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News of the Weird

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WOMYN'S WORK:

In April, students at the all-women's Smith College (Northampton, Mass.) voted to replace all of the female pronouns in the student constitution with gender- neutral pronouns. Although males are not admitted to Smith, many students apparently believe that using "she" and "her" is inappropriate for students who were admitted as females but who later identify themselves as "transgendered." According to Dean Maureen Mahoney, a student admitted as a female but who later comes out as a male would still be welcomed at Smith.

Aborted Procedure:

Dr. Yogendra Shah of Granite City, Ill., was accused by a state regulatory board of performing an abortion on a woman who was not pregnant. In a complaint filed in March and reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in May, a woman said she thought she was pregnant, but wasn't (based on an absence of fetal tissue), and Dr. Shah failed to test for pregnancy before performing the procedure. (A newspaper database search revealed that anti-abortion advocates have been slow to take a position on this story.)

Thinking Small:

An alleged February multi-crime spree by Victor M. Cardoze, 23, all started when he prepaid $3 for gas at Joe's Pond Country Store, then pumped $3.50 worth and pointed a gun at the manager before driving off (West Danville, Vt., February). Robert Boyer, 45, was charged with robbery after asking if he could buy lettuce by the leaf rather than the head, being told no, and walking out with lettuce leaves anyway, in front of a police officer (Little Rock, Ark., December). William W. Bresler Jr., 56, was taken for psychiatric evaluation after he tried to rob a National City Bank of exactly one cent (Westerville, Ohio, March).

My Bad:

St. Louis, Mo., judge Julian Bush admitted in March that a burglary suspect had been locked up for three months because Bush mistakenly signed a conviction order instead of an order for a hearing. And in February, Pratap Nayak was released from prison by India's High Court, nine years after he had officially been freed; Pratap and his five co-defendants had been found not guilty of assault in 1994, but since the other five were already out by that time for other reasons, court officials had assumed all were out.

Pee Shy:

In February in Chichester, N.H., Thomas A. Barrett was fined $240 and given a six-month suspended sentence for his no-contest plea to creating a false fire alarm. Barrett said he was celebrating his 21st birthday, and, as he staggered down a hallway to the men's room, he mistakenly urinated on the floor and pulled the fire alarm, which he thought was a toilet's flushing mechanism.

The Surgeon General Says:

A 72-year-old woman accidentally, fatally set herself on fire while filling her cigarette lighter (Somerville, Mass., February). A trucking company was ordered to pay a $2.7 million legal judgment because its only employee smoking area was across a 100-yard, poorly lighted parking lot, where a 55-year-old smoker was accidentally run over returning from a break (Pittsburgh, Pa., February). A 42-year-old man died of head injuries caused when he opened the door of a moving car to spit tobacco juice and fell out (Mineral Wells, W.Va., March).

Giving Up on Their Own Terms:

Stephen Ray Carson, 29, in a standoff with police, said he wasn't giving up until he finished the crack he had just bought with the proceeds of a robbery (police got him anyway) (Panama City, Fla., January). Motorist Christina L. Willis, 36, who was finally caught by police following a 30-minute chase after she hit an officer with her car, still refused to get out until she had finished her beer (Fairfield, Ohio, January).

Fire Wall:

In the midst of the national debate over fire codes in the wake of the February Warwick, R.I., nightclub disaster, fire safety consultant Philip R. Sherman told a Providence Journal reporter that toughening the codes was not an automatic cure because the codes will still be ignored due to variations in people's intelligence: "Clearly we have to account for dumb things [when we write the codes]. Is wrapping the room in foam plastic the level of dumbness we want to account for? Or will somebody do something [even] dumber?"

Also, in the Last Month ... :

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was ordered to pay $165,000 and reinstate a former staff member whom it fired in retaliation for her having filed a work-related complaint. And Thailand's prisons department announced a contest in which inmates would vie to see which one had the most contagious laugh, and one official said that especially tense inmates would be urged to compete.

2003 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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