Lead Story

Modern Drunkard, a glossy bimonthly with a circulation of 50,000, is “about drinking and only about drinking–and not just drinking, but heavy drinking,” editor Frank Kelly Rich told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month. The magazine’s editorial philosophy contends that serious drinkers are an “oppressed minority,” and recent features have included biographies of great drunks, a travelogue about drinking in Africa, and a man’s account of how drinking cured his fear of flying. Rich said he himself has between 8 and 30 drinks a day and often blacks out. Said Rich’s wife, a bartender who also works on the magazine: “When you find your calling, you have to go with it.”

Thinking Long-Term

In November artist Muhammad Mueller started work on a new project: a tunnel, to be dug by two people using only shovels, from Graz, Austria, to Slovenj Gradec, Slovenia, 42 miles away. Mueller estimated it would take 5,600 years to complete. And in September a federal appeals court refused to reconsider its ruling that threw out the safety standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency for a proposed nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The EPA had required the Department of Energy to show that radiation at the site would be contained for 10,000 years, but the court found that the EPA was legally required to base its standards on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences that advocated a safety period of 300,000 years.

Achieving the Perfect Society

Since no municipal worker in Ota, Japan, had ever requested paternity leave, the city council ruled that starting this month new fathers employed by the city must take six nonconsecutive weeks of paid leave before their child’s first birthday and submit a written report on child rearing.

Bright Ideas

In response to protests and violence in the south of Thailand, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced in November an initiative in which Thai citizens were to make origami cranes with messages of peace written on them, which would then be dropped from army planes over the troubled provinces. One crane, personally signed by Thaksin, would entitle whoever found it to a scholarship or job. According to the Christian Science Monitor an early-December airdrop of about 100 million cranes was followed almost immediately by further bombings and shootings.

Antonio Hernandez, 29, pleaded guilty in December to hijacking a Greyhound bus that had just left Green River, Utah; he said he’d intended to crash the bus into his estranged wife’s trailer home. When Hernandez was stopped near the Colorado border he was still a 600-mile drive away from his target in Lexington, Nebraska.

Sylvain Didier was convicted of sexual assault in Longueuil, Quebec, in December. Didier, a former mechanic who worked at a weight-loss clinic owned by his wife, offered a female client free treatment using a procedure he invented called “Slimtronic,” which involved passing an electrical current through rubber patches attached to the vulva. The victim testified that while ostensibly adjusting the apparatus Didier placed his finger in her vagina and left it there until she asked him to take it out.

Women Scorned

Olga Abramovich, 49, was arrested in Brooklyn in October and charged with painting about 20 swastikas on buildings and cars in Jewish neighborhoods. Police said Abramovich, who is not Jewish, was upset that her ex-husband, who is, had married a 35-year-old Jewish woman. Also in October Julie Rose, 37, was convicted of assault in Yeovil, England, and fined about $250; Rose apparently became enraged with her new neighbors, a couple in their 20s, when they declined an invitation from Rose and her husband to engage in spouse swapping.

Compelling Explanations

Ian Finlay, 28, caught in an Internet sting in August, denied at trial that he’d had sex on his mind when he showed up at a McDonald’s near Greensburg, Pennsylvania, for a meeting he’d arranged online with a “15-year-old girl.” Finlay, a computer security expert, claimed he knew all along that “Kelly” was a cop and only pretended to be a sexual predator because he wanted to outsmart and expose the investigators. (He was convicted earlier this month.) And when a 33-year-old man arrived at an apartment complex in Westerville, Ohio, in December for a meeting he’d arranged online with a “14-year-old girl,” he explained to arresting officers he wasn’t interested in sex but simply curious whether police actually do conduct sex stings over the Internet.

Least Competent Banks

According to a December Associated Press report, Utah’s 99-year-old Bank of Ephraim went under last year because (1) its head cashier allegedly embezzled almost $5 million and (2) it made a long series of bad loans to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamist Mormon splinter group, often demanding no significant collateral in return. The bank’s president said he later learned that sect members had taken a secret oath to borrow as much money as they could before the collapse of civilization, which they believed to be imminent.

People Different From Us

In October, Howard Goldstein, 47, of Brooklyn, was charged with murdering his roommate, Rabbi Rahamin Sultan, apparently over a rent dispute. According to the New York Daily News, police said that when they arrived to investigate Sultan’s disappearance, Goldstein–who like all Hasidic Jewish men has a full beard–answered the door wearing a low-cut gray blouse, slacks, pink pumps, bright red lipstick, and blue eye shadow.

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