Lead Story

In a series of contests run by the Wall Street Journal that pit professional stock analysts against Journal employees who pick stocks by throwing darts at company names, the dart throwers trail by only three points–the score stands at 18 to 15. Results of the latest contest, announced March 4, saw the dart throwers’ “portfolio” gain 15 percent while the professional analysts’ stocks fell by 26 percent.

Unclear on the Concept

School officials in Suffolk, Virginia, suspended an 11-year-old boy in January after he broke the school rule against carrying weapons onto school grounds. The boy’s weapon of choice was a toy gun charm, one and a quarter inches long, purchased for a quarter from a vending machine. Administrators had originally argued that expulsion was in order because the boy wielded the toy as if it were a real gun.

In February an arbitrator ruled that officials at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, must reimburse a civilian employee for the five days he had been suspended from work without pay for illegally using a government truck. The government had originally proposed to suspend him for 30 days but reduced that to 5. However, the arbitrator ruled that the law requires a minimum suspension of 30 days, and so the government must reimburse him for the improper punishment.

In September a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, ruled against a woman who had failed the exam for her public school teaching certificate. Sofia P. Pandazides, 26, claimed the test was unfair and that she should have had unlimited time to take it because she is “learning impaired.”

In December director Ken Anakin wrapped up work for an Italian production company’s film that Anakin said will show the human side of the 13th-century Mongol warlord Genghis Khan. “The other side,” said Anakin, “is more like a country boy with a peasant mentality.”

The New York Times reported recently that the Environmental Protection Agency, asked to officially respond to a congressional report charging that the agency uses too many outside contractors, paid a contractor $20,000 to write the response.

New Housing Starts

This month, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, former welder Violet Hobaugh, 76, begins her second year of residence in a five-by-five-foot tree house, according to a report from the Knight-Ridder news service. The state Department of Transportation cut down a nearby tree to widen a highway, and Hobaugh fears that if she leaves her tree the state will fell it too. She says the tree protects her house from cars that careen off the road.

In February Antioch, California, artist William Leroy, 39, declared the eucalyptus tree in which he had been living in a week-long protest to be his official address. Several days later he began receiving mail there from supporters who join him in urging that the city not destroy the tree.

As of early March police in Newcastle, England, had not captured the “Hole in the Wall Boy,” believed to be about 13, who lives in tunnels and air-conditioning ducts and has been robbing and terrorizing residents of a local housing project.

The Associated Press recently reported that Ernest Dittemore had completed 18 years of sleeping in a four-by-ten-foot hole in the ground on his property in Troy, Kansas. Dittemore began spending nights in the hole after his house burned down in 1974. When neighbors chipped in to buy him a trailer, he moved his possessions into it but continued to sleep in the hole, which he says is “a lot easier to heat.”

In December a court in Oslo, Norway, ruled that Oslo University did not have to permit a current student, a 39-year-old astrophysics major, to attend class until he bathes. The man has been living in a cave near the campus for 14 years and had sued the university for $470,000 for denying him access to an exam. He had argued that the case was about “my right to decide how I want to live” and “not about whether I smell bad or not.”

Creme de la Weird

Russian businessman Vyacheslav Golovin told the Washington Post in March that the key to the future of his city of Tambov may lie in making a Western-style tourist attraction out of the local cemetery, where thousands of German, French, Japanese, American, and Russian prisoners died during the Stalin era. He said the local prison camp had been shrouded in such secrecy that “thousands” of families do not yet know that their relatives are buried there. He admitted that the idea is controversial in Tambov: “We don’t care about our own dead, so why should we care about outsiders?”

Least Competent People

The Los Angeles Times reported in February that the careless editing of two stories aired by TV station KCBS might have led drug dealers to retaliate against an interviewee. The woman agreed to be interviewed on the air for a story about drug sales only after her anonymity was guaranteed. The broadcast, however, included several telltale clues about her identity, including her age and occupation, the color of her hair, her first name (inadvertently mentioned by the interviewee but not edited out by the station), a view of the inside of her apartment, and a view from a window that made it obvious where she lived. Three days after the broadcast a Molotov cocktail, which failed to ignite, was thrown through the interviewee’s window.

The Diminishing Value of Life

A 39-year-old man was gunned down by a friend in his home in Dayton, Ohio, in January after an argument over whether light or dark liquor was better and who could drink the most.

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