As we scoured the local dailies, national news agencies and the World Wide Web for stories over the last year, one question kept coming to mind: Is Mother Nature striking back?
We've got brain-eating amoebas in our lakes. We've got rain causing landfills to burst into flames. We've got rats crawling up our toilet pipes.
And something in the air seems to be turning conservative Republicans gay.
These are strange days indeed.
THEY AIN'T LOOKING DOWN ON US NOW
Dozens of homeless people, looking for a safe place to sleep, climbed onto the rooftops of buildings in downtown Tucson, setting up tents and otherwise making themselves at home. In some cases, they damaged the aging structures, drawing complaints from building owners.
BUT NOW HIS FINGERPRINTS LOOK LIKE CORNS
Dr. Jose L. Covarrubias, a plastic surgeon who lived in Nogales, Ariz., but practiced in Nogales, Sonora, pleaded guilty to concealing a fugitive after he replaced the fingertips of a supposed drug dealer with skin from the bottom of the man's feet.
Jamaican Marc George, allegedly part of a Tucson-based marijuana ring, was still limping badly when arrested at the Nogales port in September 2005.
THEY GET A $5 BONUS FOR KNOWING WHAT A VERB IS
Students at Amphitheater and Rincon High Schools began receiving payouts of $25 a week as an incentive to stay in school. The money comes from a local nonprofit.
ISN'T THAT THE POINT?
"An Attempted Suicide Turns Deadly"--KOLD Channel 13 (Tucson)
"Online Dating Persona Differs From Reality" --The Cornell Daily Sun
Retired adman Earl Wettstein proposed building a 10-story-tall cowboy hat downtown to house a museum of Western memorabilia.
"The Big Hat will become the long-sought iconic image that Tucson wants and needs," Wettstein wrote in his proposal, suggesting that the Big Hat "could become our St. Louis Arch ... our Eiffel Tower ... our Roman Coliseum ... our Egyptian pyramids ... our Washington Monument. When people see a picture of it, they will think Tucson!"
CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK
Keith Richards, the now-64-year-old Rolling Stones guitarist, mixed the ashes of his late father with cocaine and snorted him. "He was cremated, and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow," Richards said. "My dad wouldn't have cared."
PUFF, PUFF. PUTT, PUTT.
"Some players have psychologists; some have sportologists--I smoke."--Golfer Angel Cabrera, after defeating Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk by one shot at the U.S. Open.
A LITTLE MARINADE HELPS US CHOKE THE LITTLE BOOGERS DOWN
TV Ads Boost Eating of Obese Children by 130%--Scotsman.com
MAYBE WE SHOULD PUT ORANGE TAPE AROUND TUCSON CITY GOVERNMENT INSTEAD
A city contractor accidentally bulldozed an important, 1920s-era building at Udall Park that had been marked for preservation. Historian Ken Scoville said the U.S. Magnetic Observatory building could've been saved simply by putting orange tape around it. "It's survived everything except the city," Scoville told the Arizona Daily Star
SOFA DEMANDS RECOUNT
Democratic Women's Club Elects Chair--Chronicle
TRY WAL-MART. THEY HAVE EVERYTHING.
Volusia Voters Want New Faces--Orlando Sentinel
BUT WHAT IF HE FORGETS TO SHOW UP?
Joint Maker to Star on Discovery Channel--Indianapolis Star
WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
Paul Newman Beats Bono in Africa--FoxNews.com
CITY LEADERS VOW TO PULL THROUGH CRISIS
Feds: Houston Faces Cocaine Shortage--KHOU-TV (Houston)
DON'T GALS HAVE A RIGHT TO CHANGE THEIR MINDS?
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at first called "inexcusable" a New York Times
ad by the liberal group Moveon.org
ad referring to America's military leader in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, as "General Betray Us."
Later, she voted against condemning it in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but changed her mind again on the floor of the House, reverting to her original position and voting to condemn the ad.
Alleged Harlem Rapist Said to Be Spotted--New York Sun
THAT'S ONE HECKUVA SCHNOZZ
Man Loses Nose in Circumcision Ceremony--News.com.au
CAN YOU BEAT THIS?
An FBI agent was arrested for allegedly masturbating in a women's restroom in the UA Student Union. Ryan Seese, 33, was cited for public sexual indecency after a cleaning woman opened a bathroom stall and saw him.
WOULD YOU HIRE AN AMATEUR?
Report: Minnesota Cops Seek "Professionals" Who Removed Man's Testicles--FoxNews.com
THE FOOT-DRAGGING THING DIDN'T WORK OUT
GM Puts Brakes on New Rear-Wheel-Drive Vehicles--Detroit News
ELVIRA WHO? NEVER HEARD OF HER.
Staffers at Arizona Oncology Associates left 67-year-old bone-cancer patient Elvira Tellez alone in a CT scan machine for five hours, during which workers closed up the building and went home for the night. A panicked Tellez called 911, after which sheriff's deputies helped her from the building.
NOW THEY TELL US
Food Safety Experts Share Some Advice: Don't Eat Poop--The Pueblo Chieftain
Rainfall caused a landfill below Tumamoc Hill to catch fire. When the oxygenated moisture seeped through the dirt-covered waste, it caused the garbage to combust.
SEX CAN BE THERAPEUTIC
Struggling African Nation Hopes Whoopi Can Help--CNN.com
MAKE HIM BEG FOR TREATS
With two young children watching, 40-year-old Glendale, Ariz., resident Joseph E. Beadle allegedly coated a puppy in cooking oil and fed it to his boa constrictor. He copped a plea to charges of animal cruelty. The Arizona Humane Society recommended sending Beadle to a community-service program in which he could work with animals in a structured setting.
