Lead Story

Pricing abuses that came to light in July as a result of the settlement of a lawsuit against American Medical International hospitals in Florida included $54.30 for a sponge and $7.80 for an antiseptic swab. In a separate dispute a Humana hospital in Saint Petersburg agreed to lower some of the prices it was charging, including $50 each for Advil and Tylenol tablets.

The Continuing Crisis

The Equitable life-insurance company recently printed 2.5 million copies of a 349-page document intended to help its policyholders decide whether to hold a public sale of company stock. Stacked on top of each other, the documents would reach nearly 20 miles high, beating by about 200 feet AT&T’s 1983 printing order explaining its divestiture to shareholders.

Local Detroit legislator Gil DeNello recently proposed a ban on the Super Soaker water gun but refused to back down on his opposition to control of real guns. Asked by the Detroit News to explain the apparent contradiction, DeNello said, “Real guns are intended to kill. [The Super Soaker] is intended as a toy.”

The nudist American Sunbathing Association, along with several individual nudist camps, recently initiated a drive to donate used clothing to the homeless and dislocated victims of the Los Angeles riots.

On July 1 the city of East Saint Louis, Illinois, began municipal garbage pickup for the first time since 1985, when the city ran out of money for it. Mayor Gordon Bush estimated that in the past seven years about one-third of residents arranged private pickup and the other two-thirds dumped their garbage illegally.

Twice within five weeks this summer drug runners in small planes near Miami were forced to jettison their entire cargo–one because of engine trouble and the other after it was detected by antismuggling radar. More than $21 million worth of cocaine fell from the sky in bales in suburban areas, but all of it was recovered by law-enforcement agencies.

In April an eight-woman, four-man jury in Columbia, South Carolina, found a husband not guilty of raping his wife, despite a videotape that showed her tied up with her eyes and mouth taped while he assaulted her. The husband had argued that the scenario and the woman’s screams were part of a consensual rough sex game between the two. (The judge had barred testimony from the man’s first wife, who said he had tied her up and raped her, too.)

Things You Thought Didn’t Happen

U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists announced in June that pumping cottage-cheese whey onto sloping fields could cut soil erosion by 65 to 75 percent. The scientists said the whey’s milky stickiness was what made it effective, and also noted that the whey replenished nutrients in the soil.

Nearly 5,000 British prostitutes have supported a new voluntary organization, OffPro, formed to impose a code of ethics for prostitutes and to self-regulate the brothel industry. The organization’s telephone message urges customers to write “if you have been ripped off, infected by disease, or received poor standards of service.” It adds, “If your complaint is upheld, OffPro will compensate you with either a cash refund or an alternative service from one of our recommended prostitutes.”

The Los Angeles Times reported in October that Pete’s Out in the Cold Bar, and several other New Orleans bars, still require blacks to enter through a side door and to dine separately from whites. Said one elderly white patron, “It’s the custom. It ain’t right and it’s illegal as hell, but that’s just how it is.”

In August Thomas Bus Service of Burlington, Wisconsin, agreed to pay $1.9 million in damages to Cynthia Ellwood, who suffered severe brain damage in a collision. The collision occurred when Ellwood’s husband (with Cynthia in the passenger seat) drove through a stop sign at 50 mph and ran into the bus. The company settled because under Wisconsin law it could have been liable for all of Ellwood’s expenses even if the husband was at fault.

The Weirdo-American Community

Two years after the death of a Birmingham, Alabama, resident, his relatives are still fighting over an estate worth more than $600,000. Before Dargan Suther died at age 73, he had taken to living in a tent in his yard because his house was so cluttered it was impossible to walk through it. Most of the possessions were decades-old newspapers and items acquired, said authorities, only because he thought the price was right.

The Diminishing Value of Life

In August sheriff’s detectives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, accused Orrette Moore, 39, of killing two men and wounding two others in a restaurant. He had just lost $5 in a card game.

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