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Parents with no spines
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Lead Story

"Consensual Living" parenting, which was developed in 2006 and now has many hundreds of followers, supposes that every family member's needs are equally valid and respectworthy. Even pre-adolescents are assumed able to understand their own needs and respect those of others. When little Kiernen, 3, of Langley, British Columbia, hits another child, his mom told Toronto's Globe & Mail in March, she does not invoke authority but instead asks about his feelings and whether he'd like to express himself differently. If Kahlan, 18 months old, of Nanaimo, British Columbia, is grumpy at a time when her mother has made plans, Mom says she is obligated to consider other plans. And when Savannah, 6, insisted on wearing her Halloween cat costume every single day for several months, her mom in Burlington, Ontario, just shrugged, since she recalled how contentious the morning dressing rituals were, pre-Consensual Living.

Building a Risk-Free Society

Safety First in Britain: (1) Recently, 118 local government councils conducted formal tests on their cemeteries' gravestones to see how susceptible they are to toppling over and hurting people, according to an April Daily Telegraph report. (2) In April, a circus clown performing in Liverpool was ordered not to wear his classic oversized shoes because he could trip and injure someone. (3) BBC producers, wielding a "telephone-book-size" set of safety precautions while making a recent adventure documentary, ordered Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (the first person to sail single-handedly and nonstop around the world) not to light a portable stove unless a "safety advisor" supervised.


For 15 years, police in southern Germany have been futilely tracking a female "serial killer" whose DNA (but little other matching physical evidence) was found at 40 crime scenes, including six murders. Only in 2007 did they begin to consider alternative theories, and in March 2009, a state justice minister announced that the case had been solved: The DNA matched up in the tests because the cotton swabs used to collect it had been contaminated at the factory (but authorities still have not determined which female factory worker inadvertently supplied the DNA).

The Continuing Crisis

• Be Wary of Discount Funeral Services: (1) A 2004 burial in Allendale, S.C., is just now being investigated after relatives learned that the deceased, a 6-foot-7 man, was somehow laid to rest in a 6-foot-long coffin that was part of his prepaid plan. (2) Authorities in Houston are investigating a funeral home that handles burial of paupers on contract from the county after, somehow, a 91-year-old male (who was supposed to be preserved for viewing) was cremated instead of the female who was scheduled.

• In a study of the last six years' admissions at hospital emergency rooms in the Austin, Texas, area (reported in April), 900 people were identified as using ERs six or more times in the previous three months, and nine specific patients had made a total of 2,678 visits in the six-year period.

• Mixed Signs From the Middle East: (1) In March, at a soccer match in Hilla, Iraq, between two local teams, as a player with the ball approached the goal to attempt a tying kick late in the game, an overenthusiastic spectator drew his gun and shot him dead. (2) In more hopeful news, authorities in Ramallah said that the March 24 bank robbery by armed gunmen who snatched the equivalent of $30,000 was pulled off by five Palestinians and an Israeli Jew, working together.

The Miracle Drug That Changes Everything

(1) A 44-year-old intoxicated man was arrested in Ann Arbor, Mich., in March, blocking traffic by approaching an officer and requesting a big hug (and then cursing the officer when he declined). (2) A 22-year-old tipsy soccer fan celebrating on a chartered bus after a match in West Bromwich, England, in January, was run over by a motorist after he fell out the back door of the bus, believing it led to the restroom.

Family Values

An Oregon, Wis., man was arrested in February after his 9-year-old son wrote a school essay about the time his dad shot him in the buttocks with a BB gun because he was blocking his view of the TV set.

Least Competent Criminals

• Timothy Grim, 39, was arrested in Shreveport, La., in April after swiping several garments from the rehearsal room of the Shreveport Opera The conductor and three performers cornered Grim several blocks away, still in possession of one part of a diva's outfit, which he offered to sell back to the opera. By the time police arrived, Grim had cut his asking price to $1.

• Not Ready for Prime Time: A 16-year-old boy was arrested in Centerville, Utah, in April as he roamed a neighborhood at night trying to break into several cars. The last one he tried was the private vehicle of a sheriff's deputy, who was still in it, in uniform and finishing a phone call after coming off his shift. After arresting the kid, the deputy reported that the boy had been so stunned when he saw the deputy that he immediately soiled his pants. Said the deputy, "You could smell him."

Recurring Themes

In April, the City Council of Vero Beach, Fla., grappling with how much skin can be exposed in public, adopted the definitions that at least two other Florida jurisdictions use. "Buttocks," for example, is "the area of the rear of the body which lies between two imaginary lines running parallel to the ground when a person is standing, the first or top such line drawn at the top of the nates (i.e., the prominence of the muscles running from the back of the hip to the back of the leg) and the second or bottom line drawn at the lowest visible (sic) of this cleavage or the lowest point of the curvature of the fleshy protuberance, whichever is lower."

A News of the Weird Classic (March 2004)

The New York Times reported in 2004 on a Washington, D.C., man whose love of music led him, in the 1960s, to hand-make album covers of fantasized music, complete with lyric sheets and liner notes (with some even shrink-wrapped), including cardboard facsimiles of actual grooved discs to put inside. "Mingering Mike," whom a reporter and two hobbyists tracked down (but who declined to be identified in print) also made real music using his and friends' voices to simulate instruments. His 38 imagined "albums" were discovered at a flea market after Mike defaulted on storage-locker fees.