Lead Story

A New York City Emergency Medical Services crew that was called to a Macy’s rest room on July 25 decided the contents of a plastic bag a cleaning woman had found in a toilet had to be a fetus. A few minutes later a crew from the city medical examiner’s office arrived and determined that the bag contained spaghetti.

First Things First

In June the state of Maine yanked the driver’s license of a divorced father–the first person to be affected by a 1993 law authorizing the revocation of driver’s licenses and professional licenses (including those for doctors, lawyers, architects, plumbers, and electricians) of parents behind on child-support payments. Not subject to revocation under the law are hunting and fishing licenses.

In August Marie-Noelle Guillernee, 42, drowned in a deep water hole at a tourist attraction near Mont Saint-Michel, France, when she tried to save her six-year-old daughter. Dozens of tourists were watching the ten-minute rescue attempt, but none of them tried to assist the woman or called for help. Spectators reported hearing one tourist say, “I got the whole thing on tape.”

Last fall in a jail in New Haven, Connecticut, inmate Francis Gotlibowski was beaten and kicked by other inmates in an attack that sent him to the intensive-care unit of the Yale-New Haven Hospital. After an investigation a jail spokesman found that Gotlibowski was beaten because he’d dropped litter on the floor of the cafeteria. Said the spokesman, “[The inmates] apparently have their own code to keep the place clean.”


According to England’s Manchester Guardian newspaper, members of a village in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea had raised about $530 by August toward a legal defense fund for O.J. Simpson.

In New York City in July Bartolome Moya, 37, skipped town after being released on bail. In 1993 Moya, charged with kidnapping, drug dealing, and six murders, was jailed pending trial, but his heart disease was so bad that the judge thought his death was imminent and dismissed the charges so Moya could go home to die. In February 1994 Moya obtained a medicare-financed heart transplant, one of only 2,000 people who got hearts–6,000 were on waiting lists–during a 12-month period. Prosecutors learned of the transplant, reindicted Moya in May, and jailed him. Then a judge released him on bail on condition that Moya wear a beeper/monitor. Moya has not been heard from since.

The regional airline Markair apologized in July to Rosalyna Lopez, who was on a Tucson-to-D.C. flight in May when a flight attendant ordered her to stop speaking Spanish to a relative traveling with her. “No Spanish!” said the attendant. “English only! Do you understand that?”

In August New York City criminal court judge Sheryl Parker ruled that the well-known Times Square tourist hustle known as three-card monte–in which players try to follow the path of one red card thrown in with two black ones–was legal, which meant criminal charges against dealer Eric Hunt had to be thrown out. Police routinely describe players’ chances of winning the game as “zero,” because the dealers are so good at sleight of hand and intimidation. Asked one officer, “What is that judge, about 100 years old?”

In April police in Des Moines easily subdued Ronald Albert Siedelman in the Norwest Bank after he gave a teller a long, poorly written note that officers characterized as implying that he intended to commit robbery and asking for “$19 trillion.” Siedelman further astounded tellers by walking outside as they were deciphering the note. He said he wanted to smoke a cigarette and didn’t want to violate the bank’s no-smoking policy.

A prototype suitcase-car, manufactured by the government of Toyooka City in partnership with an electronics firm, was introduced in July at an international travel-baggage exposition in Japan. The device looks like an ordinary large plastic suitcase but can be converted into a battery-driven automobile capable of transporting a rider at up to six miles an hour. A spokesman for the manufacturer admitted the car had drawbacks: it costs about as much as a real car and weighs more than passengers are permitted to carry aboard airliners.

After a six-month investigation the California Department of Health Services decided in September that it was merely stress, and not mysterious fumes, that had knocked several hospital emergency-room workers unconscious in February in Riverside, California. One of the workers, who’s been hospitalized since February and has undergone three bone operations, called the diagnosis of stress “absurd and ridiculous.”

In August Ottawa biologist David Brez Carlisle told a meeting of geologists in Waterloo, Ontario, that the exotic amino acids found in several rocks from space, which are considered evidence that extraterrestrial life exists, are not what they seem. Carlisle said the space rocks he’s examined contain not the exotic amino acids but flakes of human dandruff, which have a chemical makeup similar to the amino acids. Carlisle said he knows a lot about dandruff because he has had a severe case all of his life.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

In August the New York Times reported on Zimbabwe’s salutary birth-control efforts, which have been led by more than 800 family-planning missionaries who regularly tour the countryside. The achievement has also helped produce a new export industry: selling wooden penises to family-planning programs in other African countries to use when demonstrating how to apply condoms.

I Don’t Think So

Lloyd Johnson Jr., 38, was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida, in May. He admitted to running by a bank’s drive-through teller chute and swiping money just before the waiting motorist could grab it. Johnson told Judge Morton Kesler he wasn’t a thief; he said he’d been using an automatic teller machine elsewhere on the bank’s property but was unfamiliar with how it worked and thought he had to run over to the drive-through chute to retrieve his money.

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