LEAD STORY: Convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, now serving a life sentence in the Florence, Colo., "Supermax" prison, filed a 39-page federal lawsuit in March alleging unconstitutional "cruel and unusual punishment" because the refined-food, low-fiber meals give him "chronic constipation [and] bleeding hemorrhoids." He demanded fresh, raw vegetables and other high-fiber foods, necessary to "keep one's body (i.e., God's holy temple) in good health." Nichols was joined in the lawsuit by fellow Supermax resident Eric Rudolph (the convicted abortion-clinic and Atlanta Olympics bomber), who claimed "gas and stomach cramps" and observed that "our bodies" are "sacred and should be treated as such."
GOVERNMENT IN ACTION: Recently the Washington Supreme Court ruled that Seattle had for two years improperly charged water customers for servicing hydrants when the city should have covered the service from general tax funds, and it ordered customer refunds averaging $45. However, Seattle then discovered it had insufficient general funds to pay for hydrant service and thus imposed a water surcharge of $59 per customer, according to a February KOMO-TV/Channel 4 report. The most likely reason the surcharge was higher is that the city had to pay $4.2 million to the attorneys who filed the account-shuffling lawsuit.
After three years of providing worker-training grants to a San Francisco-area multimedia coalition that includes a maker of sexualized torture videos, the California Employment Training Panel cut off funding in April, claiming that it had not realized the nature of what an outfit called Kink.com does. The coalition protested the panel's decision, pointing out that Kink is a law-abiding, tax-paying entity that employs 100 local people and keeps California adult video "competitive in the international marketplace" by training employees in video editing, Photoshop and other multimedia skills. A typical Kink.com production may feature paid, consenting women bound, gagged and supposedly electrically shocked.
GREAT ART! In April at a gallery in London, Mexican artist Raul Ortega Ayala's exhibit opened with the customary hors d'oeuvres for visitors. However, since Ayala's work specializes in the role that food plays in our lives, he served cheese made from human breast milk, to "explor[e] our first encounter with food emphasizing its territoriality and boundaries." He said his next piece would go the other way, with 10 menus showing what "presidents, public figures, mass murderers and cave men" ate just before dying.
A pedestrian bridge over Interstate 80 in Berkeley, Calif., opened late last year, decorated with $196,000 in public art by sculptor Scott Donahue. At each end of the bridge are 28-foot structures to honor the "history" and "daily life" of Berkeley, notably its tradition of citizen protests, but smaller sculpted medallions feature street scenes such as dogs romping playfully in city parks. However, as initially noted by a Fox News reporter in February, one of the medallions shows a dog defecating and another displays two dogs mating. Said a local art program official, "I think they're just, you know, natural science ... what dogs really do."
New York artist Ariana Page Russell has a dermatological disorder that makes her skin puff up immediately at the slightest scratch (which renders her, she says, the "human Etch A Sketch"). She now scratches herself in deliberate patterns, to create artistic designs, which she photographs and offers for sale. Russell says she must work quickly, for her skin usually returns to normal after about an hour.
POLICE REPORT: East St. Louis, Ill., policeman Kristopher Weston apprehended a murder suspect about 20 minutes after the crime in April, which was such a nice piece of police work that the mayor called Weston before the City Council to commend him. Five minutes after Weston left the room, the council got down to regular business, the first order of which was to approve a list of police and firefighter layoffs due to budget shortfalls, and on the list because of low seniority was Officer Weston.
JUST CAN'T STOP THEMSELVES: 1) In March, a judge in Jefferson County, Texas, probated the 90-day DUI sentence for Jeffrey Latham, 37, on condition that he not drink alcohol, and he ordered Latham to report to the probation office. Two hours later, Latham showed up as scheduled, drunk, and was promptly shuttled back to court. 2) A man and woman in their early 30s were arrested in April after they stripped naked and began having sex in front of tourists on the lawn at Britain's Windsor Castle. The queen was in residence, but her living quarters are at the opposite end of the castle, and she missed the spectacle.
CREME DE LA WEIRD: Shreepriya Gopalan filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Diego in April against Microsoft, Google, Apple, Saks Fifth Avenue, McDonald's, Starbucks, Subway, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Chase Bank, Verizon, AT&T and 47 other U.S. corporations, claiming that he actually owns the companies based on the Chinese divination system I Ching, which he said he invented when he was "15 or 16" years old. "These companies were I Chinged in through a metaphysical layer created and owned by me," he wrote, but he added that, "unfortunately," he lacks paperwork to document his claims and asks the court's help.
LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS: Questionable Judgments: 1) Remo Spencer, who works at the Wal-Mart in Great Falls, Mont., was arrested in April and charged with stealing eight laptop computers and seven iPods from the store's inventory. He aroused suspicion when he offered those items for sale on Wal-Mart's employee bulletin board. 2) A 22-year-old man was hospitalized in Wilmington, N.C., in December after stiffing a taxicab driver. The man had bolted from the cab without paying, but the driver simply drove after the fleeing thief and rammed him.
RECURRING THEMES: 1) Victor Harris was pouring an additive into his SUV's fuel tank in March in Saginaw, Mich., when he got his index finger stuck. These situations are often inexplicably difficult, and it took firefighters four hours to remove a section of the tank and transport Harris to a doctor, who pried his finger loose and stitched it up. 2) Another careless pistol-whipping took place in April in Upper Darby, Pa., when, according to police, Jamiyl Muhammad, 17, was beating up on a street punk, and the gun accidentally fired, shooting Muhammad's 19-year-old brother in the arm.
NOW, WHICH ONE IS THE BRAKE? Elderly drivers' recent lapses of concentration, confusing the brake pedal with the gas (or "drive" with "reverse"): An 89-year-old man accidentally crashed into his wife in a parking lot in Greenville, S.C. (April). An 88-year-old man accidentally drove through the front window of a restaurant in Redondo Beach, Calif., injuring five (March). An 85-year-old woman, on her way to take her driver's test, accidentally crashed into the building that houses the licensing office in Schram City, Ill. (February). An 82-year-old woman accidentally drove into the Indulgence Salon in Prescott Valley, Ariz., while trying to park (May). A man in his 80s, arriving at a Subaru dealer in Town of McCandless, Pa., for service, accidentally crashed into the showroom (April). An 80-year-old woman, backing out of a parking space, accidentally sped out, hitting six cars and ramming a building, in Indianapolis (February).
A NEWS OF THE WEIRD CLASSIC (FEBRUARY 1999): According to a January 1999 Boston Globe feature, Mr. Wai Y. Tye, 82, a chemist who retired awhile back after 32 years' service with Raytheon Corp., has lived continuously, without complaint, in the same 200-square-foot room in the downtown Boston YMCA for the last 50 years. "When you're busy working and playing tennis," he told a reporter, "when you come home, you don't have much time to take care of an apartment." The bathroom, as in 1949, is still down the hall to the left, and Tye said he does not mind the exposed pipes, the linoleum floor or having food preparation limited to a hotplate.
© 2009 CHUCK SHEPHERD
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