More things to worry about: The 2003 valedictorian of Alcee Fortier Senior High School in New Orleans failed (for the fifth time) the state's mandatory exit exam, and she cannot graduate until she passes. ... In August, workers tearing down the reactors at the old Hanford, Wash., nuclear reservation discovered dozens of radioactive nests of mud dauber wasps, but so far no wasp had mutated into a monster. ... Also last month, the district attorney of Watauga County, N.C., frustrated at the light sentences judges hand down for methamphetamine producers, announced that he will begin to charge defendants instead (via a recent anti-terrorism law) with manufacturing a "nuclear or chemical weapon."
Least competent criminals: At the Amoco station on Route 59 in Spring Valley, N.Y., on June 22, an unidentified man twice jumped on the counter and shouted, demanding that the clerk hand over money. Twice the clerk pushed him off, and the man finally gave up and left. ... And in August in Delray Beach, Fla., a man tried to carjack Larry Klein, 53, who is disabled, but Klein repeatedly jabbed at the man out the window with one of his crutches, and he finally ran away.
Paying bills the United Way: In June, Jacquelyn Allen-MacGregor, 47, a 20-year executive with United Way in East Lansing, Mich., was remorseful after being sentenced to four years in prison for stealing more than $2 million from the agency to buy show horses. Said MacGregor, "I do believe that I'm obsessed with horses." ... And an independent investigation revealed in August that Mr. Oral Suer, the former CEO of United Way of the Washington, D.C., area, had taken $1.5 million in improper payments during his tenure. Among the alleged improprieties: Suer made several annual gifts to United Way in his own name, but then collected bogus expenses from the organization to cover the donations.
No longer weird: Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: parents who, on a hot day, leave their infants locked in the car (accidentally, or for what they believe is only a brief period), resulting in death -- as usually happens to underachieving people, but which also happened in August to University of California professor Mark J. Warschauer; the proliferation of Internet pages by pen-pal-seeking lonely-heart inmates such as Saul dos Reis Jr., who is serving time in Connecticut for a fatal sexual assault on a 13-year-old girl, and who advertised himself (on Inmate.com, before the ad was recently removed) as "enjoy[ing] being silly and funny" and who has "many qualities which make me unique."
Least justifiable homicides: Victor Robinson was charged with murder in Miami in April after he allegedly told police he roughed up his 8-month-old son to stop him from crying so that he wouldn't grow up "to be a punk." ... And in May, a 12-year-old Rockville, Md., girl formally acknowledged at a hearing that she had fatally stabbed her 15-year-old brother during a dispute over whose turn it was to use the phone.
And in the last month: Three Pittsburgh teenagers with paintball guns terrorized kids on a playground until they fired into the wrong group of kids, one of whom returned fire with a real gun, wounding two paintballers. ... And the government of India's West Bengal state began distributing copies of the venerable Kama Sutra sex guide to teach prostitutes creative ways to give pleasure to clients without AIDS-risky penetrative sex.
(c) 2003 CHUCK SHEPHERD