Lead Stories

Wired magazine reported in August that a security breach at the Web site of a notorious purveyor of e-mail spam, Amazing Internet Products, left the company’s order log exposed to public view, revealing the names and addresses of 6,000 dupes who’d purchased the company’s Pinacle brand penis-enlargement pills (at $50 a bottle) in the previous four weeks. Included on the list of buyers was the manager of a $6 billion mutual fund. In July Salon reported that AIP is owned and operated by Braden Bournival, a 19-year-old high school dropout and chess wizard, and twentysomething Davis Wolfgang Hawke, an erstwhile neo-Nazi leader who was kicked out of that movement for being half Jewish.

In August the Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence, Massachusetts, reported that local superintendent of schools Wilfredo T. Laboy had recently failed the basic English proficiency test required of all teachers in the state–for the third time. A state education commissioner said that Laboy was doing “an excellent job” but that he was still going to have to pass the test. Laboy, who earns $156,560 a year and who recently put two dozen teachers on unpaid leave for having weak English skills, called the test “stupid.”

People Different From Us

Reuters reported in June that painter Rainer Herpel, 51, of Bad Ems, Germany, is speaking again after 29 years of voluntary silence. Herpel, who lives with his 78-year-old mother and titles all of his paintings with Beatles lyrics, stopped talking in 1974 when his father prevented him from enrolling in art school, but resumed speaking after his father died last year.

Our Civilization in Decline

CBS News reported in June that few states have complied with the Brady Bill’s requirement that the names of people involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness be recorded on an FBI database used to control gun purchases. A comprehensive list would contain 2.7 million names instead of the current 90,000. And business has reportedly picked up in a massage parlor in Hawera, New Zealand, since a 25-year-old sex worker and recent mother who goes by the name “Brooke” began advertising her willingness to let customers suckle her breast milk. A local spokesman for the La Leche League, a breast-feeding advocacy group, voiced concern that Brooke’s baby might be getting shortchanged.

The Litigious Society

The family of 21-year-old Amy Woods, who suffered severe and lasting brain damage when she was hit by a car seven years ago in Springfield, Massachusetts, is suing a driver who didn’t hit her. When defendant Roger O’Neil saw Woods and a companion stuck midway across a four-lane street, he stopped his van and courteously motioned the pair to cross in front of him. As soon as Woods cleared O’Neil’s van, a less civil driver smashed into her. Lawyers for the Woods family will argue that O’Neil assumed responsibility for the girl’s safety by waving at her to proceed.

Rap as a Second Language: In a June copyright infringement case, British High Court judge Kim Lewison dismissed charges made by one English rap group against another, saying that he simply couldn’t understand the words to the contested recording. Lyrics like “shizzle my nizzle,” ruled Lewison, are “for practical purposes a foreign language.” The judge therefore could not determine whether the plaintiff’s alteration of the lyrics impugned the reputation of their author.

Bad Boys! Bad Boys!

In June a federal judge unsealed the results of an investigation into Pennsylvania State Police misconduct. Among 89 lewd incidents cited in the report were the high jinks of a trooper who, while watching a football broadcast with other officers, allegedly inserted a carrot into his anus, shot the carrot out again while passing gas, ate part of the carrot, and defecated on a fellow trooper. And in July New York City deputy police commissioner Frederick J. Patrick was arrested and charged with taking $113,000 from the office charity fund he founded. Patrick, who holds a master’s degree from Princeton, allegedly used the money to enable jailed inmates to make calls to sex hotlines, then listened in for his own gratification.

Least Justifiable Homicides

Recent Provocations Leading to Murder: (1) Wouldn’t return a New York Yankees cap (Kenneth Ware, 45, allegedly stabbed his brother to death, Brooklyn, New York, July). (2) Parked a truck on top of a septic tank and wouldn’t move it (Chad Landreth, 23, allegedly shot and killed driver Brandon Rogers, 26, Samsula, Florida, June). (3) Refused to feed the family goats (Pearl Lynne Smith, 47, allegedly shot and killed husband Thomas Smith, 51, Eldon, Oklahoma, June).

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