Lead Story

Karl Szmolinsky, a 67-year-old retired farmer from Eberswalde, Germany, made international news in January for his role in a plan by North Korea to combat its food shortages by breeding immense rabbits for its citizens to eat. Korean officials contacted Szmolinsky last year after Robert, a 23-pounder he’d bred, won a prize as Germany’s largest rabbit; he wound up selling them a 12-rabbit starter herd (Robert was included) and said he planned to visit their breeding facility near Pyongyang this month. Each rabbit itself requires two pounds of food a day, but the Korean embassy in Berlin assured NPR there’d be enough to feed them.

The Continuing Crisis

A February ruling halted California’s program to relieve prison overcrowding by transferring inmates to privately run facilities out of state, but pending appeal the California prison TV channel continues to air a video advertising the West Tennessee Detention Facility, hoping to encourage future volunteers. The 20-minute infomercial, shown once a day, lists amenities including larger and cleaner cells, better views, and weekly all-night movie-and-pizza parties; in taped testimonials one transferee praises the 79-channel cable menu (“ESPN. You can’t beat that”) while another says, “You’re not a number here.”

Evidence Not Quite Gotten Rid Of

Last summer erosion due to rain left a pit 35 feet deep near a septic tank in Sierra Vista, Arizona, at the bottom of which were discovered some videotapes. In February the FBI announced the arrest of 81-year-old Walter Stevens, formerly the manager of the property where the tapes were found; after restoring them at the bureau’s lab in Quantico, analysts said the incompletely erased footage was shot by Stevens decades ago in Japan, Korea, and Thailand and depicted him having sex with underage girls.

People in Need of Adult Supervision

In February in Naples, Florida, former vice mayor Gary Galleberg pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery for an incident at a sushi restaurant. According to affidavits, after fellow diners asked Galleberg and his wife to control their four-year-old daughter, who’d been banging on the window separating the two parties’ tables for ten minutes, the grown-up Gallebergs taunted them by pounding on the window too; reportedly Galleberg later went over to them, cleared his throat, and spat on them and their meals. (He maintained he hit nothing but table.)

A fistfight broke out during appendix surgery at a Belgrade hospital in February, Reuters reported. The anesthesiologist told the Serbian paper Politika that surgeon Spasoje Radulovic was in midprocedure when another surgeon, Dragan Vukanic, walked in and made an unspecified inflammatory comment. Things escalated after Vukanic pulled Radulovic’s ear and slapped him; they suffered assorted bruises, minor fractures, and loosened teeth, while a third surgeon had to complete the operation.

Leading Economic Indicators

Reuters reported in February on an unidentified Chinese man who’d placed an ad on an online jobs forum looking to hire a stand-in mistress. Apparently his wife, having discovered he was keeping a mistress, insisted on beating her up; to protect her, the man offered $400 per ten minutes to anyone willing to take the punishment in her place. According to a Beijing paper, at least ten women had applied.

After investigating abuses of the student aid program at Bishop State Community College in Mobile, Alabama, auditors reported in February that among the 42 people who received athletic scholarships but never played sports for the school was one employee’s 67-year-old disabled grandmother, who won scholarships in three sports but died shortly after the paperwork came through.

Fetishes on Parade

In Omaha, Nebraska, in February 36-year-old Kevin Oliver was convicted on two counts of criminal impersonation; police said that in incidents spanning 18 months Oliver told women he was hiring for T-Mobile, brought them back to his house for an interview, and convinced them to provide a urine sample as part of their application. Also in February, researchers at Italy’s University of Bologna announced results from a 5,000-subject fetishism study they’d conducted in part by monitoring online discussion groups: among those sexually compelled by a body part, feet were easily the most popular at 47 percent; of those drawn to objects associated with the body, 150 expressed an interest in hearing aids, and 2 singled out pacemakers.

Least Competent Criminals

The victims get rough: In Frisco, Texas, in February a 60-year-old woman wrested a gun away from a 19-year-old man who had allegedly demanded her car keys and shot him in the stomach. In the same month, three men armed with a knife and a gun allegedly tried to hold up 12 American senior citizens on a tour bus in Limon, Costa Rica; two assailants escaped unharmed, but the third died, apparently of asphyxiation, after one of the Americans (unidentified but said to be about 70) reportedly put him in a headlock and snapped his collarbone.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (81) The suspect whose attempt to outrun police is cut short when his loose-fitting jeans fall down (like 20-year-old Chad Mercer, who didn’t get far after fleeing a traffic stop in Wilmington, Delaware, in February). (82) The criminal who uses MySpace as a venue to brag about illegal activities (like 26-year-old Bennie Rangel of Taylor, Texas, who was sentenced in March to 70 years on drug charges; police said his page included incriminating blog entries and a photo of him waving a stack of bills).

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