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News of the Weird 

Oregon organ:
No state has had more serious budget anxiety attacks recently than Oregon, which saw some public schools close early this year after running out of money. However, another crisis surfaced in April when death-row inmate Horacio Reyes-Camarena told prison officials he would reluctantly accept the kidney transplant that would save Oregon taxpayers most of the $120,000 a year they now pay for his dialysis (and must, by law, pay until his execution, which may be as long as 10 years away, because of appeals). Some law-abiding Oregon kidney patients are being turned down for transplants because post-transplant drugs are too expensive.

Personal identity:
Just as Democratic presidential candidate Bob Graham's daily, quirky, minutely detailed, written diaries are in the news (e.g.,"6:50-7:00 - Apply scalp medication"), the Pentagon was seeking bidders for contracts to create electronic "diaries" (the LifeLog program) that could record virtually all facets of a person's daily existence (via sensors, microphones and wearable cameras), to be dumped into gigantic databases, searchable to detect behavior patterns that might be useful to the military. A Pentagon spokesman said not to be alarmed, that only consenting subjects would be used, but one privacy advocate told Wired magazine that LifeLog could be "TIA cubed," referring to the previously revealed Total Information Awareness program, which would track everyone's purchase transactions and computer usage.

Consenting Babies:
In February, a 6-month-old girl was married in a Hindu ceremony in a village in southern Nepal, according to an Agence France-Presse report. Her cradle-robbing husband is 3, and their farming-cast families feared that if the children didn't tie the knot then, each one's marriage prospects would diminish as they got older.

Give the man a drink:
In May, a priest of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, Monsignor Robert V. Yarnovitz, pleaded no contest to indecency charges for an incident at a conference in nearby Huron Township. According to police, Yarnovitz was wandering, drunk and pantsless, through the Sawmill Creek resort and when confronted by police, he repeatedly and aggressively answered their every question by uttering "Michael" and a slang phrase commanding someone to perform oral sex on him.

Priorities first:
Nancy Fortson Reynolds, 49, pleaded guilty in May to having embezzled more than $1 million from an Athens, Ga., animal vaccine manufacturer during the five years she handled the company's accounts payable. According to a police detective, Reynolds and her husband spent all of the money on a multitude of consumer products, making only one enduring capital expenditure: constructing an addition onto their double-wide mobile home.

Civic action:
Barbara Schwarz is history's most prolific filer of Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a May profile in The Salt Lake Tribune. Schwarz says she is a daughter of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and a granddaughter of President Eisenhower and said she endured a number of kidnappings and mind control and microchip-implanting procedures in her quest to learn the whereabouts of her alleged husband, whom Schwarz said disappeared after he was charged with murdering Barbara Schwarz (yes, the same one). She has, said the Tribune, "carpet-bombed" "every" federal agency with "thousands" of FOIA requests, followed by "dozens" of follow-up lawsuits (one containing 2,307 pages, naming 3,087 defendants).

Least Competent Criminals:
A 36-year-old man was tackled by customers after he robbed the Zions Bank in Salt Lake City shortly after it opened May 2. Several customers had had their eyes on him after they had seen him waiting outside for the bank to open but already wearing a hooded sweatshirt and mask, and the man meekly waited in a bank line for his turn before snatching money from a teller. And serial killer Robert Maury had his appeal turned down by the California Supreme Court in April. He had claimed that the Shasta County "secret witness" program should have concealed his identity when he called a hotline with crime tips, including the whereabouts of three murder victims, but police photographed him when he came by to collect his reward, and eventually he was convicted of those three murders.

Also, in the Last Month... :
Cockfight breeders filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that new restrictions on transporting fighting chickens constitute illegal ethnic discrimination against Cajuns and Hispanics (New Orleans). A gas station booth was rammed by a car with a dead man at the wheel; the man had shot himself to death hours before with the engine idling, and rigor mortis caused his foot finally to either fall off the brake or hit the accelerator (Boston).

2003 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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