The Continuing Crisis
-Floyd Johnson pleaded guilty to attempted murder in an odd scene in a New York City courtroom in November. Johnson has only one leg, and had been charged with stabbing a fellow homeless shelter resident who has no legs. Johnson's public-defender lawyer (who caught the case at random) has only one leg, also. Johnson said he was taking the plea in part because of excruciating leg pain -- in the leg he doesn't have (“phantom leg” syndrome), and Johnson's lawyer said he suffers from the same thing. (The lawyer subsequently filed to withdraw the guilty plea because the pain had clouded his client's judgment.)
-Amber Roberts, 30, a resident of the unit for the criminally insane at Eastern State Hospital in Spokane, Wash., informed officials in November that “I (just now) murdered someone, but you're going to have to find him.” As staff members searched the facility, Roberts offered to help by shouting “hot,” “cold,” “you're getting warmer,” and so forth. Roberts yelled “Hot!” as they closed in on the room containing the body of a 56-year-old patient that Roberts then admitted strangling. (However, a few days later in court, she pleaded not guilty.)
Tunisia's Ministry for Women and Family Affairs demanded in October that the government prosecute the publisher of the children's magazine Qaws Quzah (“Rainbow”), aimed at ages 5 to 15, for an article in the then-current issue on how to construct a gasoline bomb (aka the “Molotov cocktail” in America). The country has been rocked by the same kind of upheaval experienced in other Arab countries, except less so since its longtime president stepped down rather quickly in January 2011.
-Notwithstanding its nuclear submarines, ballistic missiles and spy satellites, France maintains Europe's last “squadron” of military carrier pigeons. Legislator Jean-Pierre Decool lauds the pigeons and campaigns for their upgrade, warning that in the event of war or other catastrophe, the birds would be a valuable messaging network. (Pigeons have been used at times in the current Syrian civil war.) Until very recently, according to a November Wall Street Journal dispatch, pigeons wearing harnesses had been used by a hospital in Normandy to ferry blood samples to a testing lab (a 25-minute flight).
Jason Schall, 38, who has retired as a financial planner and now devotes his energy to fishing, had a spectacular week in September when he won a catch-and-release tournament in Charleston, S.C., came within 1 1/2 inches of a world record on another catch, and was notified of recently setting two Nevada state records for largest fish caught. Schall's coup de grace, he told the Charleston Post and Courier, came a few days later when he caught a redfish while sitting on his living room sofa in Daniel Island, S.C., watching a Clemson football game with a pal. He had run a line with bait through a crack in the door, through his yard into the lake behind his home.
Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found recently in tests that 10th-grade students who play video games (especially shooting and sports games) regularly score just as high in robotic surgery dexterity as resident doctors. The lead researcher said that surgery simulations (for example, suturing) have built-in unpredictability, for training purposes, but since complex video games are laden with unpredictability, players logging at least two hours a day with the joystick in fact may even slightly outperform the residents.
-How Drunk Do You Have to Be? (1) College student Courtney Malloy, 22, was rescued in November after getting stuck at about 1 a.m. trying to cut between two buildings in Providence, R.I. The space between City Sports and FedEx Kinko's was 8 to 9 inches, said firefighters, who found Malloy horizontal and about 2 feet off the ground and “unable” to explain how she got there. (2) Leslie Newton, 68, was pulled over by Florida Highway Patrol officers near St. Augustine in December while driving erratically. He also had a portion of a traffic sign embedded in his skull after colliding with it. (In both cases, officers said they believed the victims to be intoxicated.)
-Helen Springthorpe, 58, with only three months on the job as the bell-ringer at St. Nicholas Church in Bathampton, England, was knocked unconscious in November when she became entangled in the bells' ropes and was jerked too-and-fro around the belfry, her head smashing against a wall. Fire and ambulance crews eventually lowered her about 20 feet to the ground.
Homeless man Darren Kersey, 28, was jailed overnight in November in Sarasota, Fla., after being busted for charging his cellphone at an outlet at a public picnic shelter in the city's Gillespie Park. The police report noted that “(T)heft of city utilities will not be tolerated ....” However, for owners of electric cars (less likely to be homeless!), the city runs several absolutely free charging stations, including one at city hall. The American Civil Liberties Union has accused the city for years of being aggressively inhospitable toward the city's homeless. (Kersey was released the next day when a judge ruled the arrest improper.)
Fetishes on Parade
Stubborn: (1) Briton Robert Moore, 31, got a relatively light sentence in Bradford Crown Court in October when he convinced a judge that he only inadvertently possessed child pornography, in that he was largely interested in human-animal porn (including with a pig, a goat, a horse and an octopus). Moore was not eligible for a court-ordered “treatment” alternative to prison because he told the judge that he does not believe he has a deviancy. (2) Carlos Romero, 31, told arresting officers in Ocala, Fla., in September that Florida was a “backwards” state because it still punishes his sexual behavior with a donkey. He admitted to being aroused by animals “in heat” but explained that all he did was stand behind the animal and masturbate while fondling her genitals. Any genital-genital contact, he said, was “accidental.”
Least Competent Litigator
Orly Taitz, an Orange County, Calif., dentist and lawyer, is America's most prominent “birther,” having filed dozens of lawsuits, appeals and other legal petitions expressing her certainty that President Obama was not born in America. In her latest legal foray, a California judge tossed her lawsuit against Occidental College (to require it to disregard privacy rights and release Obama's college transcripts and other papers). The loss brings birthers' record (Taitz's plus a few comrades') to 0-for-258, according to the websites WhatsYourEvidence.com and LoweringTheBar.net. And of course, when Taitz's lawsuit was dismissed in November, she merely appealed again. Taitz was described by one critic as “almost charmingly insane.”
Daniel Greer, 24, told the New York Daily News that on Sept. 7 in Brooklyn, N.Y., a police officer who had been trailing the bicyclist stopped him and issued separate traffic tickets for riding through three red lights while listening to music through earphones. The three offenses, plus a related ticket, forced Greer to court, where he clumsily pleaded guilty, not aware of the amount of the fine. His multiple offenses made him a repeat offender, and he was fined $1,550.