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Lead Story

The Telegraph of London reported in March on Jeanette Hall, a taxidermist in Spring Creek, Nevada, who had recently tried to expand her business. In addition to mounting typical hunting trophies, Hall, 29, offered customers the option of having the pelt of a recently deceased pet made into a throw pillow: a cat could be turned into a pillow for $65, a large dog for $125, and a horse for $150. But along with hundreds of orders from enthusiastic owners, she said, she began to receive hate e-mail from animal lovers who called the pillows "sick" and Hall the "devil incarnate." Hall removed all pillow references from her Web site, but she said she hoped to reintroduce the service after the controversy subsided.

Government in Action

Are We Safe Yet? In March the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that 47 out of 58 times last year that people on FBI watch lists of known or suspected members of terrorist groups applied to buy or carry a gun, FBI or state officials approved the application. Though there are a number of automatic disqualifications for obtaining a gun license--being an illegal alien, being "mentally defective"--being a suspected terrorist isn't one of them. And in a February audit the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general found that the department had taken grant money intended to improve security only at critically strategic seaports and distributed it as widely as possible, often to ports that didn't meet eligibility requirements. Rather than focus on the ten ports through which more than 75 percent of all international commerce enters the U.S.--mostly in New York, California, and Washington--the department shared the wealth with ports in Martha's Vineyard; Ludington, Michigan; and Saint Croix, Virgin Islands.

South Florida's Sun-Sentinel reported in April that although Florida medical examiners set the state's 2004 hurricane-related death toll at 123, the Federal Emergency Management Agency paid out $1.27 million for 315 hurricane-related funerals. Also in April, a scheduled election for five town offices in Monticello, Wisconsin, never took place; "We forgot," town clerk Walt Weber told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (Weber said that all five incumbents, including himself, were unopposed for reelection but admitted, "It wouldn't break my heart if somebody else took the job.")

Cutting-Edge Cow Research

According to a February article in London's Sunday Times, professors at Bristol University in England said they would present findings at an upcoming conference to demonstrate that cows experience fear, happiness, and anxiety, form two-to-four-cow "friendship groups" within a herd, enjoy solving problems (EEG readings show they feel excitement when working out a new task), and hold grudges against other cows for months or years. (The article also cited research suggesting that sheep can remember the faces of as many as 50 other sheep.)

Things They Don't Bother Teaching in Drivers' Ed

In March Travis Williams, 25, and his passenger Brandon Calmese, 27, were pulled over near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for driving on Interstate 380 at approximately 55 miles per hour with the hood up; to aid in navigation both men had their heads out the window. Also in March, in Hemet, California, a 21-year-old man was hospitalized (with DUI charges pending) after allegedly hitting two parked cars, a tree, a fence, and a bus; he was stopped shortly after driving past a police car with his hood up and both air bags flapping in the wind.

Updates

One of the all-time News of the Weird greats, New York public-transit devotee Darius McCollum, 39, was sentenced in April to three years in prison for trying to drive a Long Island Rail Road train out of a Queens rail yard last June. McCollum has been arrested for similar offenses at least 20 times over the last 24 years; his obsession with dressing as a transit employee and operating trains and buses has resulted in his spending about a third of his life behind bars. (Also in April, police in Melbourne, Australia, arrested a 15-year-old boy for allegedly commandeering two municipal trams, in one case driving the tram along its usual route and picking up and dropping off passengers.)

News of the Weird has reported several times on an Easter tradition in the Philippines in which people celebrate Good Friday by whipping themselves or having themselves actually nailed to crosses. In March police officials on the main island of Luzon announced that this year officers who had been absent without leave could atone by carrying heavy wooden crosses in the festival or--for those who had more than 100 AWOL days--volunteering for crucifixion. (They were given the option of being tied to a cross rather than nailed up.)

More Things to Worry About

In April the predominantly Arab town of Shfar'am, Israel, did its part for world peace by hosting the world's first international festival of mimes.

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

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