Overenthusiastic Parent/Sports Involvement: In October (1995), Richard King, 36, pleaded guilty to making threatening and obscene phone calls to two boys who were star players on his son’s Little League team in Blue Springs, Mo., to get them to reconsider their plans to quit the team. According to prosecutors, King called the boys several times while he was on a business trip in China and threatened to kill one kid and his parents and to commit sodomy on the kid’s whole family.
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.”
n 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 even death threats. In at least one case, the activists succeeded: A psychiatry professor said he had 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.”
n British authorities threatened Iain Turnbull, 63, with a fine (equivalent of $1,530) in August because he refused to complete the mandatory census earlier this year. Turnbull, from Wales, was protesting that the government, intending to be progressively “inclusive,” made available census questionnaires and instructions in such languages as Urdu, Punjabi and Tagalog — but not Welsh (one of Britain’s native languages).
n 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.