Lead Story

More than six decades after losing the use of his right eye in a WWII explosion, Don Karkos apparently regained it in a 2006 workplace accident. Karkos, an 82-year-old security guard at a harness track in Monticello, New York, told reporters in December that his vision returned shortly after he was head-butted by a usually well-behaved racehorse named My Buddy Chimo. One ophthalmologist interviewed by the New York Daily News suggested that the impact might have knocked a long-dislocated lens back into place.

Leading Economic Indicators

In a December dispatch from New Delhi, Reuters reported on India’s recent crackdown on violations of wildlife protection law and its repercussions for the nation’s snake charmers. Facing stricter enforcement of statutes against capturing or keeping endangered cobras, many snake charmers have left the profession their families have practiced for generations. Others continue to perform their traditional routines–except without the snakes. Perhaps understandably, revenues are down; one veteran charmer told the reporter, “We are hardly earning half of what we used to earn before.”

At a December media conference in New York, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster fielded questions from a roomful of Wall Street analysts, who according to several bloggers present seemed stunned by the idea that his company wasn’t interested in generating profits. Asked if Craigslist would consider running sponsored ads like Google does, Buckmaster explained that users had expressed no desire to see such ads, so the answer was no. In the same month a spokesperson for Wal-Mart, long known for its aggressive stance against its North American employees joining unions, confirmed that a branch of the Chinese Communist Party had been established at the company’s Chinese headquarters in Shenzhen.

It’s not just the U.S.: According to a study released in January by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, by 9:46 AM on January 2 the 100 highest-paid executives in Canada had earned as much in 2007 as the average Canadian worker would earn for the entire year.

Alarming Science

An article in the January/February issue of Australasian Science cited Czech studies showing that the common parasite Toxoplasma gondii–transmitted via exposure to undercooked meat or cat feces and long known as a danger to pregnant women and fetuses–may cause sex-specific personality changes in otherwise healthy adults: infected men tend to feel morose and jealous and score lower on IQ tests, while infected women are more likely to be friendly and outgoing.

The New York Times reported from Tokyo in December that to cash in on manias for dogs of certain breeds or with certain rare traits (ultratiny poodles, blue-tinted Chihuahuas), some unscrupulous breeders in Japan have resorted to high-risk inbreeding, causing a spike in horrific birth defects. In January the UK’s Daily Mail reported on ongoing efforts by scientists to create livestock genetically modified to endure factory farming without experiencing feelings of stress or aggression. And according to a study published in December by researchers at the University of Minnesota, residue of NNK, a carcinogen contained in tobacco smoke, can be found in measurable quantities in smokers’ toenails.

Least Competent Criminals

In December in Chesterfield Township, Michigan, 21-year-old Calvin Fluckes Jr. parked his car next to a group of 40 marked squad cars in a Wal-Mart parking lot and went inside, where he allegedly tried to pass an unconvincing fake check for $848. He was quickly arrested after staff called over one of the 80 uniformed police officers who were very visibly taking part in a holiday fund-raising event at the store.

Marshall Byers, 28, was charged with attempted murder in December after he allegedly broke into his estranged wife’s house in Monroe, Washington, and repeatedly stabbed her sleeping boyfriend. According to prosecutors, when police told Byers following his arrest that the victim had survived, he said, “What? I thought I stuck him like a pig. . . . What do you mean he’s alive?” (Byers had been tracked down on the other side of the state after reportedly bragging to a truck stop clerk that he was “on the run.”)

Investigating a car vandalism spree that left $35,000 in damage, authorities in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, announced in October they’d arrested a second suspect: 21-year-old Jeremy Lyons, who after seeing a WNEP TV report on the initial arrest allegedly made a series of (ultimately traceable) calls to the station to say police had the “wrong guy” and that he was “going to strike again.”

America’s Gun Problem: All-Waistband Edition

More people who recently shot themselves by accident: Manranzana Grimes, 16, leg, running with gun in waistband, lived (Canton, Ohio, September); Gregory Quinn, 49, thigh, removing gun from waistband while driving, lived (Lewistown, Pennsylvania, November); unidentified man, 23, testicle, then calf, replacing gun in waistband during alleged kidnapping attempt, lived (Wichita, Kansas, November); Evando Minor, 19, scrotum and leg, getting out of cab with gun in waistband after allegedly holding up driver, lived (Baltimore, November).

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