News of the Weird
Bureaucrat’s delight: An update of the official index for classifying medical conditions (for research and quality control, and for insurance claims) was released recently, to take effect in October 2013, and replaced the current 18,000 codes with 140,000 much more specific ones. A September Wall Street Journal report noted, for example, 72 different codes for injuries involving birds, depending on the type. “Bitten by turtle” is different from “struck by turtle.” Different codes cover injuries in “opera houses,” on squash courts, and exactly where in or around a mobile home an injury occurred. “Walked into lamppost, initial encounter” is distinct from “walked into lamppost, subsequent encounter.” Codes cover conditions stemming from encounters with extraterrestrials and conditions resulting from “burn due to water skis on fire.” “Bizarre personal appearance” has a code, as well as “very low level of personal hygiene.”
• A small number of environmental and animal rights activists employ violence and physical threats in attempts to achieve their goals, and similar tactics have recently been used by another group bent on intimidating scientists: sufferers of “chronic fatigue syndrome.” London’s Observer reported in August that medical researchers who even suggest that the illness might have a “psychological” component have been subject to vitriolic abuse, stalking, disruptions to the scientists’ workplaces and death threats. In at least one case, the activists succeeded: A psychiatry professor said he moved his area of research from chronic fatigue to Gulf War syndrome. “That has taken me to Iraq and Afghanistan where… I feel a lot safer.”
• Although the Patriot Act, drafted in the days after 9-11 and quickly enacted into law, was designed expressly to give prosecutors more leeway to challenge suspected terrorism, one of its key provisions has since then been used more than 100 times as often for drug investigations as for terrorism. New York magazine reported in September that “sneak and peek” warrants (enabling searches without notifying the targets) have been obtained only 15 times for terrorism threats but 1,618 times in drug cases.
• Cicero, Ill. Town President Larry Dominick, the defendant in sexual harassment lawsuits filed by two female employees, gave depositions in the cases, in March 2009 and February 2011, but provided challenging answers on one issue. Asked in 2009 whether he had “ever touched” the plaintiff, Dominick, under oath, said “No.” However, in 2011, Dominick (again under oath) gave a narrative of his relationship with the same plaintiff beginning in 2005, admitting that he had had sex with her numerous times at her home. (Dominick claimed to have misinterpreted the earlier question.)
• Unclear on the concept: (1) Pennsylvania state Rep. Michael Sturla, an opponent of increased natural-gas drilling in his district, warned in August that one effect of the drilling would be an increase of sexually transmitted diseases “amongst the womenfolk.” (He said later that he had heard that from a hospital administrator.) (2) Nicholas Davis was arrested in a public park in Seattle in August while, according to a police officer, “masturbating violently.” The officer said Davis explained, “There just isn’t enough free love in Seattle.”
Creme de la Weird
• A female Wisconsin prison chaplain was charged in September with several crimes in an alleged attempt to stage a fake hostage situation with an inmate for the purpose of gaining transfers to another prison in the state. Prosecutors said the chaplain, a Wiccan priest named Jamyi Witch, 52, instructed the inmate at Oshkosh Correctional Institution to come to her office, barricade the door, throw things around the room and role-play as if she were his mother. While the office was under siege, the pair allegedly had consensual sex, and Witch supplied the man with drugs and sang him lullabies, supposedly to calm him down, ending the drama (until charges were filed).
Least Competent Criminals
Anthony Watson, sentenced to prison in 1992 for crimes that included rape and robbery, became a notorious jailhouse lawyer (even drafting a book, A Guide to the Plea Circus) and through successful challenges had reduced his 160-year sentence to 26 — and a release date of 2018. However, he filed one appeal too many. A court ruled in his favor on that final appeal and ordered a new trial (vacating the convictions and sentence but also the reductions Watson had worked so hard for). At the retrial in March 2011, he was found guilty and sentenced to four consecutive life terms.
‘© 2011 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press