As Illinois legislators debate solutions to the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance, newspaper reports from several cities have chronicled the local exodus of neurosurgeons and ob-gyn doctors to avoid the state's oppressive premiums (typically tripling or quadrupling over the last three years), costs that doctors usually must absorb because of health-insurance contract restrictions. Carbondale brain surgeon Sumeer Lal is moving to South Carolina ($40,000 premium vs. $300,000 in Illinois), and nearly one-fifth of the state's neurosurgeons are closing this year. These days, said outgoing obstetrician Eileen Murphy of Chicago (who makes $170,000 in salary but pays a $138,000 premium), "if anything goes wrong (in delivery), you can almost guarantee you're going to be sued."
Oh, well that's ok then
In Louisville, Ky., local Republican Party activists John Lowler and Peter Hayes feuded recently over their status at the upcoming state convention, with Lowler alleging that Hayes punched him. Lowler had first accused Hayes of smearing him by suggesting that he had recently had gay sex. Lowler acknowledges that he used to be gay but says he is now straight. Hayes said it was Lowler who smeared first by denigrating Hayes' religion, the Unification Church (headed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon). Hayes told the Louisville Courier-Journal in April that Lowler had taunted him by saying, "Moonie, Moonie, Moonie, Moonie, Moonie." However, Lowler said he could recall saying only "Moonie, Moonie, Moonie."
The teardrop explodes
Lawyer Larry Feingold, 53, testified at his January trial in New York City that he was merely trying to commit suicide in 2003 when he turned on the gas in his apartment and that the subsequent blast that devastated three floors of his building caught him by surprise because he didn't know that gas could explode. "I thought gasoline did," he said, under oath, "but I didn't know about gas."
Stockbrokers: full of it
In February, officials in the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen established the world's first formal stock-market-type arrangement in which farmers and producers can efficiently buy and sell liquid manure.
Cardinal Rules, Broken
1) Don't carry around the holdup note: Christopher Alexander Fields, 42, was charged in Hillsborough, N.C., in January after police found him acting suspicious in front of a Central Carolina Bank branch. The only real evidence of his intention was a note in his backpack reading, "I want $10,000 in $100 bills. Don't push no buttons, or I'll shot (sic) you."
2) If you're paying with counterfeit money, pay and go: Anthony Lee Lamb, 20, and two alleged accomplices were arrested in Berea, Ky., in March after Lamb paid for a meal at a McDonald's and then sat down to eat it, thus giving the manager a chance to examine Lamb's $20 bill more carefully.
Soylent green is people!
The London Evening Standard reported in March that soaring funeral prices in Germany have created markets for cost-saving services, including a thriving business in sending loved ones' bodies to Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic for disposal, a phenomenon known in the trade as "corpse tourism."
You might be a redneck if ...
In April, choreographer Jenefer Davies Mansfield staged her "NASCAR Ballet" production at the Roanoke (Va.) Ballet Theatre, featuring 20 colorfully unitard-clad dancers wearing corporate patches of the theater's sponsors, prancing and leaping around a banked-racetrack stage to new-age music and the sounds of revving engines, "racing" but occasionally crashing into each other to be rescued by other dancers who are the "pit crews." Mansfield was hoping for a big crossover audience of NASCAR fans gathered for a big race in nearby Martinsville. "In this business," she said, "you've got to take chances."
Young at heart
William Rhode, 53, was arrested in February and charged in several incidents in which he visited day-care centers in the New Jersey towns of Hardyston, Jefferson and Pequannock and inquired about employment, even though at the time he was dressed in pink women's tights and wore a large diaper. The first two visits were alarming enough to officials, but police arrived in force after the Holy Spirit School in Pequannock reported that Rhode had actually relieved himself in front of students.
Hold on, I'm losing you
Missouri high school principal Robert D. Blizzard, 58, was arrested in Oklahoma in December and charged with indecent exposure after he was reported driving with his inside light on and his pants down, flashing motorists. When the arresting officer asked him how he could still keep control of the car like that, Blizzard modestly explained that it was no more difficult than "talking on a cell phone."
The passion of the imprecise
A 23-year-old man in Hartland, Maine, was hospitalized in March after apparently attempting to commit suicide by crucifying himself. According to an account in the Portland Press Herald, he built a wooden cross, placed it on the floor and nailed one hand to it. According to the officer, "When he realized that he was unable to nail his other hand to the board, he called 911," although the officer said he wasn't sure if the call was for an ambulance or for someone to come help him nail the other hand.
Fast food follies
Frank Chancellor filed a lawsuit against Burger King in Greenville, S.C., in March, claiming that, unknown to him beforehand, his chicken sandwich was too hot and that it scalded his mouth. And two months earlier in West Palm Beach, Fla., Thomas Gould filed a lawsuit against Raindancer steak house, claiming that, unknown to him beforehand, his baked potato was too hot and that it scalded his mouth and esophagus, sending him to the hospital.
University of Southern California researchers announced in February that they were able to breed mice with a certain skin gene "overexpressed," resulting in the mice growing thicker hair, more whiskers and "significantly larger ... external genitalia."
Animal attraction, pt. 1
News of additional bizarre species was released recently from last year's deep-sea research voyage by scientists from Australia and New Zealand (and reported in News of the Weird in October). The oddest this time was the "deep sea angler fish," because of its sex life. According to Dr. Mark Norman, curator at Museum Victoria in Australia: "The female is the size of a tennis ball. It has big savage teeth ... [and] a rod lure off the top of its head with a glowing tip to coax in stupid prey." The male "looks like a black jellybean with fins." The mating male bites into the female's side, drinks her blood and gives her sperm. Their flesh eventually fuse together permanently. Said Norman, "They have found females with up to six males attached."
Lowrider backlash, part 47
A bill was introduced in the Louisiana legislature to make it illegal for anyone to wear pants that ride below the waistline.