Lead Stories

In March in Winter Haven, Florida, a 62-year-old man was ejected from the Spring Haven Retirement Community after he punched one resident (age 86) in the face and bit another (age 78) on the arm during a brawl apparently provoked by his habit of digging around in the lettuce at the salad bar to look for his favorite kind of leaf. (The man’s mother, also a resident, conceded that “it did appear that he was playing with the food.”)

This month Australia’s SBS network screened a 2003 British documentary, Fat Girls and Feeders, that profiles a married Arizona couple, “Gina” (once one of the world’s heaviest women) and “Mark” (who finds her obesity sexually and emotionally gratifying). At her peak of 822 pounds, Gina was nearly immobile, unable to feed or clean herself, and sex was physically impossible–but Mark’s role in her weight gain was merely that of an enabler. By contrast, some men at the fringes of the fat-admirer subculture are known as “feeders” and “grow” their partners forcibly, sometimes by funneling liquid fat down their throats. Gina has since dropped to a little over 400 pounds and can now use a wheelchair, but Mark still masturbates to videos of her at her heaviest.

The Sacred Institution of Marriage

In March a 64-year-old Saudi businessman named Saleh al-Saiari declared that he would soon marry his 59th and 60th wives–Islamic law forbids a man from having more than four wives at once, however, so he plans to draw lots to decide which two of his current foursome he’ll have to divorce. Also in March, 31-year-old David Boyd announced his intent to seek the Conservative Party candidacy for the Nova Scotia district of Dartmouth-Cole Harbor, running on a platform that included reform of marriage law to permit same-sex weddings, group marriages, and human-android pairings.

America’s Worsening Gullibility Problem

In December the Orlando Sentinel ran the story of a 73-year-old retired electronics specialist who’d liquidated stock, taken out a second mortgage, and sold two cars to raise the roughly $320,000 he lost to a classic Nigerian scam (supposedly the money was to finance the transfer of $21.5 million into his account from a dead businessman’s estate). The victim insisted that he’d never seen his payoff because “corrupt foreign governments” had attached exorbitant fees to every step of the transaction and burdened his African “friends” with red tape. Toward the end of the piece, however, he conceded that the Africans “never did really explain how they got my name.”

In December in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, 33-year-old Todd Lorin Nelson, a 13-year employee of the county clerk’s office, was arrested for defrauding taxpayers out of over $17,000 in salary. He’d been summoned for federal jury duty in April 2003 and quickly dismissed, but according to police he pretended he’d been selected for a big case that he couldn’t discuss–for more than six months he skipped work, only dropping by the office in a rush to pick up his pay stubs. Not until September did Nelson’s bosses finally demand proof of his service, and in October he resigned.

Recent Wisdom From Newspaper Columnists

In a January installment of John Rosemond’s Parenting column in the Akron Beacon Journal, a reader complained, “I can’t keep my 20-month-old daughter out of the dog’s food. I’ve tried scolding, distracting, time-out–nothing has worked.” Rosemond first cited a food scientist he’d consulted: “[F]rom a strictly nutritional standpoint, most dog food is superior to the diets of many Americans.” He then claimed that a pediatrician he’d talked to had “yet to see a child who suffered ill effects from eating dog food” (though he noted that large kibbles could present a choking hazard).

In February a scandalized reader of Dr. Peter Gott’s advice column in California’s Monterey County Herald wrote, “[M]y grandson…told me that his fifth grade teacher (a female) instructed the class that hand-washing [following urination] is unnecessary; urine is sterile.” Dr. Gott’s reply: “Bless your grandson’s teacher….As a general rule, the urogenital area is cleaner than most other body parts are, and it need not be washed–nor should hands be washed–after urinating….You and I, reader, are the products of our upbringing. It’s time to make a change.”

Unusual Murder Defenses

In December in San Antonio, Texas, 25-year-old Raymond Rodriguez, accused of stabbing a 77-year-old drinking buddy to death, testified that he’d been forced to eat a letter-size sheet of LSD and was hallucinating at the time of the murder: when he went to the fridge, looking for food to settle his stomach, he saw bologna and cheese dancing around inside; hiding behind the ice cream in the freezer was a little green man who taunted Rodriguez, saying “Catch me if you can.” And in February in Lexington, Kentucky, 45-year-old Patrick Hutchinson was sent for a mental exam after allegedly shooting his wife dead in their front yard (and then killing a firefighter during a standoff with police). Hutchinson explained that his wife was one of billions of people replaced by alien clones, and that he (as one of only 735 “true humans” left in Lexington) had been chosen by God to command an army of thousands of cobras and 250 “panther-lions” to fight the invasion.

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