In January, after the California restaurant chain Carl's Jr. began televising a commercial chiding competitors' chicken-nugget meals (the ad: executives examining a chicken in a futile attempt to find a body part called the "nugget"), the animal rights group United Poultry Concerns objected, not just because the chicken was mishandled but because the examination hurt the chicken's feelings (treated the chicken "derisively," United's chief Karen Davis told the Los Angeles Times). (A few days later, seemingly in support of Davis, Australian neuroscientists Charles Watson and George Paxinos announced the startup of their project to compile a comprehensive atlas of a bird's "sophisticated and complex" brain, emphasizing features in common with humans' brains.)
The Los Angeles Times also reported in January that the ex-wife of casino mogul Kirk Kerkorian had recently filed a petition claiming that the $50,000 a month in child support Kerkorian pays for his 3-year-old daughter is insufficient and asking a Los Angeles judge to up the amount to $320,000 a month. Included as little Kira's requirements are $144,000 a month for travel, $14,000 for parties (her first-birthday party cost $70,000), $10,200 for food (about $340 per meal), and $7,000 a month for little Kira to give back to the community (in charitable donations).
DEMOCRACY IN ACTION
Right-to-Life Party candidate Richard Hobbs, 47, overwhelmingly lost his campaign for the legislature of Westchester County, N.Y., in November, probably because it got out that he was a twice-convicted pedophile; he told reporters that he didn't think the convictions were relevant to the campaign because "there are no children at the county legislature." And San Francisco election officials denied any misconduct in counting the November ballots on the initiative that would have authorized public seizure of PG&E electric utility lines (which lost by only a few hundred votes); among the alleged irregularities: ballot-box lids blown off, 240 uncounted ballots stuck in a machine, 400 blank ballots found at a poll worker's house, and 5,500 absentee ballots quixotically moved from a heavily guarded room to a lightly guarded one on election night.
In October, police in Fairbanks, Alaska, charged Gail Bergman, 41, with second-degree assault for stabbing her live-in boyfriend in the buttocks with two paring knives in a domestic squabble. Bergman denied it, claiming that the boyfriend actually showed up at the door that night naked with the two knives already stuck in him. According to police, Bergman's main concern seemed to be that she had finally relocated the knives: "I've been asking him where those knives have been for the last three weeks. Why is he walking around town with knives sticking out of his butt?"
From the Crime Watch column of the Leaf-Chronicle (Clarksville, Tenn.), Dec. 5, 2001: "A 36-year-old cab driver reported one of his riders sexually attacked him Saturday morning in the 100 block of Keith Drive. (T)he cab driver pushed the rider away. The rider then forcibly performed a sexual act on the driver, the victim told (Det. Larry) Boren. The report indicated the driver didn't know if the attacker was a man or a woman."
From the police report column of the Union Democrat (Sonora, Calif.), Dec. 31, 2001: "1:35 p.m., Groveland: A driver told the California Highway Patrol that two people were parked outside the entrance to Yosemite National Park with the hazard lights on and their hands in the air. Yosemite rangers said the two men admitted ingesting 'speed' and became paranoid that a sniper was in the bushes aiming a high-powered rifle at them."
In November, Mexico City began its latest tactic to help drivers cope with the capital's monumental traffic problem, by hiring five mimes to team with four special traffic officers in street theater sketches to encourage drivers at the city's most dangerous intersections to buckle up, curb their cell-phone usage and obey all traffic laws. (A 1999 tactic had the city reassign its 900 traffic cops in favor of handing all citation-writing over to 64 female officers, who, it was felt, would be less likely to accept motorists' bribe attempts, but the traffic problem has soared since then.)
Kimberly Herricks, 36, a manager for Donato's Pizza, Lakewood, Ohio, was indicted in December for stealing $38,000 from the company, an amount that included the value of 400 decaying pizzas found in her garage. According to police, she had invented big call-in orders at her store for schools, hospitals, etc., just to get her store's sales figures up and her name in the company newsletter. She would then adjust the books to cover the costs and deliver the pizzas, herself, to her own garage. She was busted when she asked her boss (the owner) to help her move to a new house, and he discovered the rotting pizzas.
PEOPLE DIFFERENT FROM US
On New Year's Eve, Los Angeles police arrested bicycle-shop owner Michael Howard, 47, and charged him with eight counts in connection with a series of incidents in which a man forcibly cut the hair of women on the street. Though Howard's alleged obsession with hair was apparently not well known to his family, one longtime friend told the Los Angeles Times that Howard "liked playing with (hair), brushing it, everything about it. He says he likes the sound of scissors cutting hair."
UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT
A judge in Winnipeg, Manitoba, acquitted a 26-year-old man of rape in December after finding that the 45-year-old victim's testimony was not credible. The victim (an acquaintance of the man) presented no evidence of unwillingness except her word that she didn't want to go through with it, did not try to escape when she had plenty of time to do so, and failed to bite the man during oral sex (because, as she told the defense lawyer, "I'm not like that; I'm not a person who likes to be rude").
Applied Digital Solutions (Palm Beach, Fla.) said in December that it will sell human-implantable chips with space for about 60 strands of information starting early in 2002, but only in South America. In the United States, ADS still needs FDA approval, which it might get later this year. Right now, only some livestock have the chips (and, of course, Professor Kevin Warwick of Reading University in England, as reported in News of the Weird in July 2001, whose arm-implanted chips open his office door and turn on the lights).
CIVILIZATION IN DECLINE
Yeslam bin Laden, half-brother of Osama, said he will introduce a "bin Laden" designer clothing line that he believes will sell big in Arab countries (but his "bin Laden" trademark application in Switzerland has been held up). And the director of housing at Princeton University issued a safety directive to students after two undergraduates fell out of bunk beds in dorms; it is believed to be the first warning on how to use a bed ever issued to Ivy League students. And probation officers in Staffordshire, England, fresh out of rehabilitation ideas, have started a counseling program based on discussing questions and answers from the board game Scruples.
AND IN THE LAST MONTH
A brothel for female clientele closed because customers were abusing the owner's pay-afterward privilege by claiming the men didn't satisfy them (Waldshut, Germany). A man escaped after robbing an auto parts store of $50, but not before losing his prosthetic leg and his pants in a scuffle with an employee (Kansas City, Mo.). The owner of seven large (up to 6 feet long), house-roaming Monitor lizards died, apparently of natural causes, but then became dinner for his brood before a relative discovered the remains (Newark, Del.). A wealthy director of Finland's Nokia telecom company was fined about $103,000 for speeding, based on the country's system of assigning fines by income, but he said his income has dropped, and the fine should only be about $20,000 (Helsinki).