Things people believe: In November, former Mayor Diana Cortez of La Grulla, Texas, and the town's former bookkeeper pleaded guilty to taking $53,700 in federal community grant money and spending it all on psychic consultations. And in August, the St. Louis (Mo.) Regional Chamber and Growth Association fired psychic David Levin after seven years' service, during which time it paid him $1.4 million in fees and expenses. Levin's business card read "executive coach," and the association president admitted Levin had "uncanny" abilities, but Levin prominently attributed his astuteness to his spiritual powers, which he said he has in common with his wife and 15-year-old son.
The continuing crisis: In one of the stark reminders of regional language variations in the United States, a game resembling horseshoes is fast becoming a pastime in the Midwest that likely would not be so popular under the same name in the South. In this game, contestants throw beanbag-like bags of corn toward a plat-form that has a hole in the center, trying to score points (in the hole, on the platform, or knocking your opponents' bag off the platform). Some refer to the game as Corn Toss, but the more popular name, according to a September report in the Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), is Cornhole.
The laws of irony: Friends tried to persuade a 37-year-old man at a party near Greenville, Mich., in September that he was too drunk to drive home safely, but the man became enraged; in the ensuing brawl, the man was clubbed in the head with a flashlight and died. And parent Deborah Meister, 46, was charged with assault in Anchorage, Alaska, in September following a public meeting on school policies at Central Middle School; according to police, Meister roughed up an assistant principal because she thought he had been too cavalier about the problem of student bullying.
Creme de la weird: Among the unsuccessful 2004 write-in presidential candidates (according to a November report on NJ.com): Jack Grimes of Maryland, who admires the leadership methodology of Saddam Hussein but would rely on telepathy and astrology to make tough presidential decisions; Sterling Allan of Utah, who alphabetized and then numbered every word in the Bible and said that the codes he produced told him to return the United States to the gold standard, among other insights; and Randy Crow of North Carolina, who says that despite a government-implanted chip in his brain, his administration would crush the "Omega Agency," which steals from people, staged the Sept. 11 attacks, and may have the ability to vaporize everyone.
Least competent criminal: It was one of the classics, but it happened anew in Bloomington, Ill., in October. Donald R. Hilger was arrested and charged with robbing 11 local businesses over the previous two weeks. He was picked up shortly after a robbery of a Jewel/Osco store, and police brought two of that robbery's witnesses by the arrest scene to see if they could identify him. According to police, however, as soon as the employees spotted Hilger, Hilger pointed at one of them and blurted out, "That's the one I robbed."
2004 CHUCK SHEPHERD