Lead Stories

Radio evangelist Harold Camping recently told his international audience that Satan had taken over all churches and urged people of faith to do their worshiping at home. Angry ministers charge that Camping’s attacks have cost them parishioners, according to the Associated Press. Although the size of Camping’s following is not known, his Oakland-based organization reported donations of $12 million in 2000.

Among the rap lyrics penned by condemned murderer John Taylor, 38, convicted of killing five New York City Wendy’s employees in a 2000 robbery (as spelled by Taylor): “So now you know how I go / They got my face on the worlds most wanted show / On chanel five showing live / You’ll think I’m famous / I’m airing world wide / I’m a stick up kid so swift you see / In and out like 1 2 3 / I said give me the doe you say no, no? / Is it no you said stick some lead to your head / Guess what punk now your dead / With all that blood bursting out your Head.” Taylor wrote the lyrics before his arrest; he now says he’s sorry for the killings.

Readers’ Choice

Thanks to an airport metal detector, an unidentified woman from Regina, Saskatchewan, discovered the source of the abdominal pains that had plagued her since she had stomach surgery in June. The detector beeped even though no metal could be found on her; X rays subsequently revealed that a 12-inch steel surgical retractor had been left inside her by the surgeon. (A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January estimated that 1,500 items are left inside surgery patients in the U.S. every year.)

By 2008, an Olympic Sport

Matthew and Elaine Sweetapple of New Barnet, England, are credited with the invention of Peeball, “a game of skill, power, speed, and endurance” played with a small soluble sphere about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. The ball is placed in a urinal, and the player or players urinate upon it until it dissolves. Peeballs retail for 1 pound (about $1.60 U.S.), with proceeds going to Great Britain’s Prostate Cancer Charity. Because men with prostate problems are often handicapped at the game, the charity hopes that Peeball will both raise awareness and get some to seek needed medical help.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

In November three Oxford zoologists established Oxford Risk Research and Analysis, a consulting firm that teaches executives how to assess risk using principles based on animal behavior. “A petroleum company forages for oil in much the same way as a starling might forage for worms,” explained one of the partners, Dr. Alex Kacelnik.

Science on the Edge

Speaking at a medical conference in December, two University of Virginia neurologists announced that an egg-sized brain tumor was probably responsible for transforming a 40-year-old schoolteacher into a pervert. Apparently an upstanding citizen before, the man had become an avid consumer of child pornography and had been caught making sexual advances toward children. Removal of the tumor ended the man’s aberrant behavior for several months, and when it resumed, doctors discovered that the tumor had grown back. A second surgery again restored him to sexual normalcy.

The District of Calamity

In November, D.C. paramedics were summoned to the home of a 49-year-old woman who had suffered a heart attack. Believing her to be dead, the paramedics called for a team from the medical examiner’s office, who zipped her into a body bag and transported her to a morgue refrigerator. An hour later a physician’s assistant examined the body and discovered a pulse. Paramedics were called again, but by the time they arrived the woman was dead.

Interspecies Upsets

In January a bird handler at a cockfight in Zamboanga, Philippines, was killed by a rooster just as he was about to release it into the ring. The bird’s legs were outfitted with razor-sharp steel spikes, which cut into arteries in the man’s groin and thighs, causing him to bleed to death. And a 43-year-old Winchester, Virginia, man died of a gunshot wound shortly after telling his wife he was going to kill their dog because it had bitten him. Police believe that the man was clubbing the animal with a loaded rifle when it discharged, fatally wounding him.

People With Issues

Joseph Anthony Giannini, 53, was known to his neighbors as a retired D.C. police officer who liked to tell hard-boiled stories of cop life. But after he was shot to death by an unknown assailant in December authorities found no proof that he’d ever been on the force–although he had once been arrested for impersonating an officer. According to the Washington Post Giannini had the interior of his truck outfitted like a police vehicle, replete with siren, flashing lights, phony tickets, and a plethora of fake badges and police ID cards.

In the Last Month

In Durham, North Carolina, Toki Holden, 38, was arrested and her day care center closed after state investigators accused her of pacifying a crying five-month-old boy with a bottle spiked with Ny-Quil….Paul and Hannelore Richter of Bochum, Germany, revealed that they have been keeping a pet eel in their family bathtub for 33 years. Mr. Richter caught the 36-inch eel in a canal in 1969 and originally planned to eat it, but his children intervened on its behalf. When the bathtub is needed for other purposes, the eel, named Aalfred, is transferred into a bucket.

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