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Lead Story

In a December issue of the New England Journal of Medicine two doctors from Nome, Alaska, reported on the case of a 73-year-old Inuit woman whose abdominal X-ray revealed a photographically opaque appendix swollen to three times its expected size. The doctors explained that local Inuit typically eat a great deal of meat killed by hunters, which often contains stray shotgun pellets. Apparently the woman had eaten enough over the years that her appendix had become literally stuffed with buckshot.

Government in Action

In a February analysis conducted in the wake of the Sago Mine disaster, USA Today found that the fine structure regulating the safety practices of coal companies is one of the weakest faced by any U.S. industry. The article cited the example of a 2001 accident that killed 13 miners in Alabama, in which a $435,000 fine against the mine operator was subsequently reduced to $3,000; in contrast, the FCC fined CBS $550,000 for briefly airing an image of Janet Jackson's exposed breast at the 2004 Super Bowl.

Things the President Actually May Not Be to Blame For

According to a police report, two men who duct-taped up and robbed a 57-year-old woman in her house in Westerville, Ohio, in February got into an argument over how to proceed, during which one said, "This is all George Bush's fault. He screwed up the economy." Also in February a 29-year-old man was given a suspended sentence and fined for a December incident in which he scaled a fence at the White House in order, he said, to meet Chelsea Clinton; in addition to claiming that someone had put a cell phone inside his head, the man explained to a court in Washington, D.C., "George Bush told me to jump the fence and I jumped the fence."

Irony (Grisly)

Authorities didn't speculate on what caused a woman driving in February on the Mountain Parkway in Clark County, Kentucky, to veer out of her lane, then overcorrect, sending her truck over the guardrail and flipping it repeatedly, but on arrival emergency crews found her severed arm, flung clear of the wreck, still clutching her cell phone.

Smooth Reactions

In December 70-year-old Miichiro Yamashita received a suspended sentence for bringing 25 sticks of dynamite to a hospital in Gobo, Japan, and threatening to blow the place up unless medical staff relented and gave Yamashita an injection he'd sought to treat a stomachache. In February a female customer at a Rally's restaurant in Kenner, Louisiana, allegedly slashed an employee on the face and arm with a razor blade after her fish sandwich was served with tartar sauce rather than the mayonnaise she'd requested. (Police said a second woman accompanying her also beat the victim with a metal cane.) And in the same month Kimberly Dasilva, 40, was arrested in Boston after allegedly filling condoms with a potentially explosive mixture of Drano and gasoline and mailing them to six addresses, including a college admissions office and two strip clubs she'd waitressed at; according to court records, Dasilva said she was tired of being mistreated by men and "couldn't take it anymore."

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Patrick Hickey, a plainclothes officer in Des Moines, was conducting an investigation in an alley in November when a man passing by said to him, "What's up?" Hickey replied, "What's up?" The man again asked, "What's up?" Hickey again responded, "What's up?" At this point the man said, "I'll show you what's up," went into a nearby house, and reappeared with a .38-caliber handgun; Hickey identified himself and pulled his own gun. The man turned out to be 33-year-old Stewart Jenkins, wanted in Michigan on a parole violation; searching the house, police allegedly found 15 grams of crack.

Least Competent Criminals

Caught in November by security at a Target store in Boulder after allegedly using a fake bar code sticker to buy a $149.99 iPod for $4.99, University of Colorado freshman Jonathan Baldino wrote a frenzied confession for police: "I will NEVER EVER DO THIS EVER AGAIN, and I am once more terribly sorry. Please let me go for I am terribly sorry!!! I'm only a kid! . . . Please! Please! Please!" (It didn't help; the 19-year-old was charged with felony forgery and misdemeanor theft.) And in Seattle in February a man allegedly tried to commit a carjacking but somehow got scared off, after which police chased him up a tree; laughing bystanders soon gathered around the tree as officers worked to get him down. According to KIRO TV, the indignant suspect yelled at the onlookers, "It's not funny," but they yelled back that yes, it was.

Recent Alarming Headlines

"Australian Whale Vomit Find Worth a Fortune" (an Agence France-Presse dispatch from Sydney in January on a family's discovery at the beach of a 32-pound lump of ambergris--a rare substance produced by sperm whales and long used to make perfume--valued at about $295,000). "Why I Still Breastfeed My Eight-Year-Old Girl" (a February article in the News and Star of Carlisle, England, about a local mother dedicated to breast-feeding as long as her children desire it; her older daughter, who was weaned at age five, requested a onetime return to breast milk for her ninth birthday).

Thinning the Herd

In November a 23-year-old man from Mount Prospect became the most recent person to fall to his death from a balcony while competing in a spitting contest. Also in November, according to authorities in Easley, South Carolina, a 37-year old man apparently escaped from his burning house but died of smoke inhalation after going back in to get his cell phone so he could call 911.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Beslchwender.

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