In interviews with reporters from McClatchy Newspapers in October, cemetery workers in Najaf, Iraq, lamented the recent downturn in violence in that city, as they admitted having grown accustomed to the income from the estimated 6,500 caskets a month that they serviced. (The number had fallen to less than 4,000 a month, and others dependent on the death industry around Najaf were said to be similarly suffering.)
In October, following 18 months’ investigation, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission concluded that the state government requires too many reports (a total of more than 1,600). About one-fourth of them either were duplicative of others or were still required even though the receiving agency no longer exists or are dutifully prepared year after year even though it is evident that they go unread. The commission issued its findings in a 668-page report.
What Goes Around, Comes Around: (1) Tajuan Bullock, 33, was allegedly caught in the act of burglarizing a home in Montgomery, Ala., in October, and, while the resident held him at gunpoint for police, he made Bullock clean up the big mess he had made when he was rummaging for valuables. (2) Police in Bakersfield, Calif., came to the aid of a man and a woman at the bottom of the Panorama Bluffs near town and told reporters later that the man had attempted to toss his girlfriend over the cliff but that she grabbed him, and the pair tumbled down 300 feet together (and that he was hurt worse than she).
Hawaiian Airlines is suing Mesa Air Group on a business matter and believes Mesa’s chief financial officer, Peter Murnane, has, or had, documents relevant to the lawsuit on his office computer but that, recently, conveniently, the documents had been deleted. Mesa acknowledged in a September court filing that Murnane had indeed recently erased a huge number of files from his office computer, but said he was merely deleting his massive collection of pornography.
Anthony Azzapardi, 80, agreed in September in Bridgeport, Conn., to plead guilty in connection with a sexual encounter with a 5-year-old girl. Until recently, his story was that the girl had aggressively led him by the hand into the bedroom, pushed him down on the bed, and sexually assaulted him.
Monsignor Tommaso Stenico, an official with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, was suspended in October when he was recognized in a hidden-camera TV documentary about gay priests. However, he told the La Repubblica newspaper in Rome a few days later that he is not gay, but was only pretending to make sexual advances to a man in order to gain the trust of “those who damage the image of the Church with homosexual activity.”
The Litigious Society
At press time, the top-notch Basketball Town recreational facility for kids in Rancho Cordova, Calif., was on the verge of closing permanently because its legal fees stood at about $100,000 and counting, for the lawsuit filed by a wheelchair-using man who said he was once prevented from attending a party there because the mezzanine level was not accessible to him. Even though a local benefactor offered to donate a $35,000 wheelchair lift, the acrimony generated by the plaintiff’s intransigence, and counterclaims by the property owner and the facility operator, made most local observers pessimistic that the facility would survive, according to an October Sacramento Bee report.
The Great Texas Outdoors
(1) In August, entomologists found a spider web in a state park about 45 miles east of Dallas, covering trees, shrubs and the ground along a 200-yard stretch. The originally white web had turned brownish because “millions” of mosquitoes had been trapped in it. (2) In September, wildlife experts tried to assure the public that the jellylike blobs (“millions of tiny organisms known as zooids,” wrote The Dallas Morning News) attached to trees and dock pilings along Grapevine Lake between Dallas and Fort Worth were harmless. (3) The latest sighting of the legendary “chupacabra” (the mythical hairless, blood-sucking goat), near Cuero, Texas, in August, was determined in November to be that of a dead coyote.
Creme de la Weird
In Charlottesville, Va., in October, a judge found white-nationalist leader Kevin Strom not guilty of the sexual enticement of an 11-year-old girl, despite humiliating testimony from Strom’s wife. According to prosecutors, she (also a white-nationalist activist) had caught him at home naked, masturbating to photographs of nude women whose faces had been replaced by face shots of two prominent but very young white-nationalist singers. Subsequently, charges were filed over Strom’s obsession with a local girl (to whom he had sent presents and about whom he had described his feelings to his psychotherapist). However, in the end, a federal judge said the obsession did not amount to a crime (though Strom remains in jail on a child pornography charge).
Least Competent People
The Providence (R.I.) Journal, reporting on a campaign by the area’s legal immigrants this summer to apply for citizenship, selected Juan Garcia, 54, as typical of the community. Garcia said he decided to apply after being encouraged by this year’s immigration-reform debate, adding that he had been in the United States legally since 1978, with permanent-resident status since 1985. According to the Journal, however, Garcia explained all of that “through a translator.”
Ticketed for DWEC (Driving While Eating Cereal): Four people were injured in Houston in October when a driver failed to stop for a red light while eating a bowl of oatmeal and collided with a transit bus. (Three passengers were hurt, in addition to the motorist, and witnesses said oatmeal was found all over the inside of the car, and also inside the bus and on the ground, according to a KPRC-TV report.) Two weeks earlier, in London, Ontario, a driver accidentally lost control of his car while eating cereal, drove through a grassy median, and hit two oncoming cars (but no serious injuries resulted).
The Poor Dear!
A federal magistrate in Tampa, Fla., ordered a doctor’s appointment in October for the incarcerated Brian Wilcox, who is being detained on several child pornography charges, after he complained that he was suffering from a series of medical problems. He said that his back hurt from a 4-year-old injury; that he has problems with his eyes; that his feet and groin area are numb as if they are “asleep”; that there is a bulge on the left side of his groin; that he is worried about a mole on his nose because of his family history of cancer; that all of his remaining 16 teeth are either decaying or cracking (keeping him from eating, and he’s lost 40 pounds); and that he has “severe flatulence at all times.”