teacher salaries are among the highest in the nation. And in May the Options Public Charter School in D.C. replaced its principal, Clarence Edward Dixon, after learning that he's a felon with a long arrest record--a coworker claims he showed up to work wearing an electronic ankle monitor, required under the terms of his probation for credit-card fraud.
In the Last Month
A couple in Ottawa, Ontario, speculated that their 18-month-old son had survived a five-story fall out of an unscreened window with only a broken leg because he'd landed on his loaded diaper. In Civita Castellana, Italy, a Roman Catholic priest blessed a beauty pageant that was intended to choose the town's candidate for the Miss Italy competition, saying, "Beauty is never embarrassing, for it is a gift from the Lord." And taxpayers in Manchester, England, learned they're paying for an Urdu translator because a city councilman from a largely Pakistani neighborhood barely speaks English.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.