Lead Story

After much criticism, the police department in Naples, Florida, canceled its latest campaign against drug dealers in October. The department, which has one black officer (out of a staff of 75), had dressed undercover white officers in blackface and “colorful” clothes because, said one official, “sales are made predominantly by blacks.”

Government in Action

When promoters of Japan’s National Arbor Festival in May realized that the site where Emperor Akihito and his wife would plant a ceremonial tree was downwind from a 3,100-head pig farm, the Nagasaki government spent about $50,000 to temporarily perfume the pigs with lemon-and-lime air freshener.

The federal government recently downgraded its estimate that “top secret,” “secret,” and “confidential” are stamped on 10 million documents a year, claiming that only 6.8 million were so stamped in the last fiscal year.

In April, California officials declined to spray malathion over a five-square-mile area of Riverside County to kill the Mediterranean fruit flies because an endangered species of rat living there might have been affected.

In May campus police at the University of Alabama at Birmingham started guaranteeing a ten-minute-maximum response time to emergencies (including jump starts for dead batteries), offering coupons for free car washes as payment if they took longer.

San Diego County political leaders were in a tizzy earlier this year when they discovered that the board of supervisors, to save $600,000 in constructing a jail seven years ago, had the walls made out of drywall and Styrofoam instead of concrete (making the jail structure weaker than that of the local dog pound). Eleven jailbreaks have occurred since, most from quick punches through walls.

A deputy sheriff in Hernando County, Florida, arrested a three-year-old boy in May after a neighbor complained that the boy was uprooting his flamingo lawn ornaments. During a reporter’s visit, the boy was rolling on a pile of laundry on his living room floor, saying (about the flamingo incident), “That’s a no-no.”

In a report by the defense select committee to Britain’s House of Commons in May, private security guards at 56 British military installations were criticized as being “hopeless,” “not strong enough to perform . . . heavy lifting,” “often asleep on the job,” and in some cases “afraid of the dark.”

The findings of a Senate Budget Committee report on Pentagon spending earlier this year included the revelations that the Army is increasing the number of sizes available in women’s shirts from 54 to 126 (the clothing industry uses only about 40 sizes) and that the Navy has acquired 53,268 of a certain F-14 airplane machine tool whose rate of use (four per year) means the Navy is now stocked up on it for the next 13,157 years.

Creme de la Weird

Police in Caracas, Venezuela, arrested a 37-year-old ophthalmologist and 11 others in May, charging them with running a stolen-eyeball ring from the city morgue. The scandal broke when a pathologist working on a body happened to notice that the eyeballs were missing and, on checking, found that eyeballs on all the other bodies were also missing.

In a story later used as the basis for an L.A. Law episode, Thomas Donaldson, 46, a mathematician in Sunnyvale, California, who has a brain tumor, filed suit against the state in May for the right to have his head frozen (“cryonically suspended”) and severed so that some day scientists might attach it to a healthy body. Other people leave such instructions for their bodies after death, but Donaldson wants the procedure done as the cause of death.

In June, while Trish and Vincent Caminiti were vacationing at Disney World, 20,000 bees, arriving in a dense black three-foot-wide funnel cloud that a neighbor said “sounded like a helicopter,” invaded their home in Bayport, New York, entering a hole between the roof and gutter. They produced two kilograms of honey and 10,000 offspring before technicians removed them with a large vacuum cleaner.

At a public appearance in June in Little Rock, Arkansas, black activist Robert “Say” McIntosh punched out Ralph Forbes, the segregationist Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, because Forbes had earlier prevented McIntosh from burning an American flag. McIntosh then endorsed Forbes’s candidacy, saying, “I’ve always favored white people who will tell you they don’t like you.”

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