An estimated 3.2 million kids aged 5 to 12 take mixed-martial arts classes, training to administer beatdowns modeled after the adults’ Ultimate Fighting Championships, according to a January report in ESPN magazine, which profiled the swaggering, Mohawked Derek “Crazy” Rayfield, 11, and the meek, doll-clutching fighting machine, Regina “The Black Widow” Awana, 7. Kids under age 12 fight each other without regard to gender, and blows above the collarbone are always prohibited (along with attacks on the groin, kidneys and back).
“Crazy” was described delivering merciless forearm chest smashes to a foe before the referee intervened, and the Black Widow won her match in less than a minute via arm-bar submission.
The continuing crisis
n Tyrone Harris, 26, reported for his first shift at Dunkin’ Donuts in Morristown, N.J., in January and received his name tag. Seven minutes later, according to police, he was on his way out the door with $2,100 from his supervisor’s desk. (Apparently, the supervisor had opened his drawer a little too far when reaching for the name tag, giving Harris a glimpse of the cash.)
n In a January submission to India’s Supreme Court, an association of the country’s caste councils begged for greater sympathy for men who commit “honor killings” of wayward females. The councils denied encouraging such killings, but emphasized that fathers or brothers who murder a daughter or sister are usually “law-abiding, educated and respectable people” who must protect their reputations after a female has had a “forbidden” relationship — especially a female who intends to marry within her sub-caste, which the councils believe leads to deformed babies.
n Aubrey Ireland, 21, a dean’s-list senior at the University of Cincinnati’s prestigious college of music, went to court in December to protect herself from two stalkers — her mother and father, who, she said, had been paranoiacally meddling in her life. David and Julie Ireland put tracking devices on Aubrey’s computer and telephone and showed up unannounced on campus (600 miles from their home), telling officials that Aubrey was promiscuous and mentally imbalanced. A Common Pleas Court judge ordered the parents to keep their distance.
n The mostly rag-tag army of Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime unveiled its first jerry-built armored vehicle in December. The “Sham II” is an old diesel car with cameras for navigation, a machine gun mounted on a turret with a driver looking at one flat-screen TV and a gunner another, aiming the machine gun via a Sony PlayStation controller.
n Video transmissions from drone aircraft rose stiflingly to more than 300,000 hours last year (compared to 4,800 in 2001). With input expected to grow even more, Air Force officials acknowledged in December seeking advice from a private-sector company experienced in handling massive amounts of video: ESPN.
n Dog trainer Mark Vette showed off his best work in Auckland, New Zealand, in December: dogs driving a Cooper Mini on a closed course. Using knobs fitted to the dogs’ reach, Vette taught mixed-breed rescue dogs “Monty” and “Porter” 10 discrete actions, including handling the starter, steering wheel, gearshift, and brake and gas pedals, and then put them behind the wheel on live television. Monty handled the straightaway flawlessly, but Porter, assigned to steer around a bend, ran off the road.
n In November, students at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, ordered three therapy dogs and set up a room for “super stressed” final-exam studiers. The dogs typically are loaned to hospital patients and senior citizens.
n In December, Cornell University staff installed a patch of grass inside the Olin Library (trucked in from the Adirondack mountains) because, said an employee, the sight of it has a “cognitive relaxing effect.”
n Jorge Sanchez, 35, was arrested in Burbank, Calif., in February after walking into a Costco store, brazenly stuffing 24 quart cans of motor oil under his clothing (some affixed with bungee cords), and heading for the exit. A security guard noticed him, but Sanchez fled and actually outran the guard (though some of his cargo came loose). Still carrying 15 cans, he made it eight blocks before police overtook him. Sanchez said he services cars part-time and that motor oil prices were just too high.
The issue of “background checks” for gun purchases occupies center stage in the current gun-regulation debate, even though, ironically, current federal law on such checks is apparently half-heartedly enforced. In the latest data available (from 2010), nearly 80,000 Americans were denied the right to purchase guns because their applications contained false information (even though applicants swear, under penalty of law, that all information is true). However, The New York Times reported in January that of the nearly 80,000 applicants, only 44 were prosecuted for lying, and federal officials said the practice, well-known among applicants with shaky backgrounds, is known as “lie and try.”
n Sophie Laboissonniere pleaded guilty in January to participating in a 2011 street riot in Vancouver, British Columbia, as part of a crowd that broke into a drugstore following the hometown Canucks’ loss in the Stanley Cup finals. Months before the riot, in the Miss Coastal Vancouver beauty pageant, she had been voted Miss Congeniality.
n On Nov. 4, “Holly” — Jacob and Bonnie Richter’s 4-year-old cat — fled the couple’s motor home (apparently frightened by fireworks) parked at the Daytona International Speedway and did not return. Searches were futile, and the Richters drove home to Palm Beach Gardens, about 190 miles away. Two weeks later, Holly appeared, disheveled with paws rubbed raw, about a mile from the Richters’ home, and the finder returned her to the Richters based on Holly’s microchip ID.