Lead Stories

Former CIA officer Victor Marchetti told London’s Daily Telegraph in November about Operation Acoustic Kitty, a 1960s project in which the agency surgically implanted batteries and wires into a cat and an antenna into its tail so that it could transmit eavesdropped conversations. The project was five years in development when the first kitty was deployed, which was immediately run over by a taxicab.

A couple of days after the problem was highlighted in a Reuters news story, the Pentagon decided to change the color of the food packages it was dropping over Afghanistan from yellow to blue so recipients would be less confused. For several weeks it had been dropping both square yellow packages of food and cylindrical yellow cluster bombs, along with flyers that explained what each shape meant and urged people to open the former but avoid the latter.

An October San Francisco Chronicle dispatch reported that the parents of Amy Biehl–the 26-year-old Fulbright scholar murdered by a mob of black South African kids in 1993–have come to grips with the tragedy to such an extent that they’ve not only started a foundation in their daughter’s name to fund community projects in Cape Town but recently hired her two principal killers to work for it.

Transsexuals in the Mainstream

Former Miami police captain Scott Cote said in September that he would help prosecutors by testifying about his estranged wife’s worker-compensation fraud scheme, but only under his new persona, Stacey Cote….Australia’s Green Party was represented in the November elections by Melbourne parliamentary candidate Tony Briffa, 31, a hermaphrodite who was raised as Antoinette Briffa but who recently began testosterone therapy.

Latest Religious Messages

Eighty-one-year-old Mary Braun, a member of the radical Sons of Freedom Doukhobours, tried to go to court nude after being charged with setting fire to a college building in Nelson, British Columbia, in October, but staff members covered her with blankets. Braun’s religious sect believes in both disrobing and burning possessions as methods of spiritual cleansing.

Israeli security agents scrambled to high alert in September over what they feared was a suicide bomber landing near the airport in the town of Eilat. It turned out to be Rabbi Shimon Eizenbach, carrying out a midair version of the pre-Yom Kippur ritual of kapparot, in which chickens are swung over the head to atone for sins. As he floated down in a glider, carrying a hen in one cage and a rooster in another, security forces held their fire.

Due to the recent $5.2-million settlement between the LA diocese and an alleged molestation victim, a Catholic Church official told the Los Angeles Times in August, a church under construction in Yorba Linda will have windows on the doors of its confessionals to help protect parishioners from priests. Said the official, “Building a church that creates a safe and open environment will be very important to [us].”

Cultural Diversity

A faction of the Luhya tribe in western Kenya continues to practice “wife inheritance,” in which a woman who is widowed is obliged to marry another family member or risk acquiring a curse. According to a May Agence France-Presse dispatch, tradition provides that if a widow refuses, the family may posthumously pay any available man to have sex with her corpse so that her soul can be saved.

According to an October Knight Ridder dispatch from Hanoi, a favorite trysting place for Vietnamese prostitutes and their customers is the museum that used to be part of the “Hanoi Hilton” POW compound, particularly the room in which U.S. pilots were held and tortured.

People Different From Us

According to an October Canadian Press report, several tax-evasion defendants have recently resorted to using a math-based language called “In the Truth”–invented by American David Wynn Miller, who says he wanted to replace the “flawed syntax” of English–when they defend themselves in court. Stated one defendant: “With the sovereign, hyphen, authority of the Andrew, hyphen, William, colon, Sereda is for the stating of the authority of the noun.” So far most judges have responded by awarding “In the Truth” speakers a government-paid mental examination, and Canadian immigration’s response has been to ban Miller from the country.

Thinning the Herd

Three weeks after hanging himself in his Ohio jail cell, William Stewart finally died of his injuries in November. Stewart had been imprisoned on suspicion of murdering his wife, Joyce, pieces of whose body were found in garbage bags in the backseat of Stewart’s car after he was pulled over for driving drunk in October. Joyce, mother of convicted murderer Mark DiMarco, had served time for perjury and obstruction of justice in her son’s case and was known as a sort of a house mother to his delinquent friends. DiMarco had been serving a 94-year sentence when, in 1999, he committed his own suicide-by-hanging.

In the Last Month

A 20-year-old karate black belt in Jersey City, after bragging that she could catch an arrow shot from a bow with her bare hand, instead deflected it into her eye, which she lost….Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols threatened to starve himself if he didn’t get a higher-fiber diet….A 17-year-old high school student in Ann Arbor, dressed as a vagina for his school’s Halloween costume contest, won first prize and was then promptly suspended for the rest of the week.

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