*In July a group of lawyers and state legislators petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court to halt all executions immediately and appoint a commission to study why, in the twenty years since the state reinstated the death penalty, more death row convicts have subsequently been found innocent and freed (nine) than have been executed (eight).
*Among the many varieties of electronic virtual pets that must be fed and cared for until they "die" is My Baby Dinosaur, manufactured by a company in China. An Associated Press story in August reported a complaint by Ms. Dale Brooks, who bought one in Connecticut. The user's manual was apparently written by someone for whom English is not the primary language: Instructions about how to deal with the dinosaur's virtual defecation matter-of-factly use the s-word.
*In August a judge in Des Moines, Iowa, turned down two inmates' petitions for Jewish privileges, citing the facts that the men were not Jews when they came to prison and didn't know much about Jewish traditions, and the suspicion that the men were interested only in Jewish ceremonial fruits and shawls, which are helpful to inmates in, respectively, making wine and strangling people.
*Though the Fiesta de San Isidro in Madrid, Spain, is reputed to be the world's major bullfighting event, organizers this past June economized by buying cheaper, docile bulls. An ordinary card would feature six bulls with three alternates. One night the star bulls were booed and the three substitutes quickly used up, so one of the rejected bulls was painted with white splotches and returned to the ring. The crowd got wise -- and rioted -- when the matador's pants turned whiter and whiter with each pass.
*After Calle, a 30-year-old elephant at the San Francisco Zoo, had repeatedly rejected her tuberculosis medicine, the curator and a local pharmacist finally devised a drug-delivery system in August: She was fitted with special ten-inch-long, ten-pound, cocoa-butter suppositories containing the medicines, which she'll have to take daily for ten months. A team of four is required to administer each one. Said associate curator Michele Rudovsky: "It's not a pretty sight."
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*In July Charmaine Josiah awakened in the middle of the night in Pompano Beach to an unfamiliar presence. When she turned on the light, there on her pillow was Theodore, a five-foot-long boa constrictor that had escaped from a neighbor's house weeks earlier. And in August in Copenhagen, Denmark, Thor Skule lifted his toilet seat first thing in the morning and saw the head of a three-foot-long python peeking up from the bowl; it had been hiding in the plumbing since the previous occupant of Skule's apartment moved out in April.
*In April San Diego plastic surgeon Joseph Graves was found negligent by a jury in breast-implant surgery on a 30-year-old former beauty queen. According to the woman, Graves was assisted in surgery by a friend of his, a waiter, who may actually have been the one who inserted the implants.
*In July the Centers for Disease Control reported the first instance of HIV transmitted not through sex or drugs but through deep kissing. Doctors are convinced the transmitting agent was not saliva but blood; they said the man had gum disease, canker sores, and "hairlike growths on his tongue." The woman had bleeding gums. Apparently none of the above was a deterrent to passion.
-- By Chuck Shepherd