LEAD STORY: Commercial test-preparation courses are already popular for applicants to top colleges and graduate schools, and recently also for admission to prestigious private high schools and grade schools. Now, according to a November New York Times report, such courses and private coaching are increasingly important for admission to New York City's high-achiever public kindergartens, even though the applicants are just 3 and 4 years old. Basic coaching, which may cost more than $1,000, includes training a child to listen to an adult's questions and to sit still for testing. Minimum qualification for top-shelf kindergartens are scores at the 90th percentile on the OLSAT reasoning test and the Bracken School Readiness knowledge test.
POLICE REPORT: In the past three years, at least 39 drivers in Dallas have been ticketed by police officers for the "offense" of being "a non-English speaking driver," according to a Dallas Morning News investigation in October. The software for officers' in-car computers features a check-off box with the phrase, perhaps leading officers (and their sergeants) to believe it constituted a separate traffic offense rather than merely an indication that the motorist might not have understood an officer's instructions. The police chief expressed shock at the report and promised to end the practice.
The Public Record: 1) From the Findlay, Ohio, police: "A woman called the police early Saturday morning [Oct. 31] during an argument with her husband after he claimed that the woman's daughter performed oral sex on him, and the daughter was better at it." 2) From the Steamboat Pilot (Steamboat Springs, Colo.), Nov. 4: "Police were called to a report of a suspicious incident in the 2900 block of West Acres Drive where a woman reported that she found feces in her toilet that she did not think she put there."
Justifiable Felonies? 1) Five people were arrested in Los Angeles in October and charged with kidnapping and "torturing" two "loan modification" agents who had taken fees while promising to save their home from foreclosure but had allegedly failed to help. 2) Daniel Adler, 61, was arrested in October in Stony Point, N.Y., and charged with assault. Police said Adler had been solicited by a Sears Home Improvement telemarketer and had agreed to an appointment but that when the employee arrived, Adler allegedly punched him in the face. Adler said he had scheduled the appointment only to "advise" Sears, in person, to stop calling him.
Oops! In an October incident, an off-duty Jacksonville sheriff's deputy forgot to leave her service weapon outside when accompanying her mother to Shands Jacksonville hospital for an MRI. The powerful magnet sucked her Glock away in a flash, trapping the deputy's hand between the machine and the gun. Repairs, plus the lengthy powering-down and repowering of the machine, was said to have cost the hospital $150,000.
GOVERNMENT IN ACTION: Google 1, FBI 0: In September, Nebraska prison guard Michal Preclik, 32 (who had been on the job for a year and had just been promoted), was discovered to be on the lam from Interpol for drug and fraud crimes in the Czech Republic. The Corrections Department's background check, on the FBI's National Crime Information Center database, had turned up nothing, but when officials subsequently Googled Preclik, the Interpol wanted poster was one of the top results.
Promoting the General Welfare in Malaysia: 1) The government of the state of Terengganu initiated a campaign in November to halt the growing divorce rate by offering pre-marital classes in sensuality. Also, because newlyweds have identified spousal body odor and ugly pajamas as turn-offs, the government invited cosmetics firms and lingerie sellers to improve their offerings. 2) The chairwoman of the family and health committee of Malaysia's Kelantan state suggested in October that male legislators should take, as additional wives (permitted under Islam), some of the 16,000 unmarried mothers now dependent on state support.
U.S. Homeland Security officials confirmed in October that an estimated 200,000 temporarily admitted foreign visitors to the U.S. since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are still in the country illegally, with overstayed visas, and that there is still no system in place to catch them. The problem had surfaced in September when a 19-year-old Jordanian man (legally admitted on a since-expired tourist visa) was arrested and accused of plotting to blow up a Dallas skyscraper. He had been arrested two weeks before that on a traffic violation, and even though he was on an FBI watch list because of visits to a jihadist website, he had no immigration "record" and thus was released after paying the traffic fine.
DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: When the DRP party candidate for president of Mexico City's most populous borough lost in the primary this year, party officials hatched a plot to elevate a street peddler, "Juanito" Angeles, to run in the general election, with the "understanding" that he would step aside if victorious, in favor of the original candidate, Clara Brugada. Helped by his "everyman" image (according to a New York Times dispatch), Angeles won the election. His sudden power and celebrity apparently went to his head, however, and he refused to relinquish the presidency. (He finally agreed, in September, but only after receiving concessions from the party.)
Florida Democracy in Action: 1) When a Broward County Republican club held its scheduled meeting in October at a local gun range (according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report), among the shooters was the congressional candidate trying to unseat the Democratic incumbent, and on his target as he fired away, someone had written the Democrat's initials. 2) Also in Broward County in October, the father (a Democrat) of County Mayor Stacy Ritter was arrested and charged with threatening his daughter at gunpoint. The father is running for mayor of Tamarac and was upset that his daughter had endorsed his opponent.
UPDATE: Franciscan monk Cesare Bonizzi, 63, who 15 years ago turned from spiritual new age music to heavy metal (inspired, he said, by the groups Metallica and Megadeth) and who has spent the last several years as the robe-clad lead singer of his own band, Fratello Metallo, announced his retirement in November after realizing, he said, that the devil had tempted him too much with celebrity and turned him away from his brothers.
UNDIGNIFIED DEATHS: 1) William Evans, 57, on trial in St. Augustine, Fla., in August for a sex crime that occurred nearly 30 years ago (but not erased by the statute of limitations), committed suicide while away from the courthouse, awaiting the jury's decision. Without knowing that, the jury came back and declared him not guilty. 2) Engineering student Ken Kitamura, 19, drowned in the Yodogawa River in Osaka, Japan, in August. He and several colleagues had constructed a prototype canoe made of concrete, and Kitamura was the first to try it.
A NEWS OF THE WEIRD CLASSIC (APRIL 1999): News of the Weird reported in October 1998 the on-the-job death by snake bite of serpent-handling preacher John W. "Punkin" Brown Jr. (In a landmark book on Southern snake-handling preachers, Salvation on Sand Mountain, Brown was called the "mad monk," the one most "mired" in the "blood lust of the patriarchs.") Because Brown's wife had died three years earlier (of a snake bite during services in Kentucky), the Browns' three orphans were objects of a custody fight between the two sets of grandparents. In February 1999, the wife's parents won primary custody, in a Newport, Tenn., hearing, largely because Mr. Brown's parents were not able to refrain (despite a judge's orders) from taking the grandkids to snake-handling services.
© 2009 CHUCK SHEPHERD