In May, former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who presided over the state's 2000 presidential recount, revealed that her absentee ballot in a March 2004 local election was not counted because she forgot to sign it. And in March, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, trying to persuade traditionalist men to let women register to vote, said in a speech, "Please, my dear brothers, let your wives and sisters go to the voter registration process. Later, you can control who she votes for, but please, let her go."
DISABLED BUT DETERMINED
William Basil Armstrong, 56, was charged with robbing the Clark Mart in Akron, Ohio, in May; he gave up partway through, though, and had to ask the clerk to please run out to Armstrong's car and retrieve his oxygen tank, which he requires for a respiratory condition. And in November 2003, Mark Shleifer, 48, pleaded guilty in Doylestown, Pa., to possessing more than 1,000 pictures of child pornography, even though he is legally blind.
In April, a New York appeals court ruled that Leon Caldwell was entitled to a $50,000 state workers-compensation death benefit on behalf of his son, Kenneth, who died at age 30 at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, even though Leon had abandoned Kenneth shortly after birth and had seen him only twice since. The court said that Leon "met the legal definition of a parent." He did, however, order Caldwell to pay Kenneth's mother her long-overdue $20,000 in child-support.
DEFENSE DU JOUR
Joseph Micale, 34, of Syracuse, N.Y., charged with manslaughter in the death of his wife in January, said she accidentally died while being choked during sex to heighten her orgasm. Sheila Davalloo, 34, of Pleasantville, N.Y., was convicted in February of attempted murder, though she said her husband was accidentally stabbed during one of the couple's consensual rough-sex sessions. And in May, in Honolulu, Donald Marks, 40, abruptly pleaded no contest to murdering a 38-year-old prostitute, though he had claimed for over a year that she accidentally died while he was choking her in consensual rough sex.
A VAST LIGHT-LOAFERED CONSPIRACY
In May, House of Lords member Norman Tebbit told a radio interviewer that homosexuality in Britain is "intimately connected" to the rise in obesity. His explanation: The breakdown of the family means fewer family meals and more fast-food meals. Also in May, Florida state legislative candidate Ed Heeney told a Palm Beach County political meeting that homosexuality has made it difficult for him to enjoy his pastime of billiards. His explanation: "(Y)ou have a situation where the lesbian community is buying restaurants and bars." (Presumably, homosexuals are removing the pool tables from these establishments.)
SIGNS THE END IS NEAR
According to an April New York Times dispatch, the quiz show The Mission, on the satellite TV channel of Lebanese militants Hezbollah, challenges contestants in categories such as naming Arab suicide bombers, with the winner receiving points toward the game's ultimate destination, "Jerusalem," the retaking of which is a unifying theme of all the channel's programs. Also, Craig Gross, 28, and Mike Foster, 32, run the Christian Internet site www.xxxchurch.com, designed to help the faithful overcome pornography and masturbation, according to a May Wired magazine report. (Recent advice: "Remain calm and tell yourself, 'You don't own me, masturbation!'") Recently, several online "parishioners" commenced a 40-day abstinence, to match the time Satan tempted Jesus in the desert.
IF YOU DON'T KNOW, I'M NOT TELLING
In April, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of part of the USA PATRIOT Act, a public document, but couldn't publicly reveal what its lawsuit claimed because such disclosure without Justice Department permission is forbidden by the act. The department OK'd a heavily censored press release 22 days later.
EDUCATORS IN ACTION
Streator, Ill., school superintendent Bill Mattingly apologized in January after an investigation found that he called a black basketball player at Streator High into his office and ordered him to start passing the ball more often to "white kids," including Mattingly's son. And in March, Andy Schmeltzer, baseball coach at Hirschi High School in Wichita Falls, Texas, was placed on leave after he took a bat into a teacher's room, asked her to change some grades and then slammed the bat down on a desk for emphasis.
FLIP YOUR WIG
Not only does San Francisco's Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Center (i.e., the city dump) have an "artist in residence," but sculptor Rick Carpenter is actually the 43rd person to hold that position, according to an April San Francisco Chronicle report. Carpenter said his specialty is discarded bulk items, citing, for example, the weaving he made from 40 orange extension cords, and his latest, an object stuffed with the contents of a 5-gallon bucket of wigs someone tossed.
In Toronto, in May, Mr. Angel Jones, 27, was convicted of aggravated assault against his girlfriend specifically, biting off most of her nose in a rage. He admitted the nose was in his mouth but said that due to her using weight-loss medication, her nose had become brittle, and that it just fell off. Maurice Williams, 24, of Muncie, Ind., was charged in May with perjury after he told a judge he was not Williams, even though "Williams" was tattooed on his back. Said Maurice, "I can't see what's on my back. If there's some tattoos on my back, somebody's been bothering me when I'm asleep." And in April, Joshua Baldwin, 24, was sentenced to 180 days in jail for 16 incidents of indecent exposure to women in stores in downtown Bay City, Mich. His explanation to the judge: "I was only hoping to get lucky, but I went about it the wrong way."
(Correction: Two weeks ago, I misinterpreted a BBC News report and implied that the punk rock group Bouncing Souls is politically conservative and supporting President Bush. However, according to its website, Bouncing Souls is eager to defeat President Bush. Chuck Shepherd)