Lead Stories

In September veterinarians at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said that they had learned to detect illegal udder enhancements (sometimes called “boob jobs”) on show cows at dairy expositions. A smooth, full, symmetrical udder means good milk production, and makes the cow and her offspring more valuable–accordingly, 40 percent of a dairy cow’s grade depends on the udder. Tests of the milk can reveal whether saline or glucose solutions were injected into the udder, and ultrasound can detect both isobutane gas injections (“foamies”) and the presence of a “liquid silver protein” (which reduces wrinkles, working like the botulinum toxin used by cosmetic surgeons).

In June, while the Bush camp was attempting to mobilize support for an invasion of Iraq, administration representatives were also working with Iraq, the Vatican, and a powerful bloc of dozens of Islamic nations to fight United Nations resolutions supported by almost all of America’s traditional allies; points of contention for the U.S. team included reproductive health services (because those services could include abortion) and sex education (because only abstinence should be taught). One critic called it perverse to blame Iraq for “unspeakable acts of terrorism” while joining it in “the oppression of women.”

Contemporary Holy Shrines

In September in Thailand’s Phang Nga province, a frog discovered near a stone footprint of the Buddha ostensibly revealed two winning lottery numbers on its belly when rubbed with talcum powder. Also in September, a potato in the shape of the Hindu god Ganesh attracted pilgrims to a Muslim home in Mumbai, India; the family living there has become vegetarian out of respect for the beliefs of its visitors. And in the same month, a greenhouse in Ile a la Crosse, Saskatchewan, became a holy site when an image of the Virgin Mary appeared to the faithful in the condensation on its walls.

Can’t Possibly Be True

In Butler, Alabama, Medell Banks and his estranged wife, Victoria, who are both mentally retarded, are serving 15-year sentences for killing their newborn baby in 1999, despite evidence that no baby ever existed–Victoria was sterilized by tubal ligation in 1995. Early in 1999, she claimed she was pregnant while in jail on an unrelated charge; a local doctor thought he heard a fetal heartbeat, but because Victoria objected he performed no further tests. When she was returned to prison later that year and her “baby” had vanished, authorities assumed it had been born and killed, then pressured the couple (and Victoria’s sister, also retarded) into confessions. In August a state appeals court ordered a new trial for Medell, but he remains in prison.

Police Blotter

From Montana’s Bozeman Chronicle, September 24: “A caller reported at 7 PM Sunday that a man was holding a knife to a woman in a car parked in the Albertson’s parking lot. Officers responded and determined that the woman was actually using the man’s knife to clean her teeth.”

From the August newsletter of Alta, Utah, excerpted in the Salt Lake Tribune: “July 14: At 12 PM, the deputy on duty responded to a report of a man chasing a moose in Albion Basin. It is suspected that this is related to a subsequent report of a moose chasing a man.”

People With Issues

In August in Gainesville, Florida, neurologist Joseph James Warner was arrested after police called to his home during a domestic altercation found hundreds of human body parts, including heads, hearts, spines, and brains. Warner was charged with illegally storing the parts, most of which he’d removed without permission from his lab at the University of Florida (he was promptly fired). One of Warner’s former girlfriends called the house a “hellhole,” complaining of the overpowering smell of preservative chemicals leaking from the tanks and jars, and according to a St. Petersburg Times reporter, Warner’s colleagues and friends have described him as “shy,” “brilliant,” and “deeply troubled.”

Our Civilization in Decline

During July’s flooding in China’s Henan province, a 12-year-old boy drowned in a river while ten people on the shore haggled with his father over a rescue price; the father eventually met their demands, offering $1,100, but by then it was too late. And in September the education minister of Nova Scotia announced plans to add a special mark to the diplomas of high school graduates who never passed the mandatory literacy test (quickly nicknamed “buyer beware” diplomas).

In the Last Month

In Khomeini Shahr, Iran, a 55-year-old condemned murderer suffered a heart attack at his own public execution, just as the noose was placed around his neck; he was revived and hospitalized, and will be hanged when he recovers….Mike Taylor, Montana’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, briefly withdrew from the race after his opponent ran ads featuring clips from “Beauty Corner,” a TV program Taylor had hosted in the 80s; he claimed the ads were intended to make him look like a gay hairdresser….And a 25-year-old man in scrubs was arrested at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital and charged with sexual assault after fondling several new mothers, whom he’d assured he was a “lactation technician.”

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