Punta Gorda, Fla., inmate James "Happy" Borland, 41, suffered a near-fatal concussion in December from being roughed up by inmates Lemuel "K-Money" Ware, 32, and Corey Andrews, 32, because Borland had accused Ware of stealing his pet spider and renaming it "Pinky." According to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report, Borland had demanded his spider back, but Andrews intervened. Ware, who said he had purchased the spider fair and square, felt he had to go after Borland because Pinky, in a small box in Ware's shirt pocket, "told" him to.
According to police in Red Bluff, Calif., Andrew McCrae killed one of their officers in November and fled to Concord, N.H., where he was arrested a few days later. According to his website postings, McCrae (a former "human shield" in Israel) thought the alleged murder would create sympathy for his views on war, police brutality, globalization and corporate social irresponsibility. He allegedly told friends that he was immune from prosecution because he had had the foresight to incorporate himself beforehand in a state other than California (corporate name: Proud and Insolent Youth).
The former Bob Craft filed a lawsuit in November against the owners of the reckless-stunt-filled MTV program (and movie) "Jackass," claiming it has defamed him, in that five years ago, he had his own name legally changed to "Jack Ass," which he thought would call attention to his national campaign against drunk driving. Ass, who lives in Montana and filed the lawsuit there, claims that the TV show and movie have damaged his reputation, "which I have worked so hard to create," he wrote, to the tune of at least $10 million.
Ng Lai Ping, 39, complained in October that an official at Hong Kong's Central Library had demanded that she stop breastfeeding her child in public, citing signs posted in the building that read, "No Food or Drinks."
The police chief of Portland, Ore., defied a local judge and said he would continue to examine suspicious people's garbage without search warrants because, he contends, curbside garbage is public property. So reporters from the local Willamette Week newspaper examined (under cover of night) a December day's curbside garbage thrown out by the chief, the district attorney and the mayor, who is officially the chief's boss. The newspaper published an inventory of each official's trash, finding much banality (e.g., what the mayor planned to watch on TV) but nothing illegal or improper. When told what the reporters did, the police chief got hostile, and the mayor, said the reporters "went nuclear."
In September, art student Nathan Banks, 22 (of New York's Purchase College), painted randomly chosen words on about 60 meandering cows in order to see if they would inadvertently line up to form poetry. At about the same time, in England, writer Valerie Laws, 48, did the same thing with sheep, except that she chose the words of only one poem, to see if the sheep could form another poem. An arts council granted Ms. Laws about $3,400 for her project, which she said would break down the boundaries between "literature" and "quantum mechanics."
Blair MacKay, 32, was fined the equivalent of $600 in November for invasion of privacy by a court in Dingwall, England. He had allegedly barged into a neighbor's apartment and asserted, "I don't listen to phone conversations," after the woman had just minutes earlier told her companion over the phone that Blair MacKay was probably listening to them.
In other news, the Agence France-Presse news service reported in October that a German police-surveillance campaign had been compromised when a software mix-up by the O2 mobile phone company mistakenly notified criminal suspects that their phones were being tapped from a voice-mail phone whose number was printed on their September bills.
Chips and dips
London's Observer reported in November that the British government is exploring whether to require convicted pedophiles to receive microchip implants that would allow them to be tracked by satellite after their release from prison. The government would know not only whether pedophiles visited schools or parks but, based on a proposal by one company whose software monitors astronauts' bodily functions in space, whether the pedophiles are feeling nervous or excited (but so far, sexual arousal cannot be tracked by the software).
The Guardian (London) reported in December that multinational food giant Nestle continues relentlessly to demand about $6 million from dirt-poor Ethiopia as payment for that government's having nationalized a Nestle subsidiary 27 years ago. According to the Oxfam humanitarian group, $6 million would feed a million people for a month.