Lead Story

According to an August story in Wired magazine, 22-year-old Robert Todino of Woburn, Massachusetts, has sent nearly 100 million spam e-mail messages since November 2001 in an attempt to locate time-travel hardware; he believes he’s dying of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and needs “temporal reversion” to undo the tampering with his brain that caused it. (During his childhood, a woman his father dated supposedly poisoned him with “mind-transducers” that give “evil beings” the capacity to track his every move.) Among other things, Todino is seeking an “Acme 5X24 series time transducing capacitor with built-in temporal displacement” and an “AMD Dimensional Warp Generator module containing the GRC79 induction motor,” but “the conspiracy” has frustrated his attempts to acquire them.

Our Civilization in Decline

In August an Illinois school district comprising parts of Cook, Kane, and Du Page counties decided that it could not afford to operate four new schools it had just built; though the buildings (which cost a total of $40 million) are ready for students, they’ll stay locked up for the entire school year, if not longer. And a September report by the federal government’s General Accounting Office described how undercover agents in seven states acquired driver’s licenses using fake birth certificates or forged out-of-state licenses; most clerks didn’t recognize the forgeries, and when they did, they sometimes returned them, helpfully instructing applicants on how to correct the “errors.”

Latest Religious Messages

In Williamsburg, New York, ultra-Orthodox Jews are feuding over the use of the “eruv” loophole to permit the carrying of objects (or the pushing of baby strollers or wheelchairs) outside the home on the Sabbath. (An eruv is a symbolic wall, often constructed from wood posts and wire, which “encloses” the labor in an extension of the home.) Members of the locally dominant Satmar sect have sabotaged the Williamsburg eruv and attacked neighborhood Jews carrying things on the Sabbath; in September they started a brawl that involved close to 100 people. “The [Satmars] were like animals,” said a security guard who witnessed the incident.

In August in Salt Lake City, state and local law-enforcement officials met to discuss the problems posed by the schismatic Mormon polygamist community in the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. In addition to reviewing charges that underage girls are routinely forced into plural marriages, the officials considered options for stemming the flow of millions in federal benefits annually to polygamous wives who claim to be single mothers on welfare applications.

In July bookstores began selling Revolve, a 392-page glossy softcover “biblezine” that combines a modernized version of the New Testament with biblical takes on a typical teen girl’s supposed concerns: beauty tips, fashion secrets, and dating advice. (According to Revolve executive Laurie Whaley, boys must always take the lead in relationships: “There’s no indication from Scripture that Mary Magdalene ever picked up the phone and called Christ.”)

Least Competent Criminals

In August in Florida’s Ocala National Forest, wildlife officials cited Israel A. Cervantes for illegally shooting a deer from his car at night, then asked to search his home freezer for deer meat. Professing his innocence, Cervantes agreed, apparently forgetting about the pound of marijuana in the freezer; the officials found no venison, but he was arrested anyway.

In August in Greenwood, Indiana, 19-year-old William Penny was arrested on suspicion of identity theft after attracting the attention of bystanders by operating an ATM while wearing a motorcycle helmet: three times in a three-day period, he’d approached the same ATM on foot, donned the helmet (apparently to hide his face from the machine’s camera), made a withdrawal, walked away, and removed the helmet. Police found several fake driver’s licenses and dozens of credit cards on his person.

More Things to Worry About

In September the Danish beer company Carlsberg announced that it would move its bottling operation in Stockholm, Sweden, to Gothenburg because the spring it had used near Stockholm is contaminated with uranium. Also in September, authorities in Putnam County, West Virginia, announced that someone had broken into the home of a sheriff’s deputy while he was on vacation and set up a methamphetamine lab there.

Thinning the Herd

On September 1 in Denver, a 20-year-old man was killed when he threw himself out of a car going about 40 mph. According to the two friends who were riding with him (who hadn’t believed he would really jump), the man hadn’t intended to die; he’d believed he had to endure a “traumatic incident” to earn the right to get a tattoo.

In the Last Month

In Boulder, Colorado, a 47-year-old man chalked up his 177th arrest, this one for allegedly trying to steal a woman’s backpack; he’d been released from jail (after serving a short DUI sentence) the day before. In Houston, Texas, a 36-year-old man holed up in a hotel room was captured by a SWAT team after holding off police for ten hours; the incident began when he threatened to kill several hotel workers because there was no ice (he turned out to be armed with a pocketknife). And in Mississippi County, Arkansas, absolutely no one voted in the September 16 school board election, not even Carl Miner, who was running unopposed and could’ve won with a single vote.

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