Lead Story

A June issue of the British Medical Journal reported that Finnish men, alone among the world’s men, have not shown a decline in their sperm count over the last 50 years. At 114 million sperm per milliliter, the Finnish count remains almost twice as high as the worldwide average. Scientists suspect the difference is due to Finland’s relatively pollution-free environment.

Seeds of Our Destruction

At a United Nations conference in March farmers from Somalia complained that the massive UN food shipments to that country were driving them out of business. Said one Somali farmer, “The poor farmer . . . cannot . . . cover his costs. This will kill him.”

The New York Times reported in January that officials in Beijing recently had adopted a massive program to rid the city of flies. During “attack weeks,” teams of youth and elderly people use up to 15 tons of pesticide and 200,000 flyswatters. In one successful week last August, they reduced the fly population by an estimated 20 to 30 percent. However, measurements indicated that as many as 33 flies remained per room.

In May the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began ordering various hot-pepper-based bear-repellent sprays off store shelves in Alaska because they had failed to meet EPA guidelines. EPA spokesman Jed Januch told the Anchorage Daily News that the order would be enforced even though the repellents are probably safe enough to spray on food. A loophole in the regulation permits the sprays to be sold for crime prevention as long as no reference is made to bears.

The Washington Post reported that students competing in a recent school-system contest on current affairs were asked questions about the Russian novelist Alexander “Solsanita,” former secretary-general of the United Nations “Java Parade da Cooler,” and former U.S. “senator” Barbara Jordan, who had been a representative. Said one of the quizmasters, “We’re all human.”

In March a truck driver, Hari Singh, hijacked an airliner over India, claiming to have explosives wired to his body and protesting political corruption and the fighting between Hindus and Muslims in India. Eight hours later, while the plane was refueling in Amristar, when Singh announced he was giving up the hijacking, dozens of passengers rushed toward him to get his autograph before authorities could apprehend him.

Former president Jimmy Carter persuaded singer Michael Jackson to stage a concert in Atlanta in May to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated. Carter said the immunization rate for children under age five in Atlanta is 50 percent, compared to about 80 percent in Bangladesh.

According to a recent Denver Post article, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has spent an average of $33,000 a day since November trying to contain the 160 million gallons of cyanide that spilled from a gold mine in southern Colorado. The spillage has already killed off the fish population in a large part of the Rio Grande. A private company had planned to use the cyanide for gold mining but filed for bankruptcy. EPA officials estimate the cleanup will cost $60 million.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in March that an increasing number of South Korean men are undergoing plastic surgery in order to look more Western, making it easier for them to get jobs with local firms that do business internationally. The most common operation involves adding layers of skin to the eyelids.

In April a U.S. Court of Appeals panel reversed the Key West, Florida, drug conviction of Leroy Lord, who had been found guilty based in part on possessing U.S. currency soiled with cocaine. The court wrote that cocaine is “so pervasive” in south Florida that traces could be found on most of the currency circulating there.

The Weirdo-American Community

After two years of antigay demonstrations, including picketing with signs that carry mottoes such as God Hates Fags: Romans 9:13, at funerals of AIDS victims in Kansas, Baptist minister Fred Phelps moved on to stage one in Kansas City, Missouri, in April. Last year Kansas had put a stop to the Topeka minister’s tactics by making such demonstrations illegal. Kansas City was considering adopting a similar ordinance but did not enact it soon enough. Earlier this year Phelps admitted he had made up a rumor that a Topeka city council member had AIDS.

Least Competent People

In June Richard Simonetti, 17, and George Montenez, 21, of Brooklyn, New York, were arrested in Brooklyn, Connecticut, and charged with a robbery that had taken place earlier in the evening. According to Connecticut state police, the men had committed the robbery in Bridgeport, about 50 miles from Brooklyn, New York, and had intended to drive home. However, they became confused and drove more than 100 miles in the wrong direction on the interstate. When they saw a sign for Brooklyn, they exited, thinking they were home. They became confused, tried to force a motorist to help them, and were captured.

I Don’t Think So

Wayne Bennett, 36, was charged in New Orleans in June with killing his girlfriend by stabbing her in the neck several times with a pocketknife. Bennett told police that the woman was having trouble breathing and that he was merely trying to save her life by performing an emergency tracheotomy.

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