China, Japan and Taiwan each claim ownership of the uninhabited South China Sea islands of Senkaku or Diaoyu, and the controversy heightened in September when Japan announced that it had formally “purchased” the islands from a private company that reputedly owned them. China countered by “launching” its first-ever aircraft carrier (a vessel junked in 1998 by Ukraine), which it hopes will intimidate its neighbors even though it is useless to planes. Days later, patrol boats from Taiwan and Japan had a confrontation near the islands — drenching each other in a military-grade squirt-gun fight. (Japan won.)
A 14-year-old boy was hospitalized in critical condition in Churchill, Pa., in August after allegedly swiping a Jeep Grand Cherokee and leading the owner’s boyfriend on a brief high-speed chase before rolling the Cherokee over on Interstate 376. The boy’s mother, according to WTAE-TV, blamed the Cherokee’s owner: A vehicle with the keys in it, she said, “was an opportunity that, in a 14-year-old’s eyes, was ... the perfect moment.” Also, she said, the boyfriend “had no right to chase my son.” The boy “could have just (wanted) a joyride down the street. Maybe he (merely) wanted to go farther than he felt like walking.”
n David Thompson, 27, was arrested in August and charged with stealing a bag of marijuana from the Charleroi (Pa.) Regional police station. While talking to an officer about an unrelated case, Thompson noticed an evidence bag on a counter and swiped it. Caught moments later, Thompson profusely apologized, telling the officer, “I just couldn’t help myself. That bud smelled so good.”
n Aaron Morris was charged in August with battery in North Lauderdale, Fla., for groping the buttocks of a woman at a Walmart. According to the arresting officer, Morris explained, “Her booty looked so good, I just couldn’t resist touching it.”
n Ohio death-row inmate Ronald Post, 53, asked a federal court in September to cancel his January date with destiny on the grounds that, despite almost 30 years of prison food, he’s still too fat to execute. At 480 pounds, “vein access” and other issues would cause his lethal injection to be “torturous.”
n British murderer-sadist Graham Fisher, 39, is locked up in a high-security hospital in Berkshire, England, but he, too, has been eating well (at about 325 pounds). In August, he was approved for gastric-band surgery paid for by Britain’s National Health Service at an estimated cost, including a private room for post-op recuperation, of about $25,000.
n Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti was hospitalized in the town of Shahmirzad in September, allegedly after being roughed up by a woman. According to Iran’s Mehr news agency, the cleric was merely performing his “duty,” warning an allegedly immodestly dressed woman to cover herself better. She suggested, instead, that he should “cover (his) eyes,” and when he continued admonishing her, she, unladylike, pushed him away and kicked him.
n Arrested in September and charged with aggravated indecent exposure (making continued obscene gestures to female kayakers on Michigan’s Pinnebog River while nude): 60-year-old TV producer William H. Masters III — the son of pioneer 1960s sex researcher William Masters (who, with Virginia Johnson, wrote the landmark books “Human Sexual Response” and “Human Sexual Inadequacy”).
n In August, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Gerber Legendary Blades company of Portland, Ore., announced a recall of Gerber machetes. According to CPSC, the machetes might have a defect that could cause the handle to break, making the machete, said CPSC, a “laceration hazard.”
Democracy in action!
Richard Wagner Jones, running for a school board seat in Granite, Utah, told reporters in June that since the job is mainly about taxes and budgets, he would not have to make site visits to schools. That is fortunate, for Jones is barred from schools as a registered sex offender based on a 1990 conviction.
n Mike Rios, a former school board member in Moreno Valley, Calif., said in August that he was still considering running for the town’s council despite his March arrest for attempted murder and April arrest for pimping (allegedly caught with several underage recruits).
n Verna Jackson Hammons said in August that her candidacy for mayor of Cullman, Ala., should not suffer by her having appeared 10 years earlier as “the other woman” in a love triangle on an episode of “The Jerry Springer Show.”
n Brazil has a robust democracy but with very few controls on what candidates may call themselves on ballots. Among those running for offices this election season, according to a September New York Times dispatch from Rio de Janeiro: “John Kennedy Abreu Sousa,” “Jimmi Carter Santarem Barroso,” “Ladi Gaga,” “Christ of Jerusalem,” a “Macgaiver,” five “Batmans,” two “James Bonds,” and 16 people whose name contains “Obama.” “It’s a marketing strategy,” said city council candidate Geraldo Custodio, who apparently likes his chances better as “Geraldo Wolverine.”
The litigious society
The City Council of Jersey City, N.J., voted in September to settle a lawsuit filed by Joshua Lopez, who had driven his car directly at a police officer during a 2009 traffic stop, trapping the officer against his own squad car, and thus forcing the officer to fire at him. Lopez suffered only an injured hand, but the city has now agreed to give him $26,500 out of fear of “litigation risk.”
Fungus in the news
n Yak herders in Tibet and farmers in the Indian Himalayas are becoming relatively prosperous, according to recent reports by National Geographic and London’s The Guardian, by harvesting rare caterpillar fungi. In Tibet, “yartsa gunbu” supposedly cures ailments ranging from back pain to HIV, from hair loss to asthma and more, and often sells in local markets for twice its weight in gold. In India, “kira jari” is believed to be an aphrodisiac and energy booster, but the government is trying to control the market because insufficient new larvae means the land might soon be picked clean.
n Swiss researcher Francis W.M.R. Schwarze announced in September that he will manufacture 30 violins out of wood treated with certain fungi that, in music-appreciation tests, made a lesser-grade violin sound like a Stradivarius.