Some of the well-intentioned donations for victims of the December tsunami are bewilderingly inappropriate (such as ski jackets and Viagra), according to a February Wall Street Journal dispatch from Sri Lanka. Relief workers are being distracted by shipments of, for example, moisturizing gel, sweaters, women's dress shoes, Arctic-weather tents and thong underwear. Crucial medicines were in short supply, but not Valium, antidepressants or drugs with labels in languages that local doctors could not read. As the Journal wrote, some doctors "appear (just) to have unloaded their sample bins."
NO, YOUR OTHER RIGHT
A New York City jury in January awarded $450,000 in damages to a professional dancer whose career was ended in 2001 after surgery by Dr. Andrew Feldman at St. Vincent's Hospital. In a pre-op meeting, the dancer described the discomfort in his right knee, and Dr. Feldman wrote a large "X" on the spot of the pain, but 20 minutes later, he mistakenly cut into the man's until-then-healthy left knee.
JEWS ONE-UP CATHOLIC PRIESTS
New York City health officials are still investigating the October death of a baby shortly after a circumcision by Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, who uses a rare, ultra-Orthodox procedure of drawing the infant's blood with his mouth. Officials found that the baby and two others circumcised by Rabbi Fischer had contracted herpes. (The rare procedure was condemned by Israeli physicians in a medical journal article mentioned in News of the Weird in September 2004.)
CRIME DOES PAY, ACTUALLY…
In January, a judge in Breda, Netherlands, officially ruled that a 46-year-old bank robber, who stole money worth the equivalent of $8,400, could only be charged with a crime worth about $6,100 because the court had to let the man offset the equivalent of $2,300 that he paid for his gun, as a legitimate business expense.
SMACK MY KIDS UP
In January, the Consumer Product Safety Commission turned down a petition from corporal punishment opponent Susan Lawrence to ban "The Rod," a 22-inch-long nylon stick marketed by an Oklahoma couple as an aid to Bible-based child-rearing ("spare the rod, spoil the child"). Vying for the same market are the 9-inch-long, polyurethane spanking paddles of a Bakersfield, Calif., man and wooden spanking paddles of a New Kingston, Pa., man, both sold with an explicit Christian message. Lawrence, who said she is a devout Lutheran, said corporal punishment of children is inconsistent with Jesus' teachings.
BIG SHOES TO FILL
In a December Tampa Tribune feature, local Southern Baptist preacher Tom Rives was profiled in his part-time role as KoKoMo the Clown, enthusiastically delivering uplifting spiritual messages to kids and nontraditional church audiences. Said Rives, who estimates he has trained about 400 people for his clown troupes, "I don't think (preachers) should be going around with a Bible tucked under their arms and a scowl on their face." To his critics who say clowning is undignified, Rev. Rives said, "I tell them that all Baptist preachers are clowns. I just went to class and got certified."
Ali Joho, who lost a close election for the parliament of Kenya in December, filed a petition two weeks later asking the country's high court to nullify the contest because the winner, Anania Mwaboza, was allegedly spotted with some supporters under a bridge on election eve, sewing up the eyes of three cows and then drowning them, in order to cast a spell on Joho's partisans. Allegedly, as part of the spell, voters from out of the district appeared and voted for Mwaboza, and some polling places were opened late and closed early in order to frustrate Joho's supporters.
A jury in Nacogdoches, Texas, convicted Jerry Don Hartless in January of killing his former best friend, Billy Bob Wallace, during a group drinking bout one night along the Angelina River. According to testimony, Hartless believed that Wallace had stolen his boat motor but couldn't prove it. Then, that night, the group discussed a recent Jerry Springer show featuring a black man claiming to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and the alcohol-fueled Hartless insinuated that Wallace's girlfriend, who was there, craved sex with black men. (All the drinking group were white.) When Wallace objected, Hartless shot him. A witness to the shooting was Wallace's adult son, Wild Bill Wallace, which is his actual birth name.
CAUGHT IN THE COOKIE JAR
Northern Ireland's chief constable told reporters in January that the meticulously executed December robbery of Belfast's Northern Bank earned the thieves (who the constable believes are Irish Republican Army members) the equivalent of about $50 million, but that because of a peculiarity of the U.K. banking system, Northern Bank can, and will, legally cancel and replace all the currency that was taken, rendering the stash, in the constable's words, "the largest theft of waste paper in the history of Northern Ireland." If the robbers hadn't taken so much money, the cancellation might not have been a worthwhile option.
LOVE THY ENEMAS
Tammy Jean Warner was charged in February with negligent homicide in the 2004 death of her husband, Michael, who suffered acute alcohol poisoning (0.47 blood-alcohol level) caused by having ingested three liters of sherry wine, allegedly provided by Tammy via enema. The Lake Jackson, Texas, widow told reporters that she was only trying to help Michael (who she said had been addicted to enemas since childhood) and that he also did enemas with coffee, "castile soap, Ivory soap. He had enema recipes. I'm sure that's the way he wanted to go out (die) because he loved his enemas."
Judith Clark, 55, serving 75 years in prison for her part in the deadly 1981 robbery of a Brinks armored truck in the course of a plan to fund a "Republic of New Afrika" out of former "slave states," such as Mississippi and Alabama, filed a writ of habeas corpus in New York City in January, claiming that her trial judge had denied her a constitutional right. Clark became the latest inmate to claim that when a judge gave in to her aggressive demand to act as her own lawyer at trial (a job at which she proved unsuccessful), he violated her right to competent counsel