The National Geographic Channel reported in January on the increasing demand for designer dogs, which are generally hybrids of two recognized breeds. Breeding decisions must be made carefully, say experts, because some pure breeds already have dangerously small gene pools saturated with bad traits: mating a pug with a Pekingese, for instance, could create a dog whose eyes would easily pop out of their sockets, and the puppies of a Newfoundland and a Saint Bernard would be prone to hip dysplasia. On the other hand, Yorkipoos and schnoodles appear to be relatively trouble-free, and the Labradoodle reputedly displays desirable traits from both its parent breeds: the intelligence and hypoallergenic coat of a poodle and the loyalty and exuberance of a Labrador retriever.
Least Competent Criminals
In January in Franklin Township, New Jersey, police charged a 20-year-old man with shoplifting two tiger pythons from an Animal Trax pet shop. His bad judgment wasn't the immediate reason he was caught, but after officers found the stolen snakes in his house he admitted that his getaway had been poorly planned: as he drove home, one of the snakes wriggled out of the canvas bag he'd sewn into his pants pocket, wrapped itself around his leg, and bit him on the scrotum.
Can't Possibly Be True
In December the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration rejected a $17 million grant application from the state of New Hampshire (which had hoped to fund a screening program to prevent drug addiction and alcoholism) on the sole grounds that some pages of the application had margins narrower than the one-inch minimum. The federal agency did not give the state an opportunity to correct the formatting, even though its decision punished not the grant writers but instead patients with substance-abuse problems.
Deborah Hayes, who in November was awarded more than $1.3 million by a jury in Beaumont, Texas, for the heart damage she suffered while taking Fen-Phen, formally requested in December that her settlement be reduced by more than half (to $588,480), explaining that she thought the evidence didn't justify the original amount.
Wanda Hudson, 44, claims that a careless employee at the Dauphin Island Parkway self-storage facility near Mobile, Alabama, accidentally locked her into her 30-by-10-foot space on November 7, 2001, and that she didn't get out until the renter of a neighboring unit heard her crying for help 63 days later. Hudson, who says she survived on canned foods and juice, dropped from 150 to 85 pounds during her confinement and was found by a doctor to be in a state of "advanced starvation"; the smell in her locker was so bad that the firefighters who rescued her were obliged to use gas masks. She sued Parkway for $10 million, and in September 2003 was awarded $100,000 by a jury.
More "zero tolerance" follies from the public schools: In December in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, the school board voted to uphold the yearlong expulsion for drug possession of a tenth-grade girl who'd had Advil in her purse. And in January in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, a middle school student was suspended for five days for possession of a box of Gas-X. (Both school districts, embarrassed by national media attention, ended up reducing the penalties: the Louisiana girl returned to school in January, and the boy in New Mexico served only part of his suspension.)
News of the Weird reported in 2003 that Armin Meiwes, then 41, had been arrested for killing and eating a 42-year-old man in Rotenburg, Germany, but had then presented videotaped evidence that he'd done so with the victim's consent. (This week he received a controversial sentence of eight and a half years for manslaughter.) During the trial prosecutors learned that the "international cannibal community" includes hundreds of men--Meiwes admitted to being in contact with about 400 online--and that at least five had visited Meiwes to discuss becoming his dinner (they changed their minds and were permitted to leave). In an e-mail exchange one of Meiwes's potential victims commented on the symbiotic nature of their proposed relationship: "Hey, we seem to have discovered a market niche." Meiwes replied: "We could solve the problem of over-population and famine at a stroke."
According to police in Spokane, Washington, two young men stopped their car at a Denny's at five o'clock in the morning on January 14, took off their clothes, and cavorted through the restaurant. (A third man stayed clothed and photographed the stunt.) However, one customer had the last laugh: during the performance he went outside, got into the streakers' idling car (which contained their clothes), and drove off. (The car turned up five days later, minus the clothes and some CDs.) The streakers have since appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
In the Last Month
In Brattleboro, Vermont, a 28-year-old man was sentenced to ten months in prison for embezzling money from his company (a law firm), which itself is under indictment for stealing money from its clients. And according to police in Cincinnati, Ohio, a 16-year-old boy who'd held a weeklong series of parties while his father and stepmother were away burned down their house to hide the mess, causing more than $380,000 in damages.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.