Is there any body home?

The decayed body of a man was found last month in his apartment in Warminster, Pa. He apparently died three years ago at age 46. What makes this story "Weird" is the number of people who had an opportunity during those three years to discover the body but did not. Among the people who had come to the apartment were the regular postal carrier, a postal supervisor, assorted neighbors, the condominium association's president, village officials (who towed the man's car for expired registration), the police (who received many calls from various people suggesting that something was amiss in the apartment), an agent of the condo-association's management company, and a sheriff's deputy (who delivered a foreclosure notice, which he merely tacked up on the door). All failed to inquire seriously about the whereabouts of the resident or about the odd odor emanating from the apartment.

None but the damned

Rev. Jamyi Witch was appointed as one of two official chaplains at the Waupun maximum-security Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wis. She won the job over nine rivals despite the fact that she is a Wiccan, and only 30 of the 1,200 inmates are of Wiccan denomination. She also got the preacher's position despite the fact that Wicca does not teach fear of eternal damnation, which many correctional officials consider to be a crucial message for hardened criminals.

Crystalized karma

Two professors recently quit West Virginia University in protest of its New-Age Sydney Banks Institute for Innate Health. The organization, which does anxiety-reduction studies, is named after a welder whose epiphany "catapulted him from a routine life of stress and insecurity into a state of deep peace, hopefulness, security and clarity." According to a professor who attended a recent Banks-sponsored conference in Seattle, a speaker presented photographs of "ice crystals formed in the presence of positive thoughts and ones formed in the presence of negative thoughts," noting that the negative-thought crystals "weren't as pretty." He remarked, "I'm not a scientist myself, but this looks like evidence to me."

Plow shares

The Associated Press recently re-viewed the records of the Department of Agriculture, revealing that more than 60 percent of last year's federal farm subsidies went to just 10 percent of all farmers, most of them already quite well-to-do. Among the recipients were farms owned by David Rockefeller, Ted Turner, Sam Donaldson and basketball star Scottie Pippin.

Tote'm home

The city council of Edmonds, Wash., voted recently to toss out a 60-year-old, cheap-looking totem pole that had been donated to the city. But before it got to a landfill, demolition-company employee Sydney Locke plucked it out of a trash bin and took it home. City officials, for some reason, resented Locke's action and have filed a lawsuit to regain legal ownership of the totem pole. The officials still have no use for the totem; they just want to make sure it gets to Ð and stays in Ð the landfill.

The data game

According to a recent Los Angeles Times report, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has issued 5 million "smart cards" to permanent residents since 1998 (containing all kinds of unique personal information, the collection of which is currently being considered as a means to improve security against terrorism). But INS has not yet acquired any machines needed to read the cards. Among other problems: INS's fingerprint system is still unconnected to the FBI's system; and its electronic database to track foreign students, created following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, currently covers students in only 21 colleges.

Brothel, where art thou?

State authorities in Queensland, Australia, have decided that local bureaucrats are taking too much time processing applications to open legal brothels. So the state has adopted a fast-track program to jump-start the industry, announcing it will appoint an independent official to get more brothels up and operating. The move stymies local officials who are opposed to having them in their neighborhoods.

The eyes have it

Police in Fulton County, Ga., say that the only reason Derrick Van, 36, got caught was because he dropped some coins in the course of a November home burglary. When he reached down to pick them up, he locked eyes with the homeowner hiding under a bed. Though the homeowner was hoping that Van would just leave, when their eyes met, the victim felt threatened and fired his .357 Magnum, wounding Van badly and sending him to the hospital.

Dirty politics

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection pleaded guilty to two felony counts, acknowledging that the agency itself had polluted the city's water (and that of Westchester County) with mercury and the suspected carcinogen PCB, which leaked for years through its water-circulation equipment. Accor-ding to testimony in federal court, the agency had known of several dozen leaks since 1988 but disregarded them. In one incident, six pounds of mercury was left in the system three years after the agency promised to clean it up. The deputy director's excuse was that the area involved "is dark and is difficult to see."

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