Bill Clinton's Challenge: Keep Focus on His Wife--The New York Times
THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT OUCH, OUCH, OUCH, ALL THE WAY HOME
Mrs. America pageant contestant Christina Ryan, 28, was bitten by a rattlesnake while walking down a staircase at Tucson's Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. She was dodging a spider when the snake struck, leaving a fang stuck in her foot.
Ryan, of Tennessee, called it the worst pain she's ever felt, "worse than childbirth."
AS USUAL, THE SOPHISTICATED GET OFF SCOT FREE
Military Officials Discuss Sentence for Hicks--NPR Web site
IT'S LIKE A PURPLE HEART, ONLY YELLOW
When armed gunmen from Mexico approached a border-observation post near Sasabe, southwest of Tucson, the four Tennessee National Guard soldiers manning it retreated. They were later given commendations for their actions.
BETTER BELIEVE IT, TOOTSIE
"The secret is a man should be scared of his wife. A woman is smarter, more patient and more powerful."--Dustin Hoffman in the New York Post
, on his nearly 30-year marriage
NOW WE'VE GOT VIDEO OUT THE WAZOOO
"NJ School Cameras Fed Live to Cops"--WCBS-TV, New York
DOES THIS MEAN WE GET MORE FREQUENT-FLYER MILES WHEN WE VISIT RELATIVES?
In a speech to a Tucson audience, left-wing activist Dolores Huerta said all people come from Africa. "We are all related, and we are all Africans," she said.
MORE LEG ROOM
Airline Moves Dead Body to First Class After Woman Dies in Economy Cabin on International Flight--The Associated Press
AN INCONVENIENT YOUTH
Al Gore III, 24-year-old son of former Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore, was arrested for drug possession after he was stopped for driving his Toyota Prius 100 mph on a freeway south of Los Angeles.
UA Police hustled Avinash Murthy, a 19-year-old basketball fan, out of McKale Center in handcuffs after he refused to sit down during a game against Oregon State. "You don't deserve to be at the game if you don't have enough desire and energy to stand up for five to 10 minutes," said Murthy.
A UA student was Tasered by police after being denied entrance to the sold-out Zona Zoo section, which accommodates the first 10,000 fans, during the UA's football game against Northern Arizona University. Hundreds of students were unable to get seats in the section, but Sgt. Eugene Mejia of the UAPD told the Arizona Daily Star
that most of them were not a problem: "The only thing that was out of control were a few unruly people. There was one person that was combative."
YOU LEAVE OUR WIENERS ALONE
Because of a computer error showing its license plate was stolen, an unmarked Department of Public Safety car pulled over the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile near Interstate 10 and South Sixth Avenue. When the error was resolved, the giant, fiberglass hotdog on a bun was sent on its way.
OK, OK, WAIT, DON'T TELL US. WE KNOW THIS.
Source of Fecal Matter Studied--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
BREAKING NEWS: EONS OF PRIVILEGE HAS GIVEN WHITE GUYS HEARING LOSS
In a review of the book I Am the Grand Canyon
by Stephen Hirst, Arizona Republic
critic Anne Stephenson wrote: "Years ago, while living in the Havasupai tribal village deep in the Grand Canyon, Hirst did something unusual for a White Man: he listened."
OH, YEAH? WELL, YOU JUST SHUT UP!
After a terrible late-spring outing, White Sox starting pitcher Jon Garland was asked by the Arizona Daily Star
if it was bittersweet to be leaving Tucson. "No, I'm ready to get out of here," he said. "There's nothing about Tucson that's great."
HECK, SHE COULD'VE WALKED
Missing Thai Woman Reappears 25 Years After Boarding Wrong Bus--FoxNews.com
MAYBE IT WAS FROM SEDONA?
Arizona's disgraced former Republican Gov. Fife Symington declared that the strange lights spotted over Phoenix in 1997 were from another world, and on another occasion, he spotted a UFO "bigger than anything I've ever seen."
"In your gut, you could just tell it was other-worldly," Symington said.
THE BUTT HEADS WIN!
Sarkozy, Royal Butt Heads in "Bad-Tempered" Debate--Agency France-Presse
NO GUTS, NO GLORY
A midtown Tucson neighborhood had to be evacuated after five UA students, trying to pull a prank, left behind a U-Haul truck full of rotting fish, cow parts and pig organs. The entrails were stuffed into 10 city trash cans filled with water and horse manure, causing a tremendous stench.
Police also found ammonia and bleach bottles in the truck, bringing out a hazardous-materials unit. The students planned to dump the material in someone's yard.
AT LEAST HE HAS HIS PRIORITIES STRAIGHT
Robert Comer was put to death at the state prison complex in Florence, the first person executed in Arizona since 2000. He had a smile on his face to the end, and his last words were: "Go Raiders!"
WAS HE TRYING TO GET IN OR OUT?
Man Dies After Getting Stuck in Girlfriend's Cat Door--FoxNews.com
BETTER THAN TALKING ABOUT THOSE HIDEOUS PANTSUITS
Russert Confronts Hillary on Flip-Flops--NewsMax.com
YOU TRY GETTING A RESERVATION
Study: Cannibals Usually Dine Alone--LiveScience.com
SHE WAS GETTING IN POSITION TO KICK HIM IN THE ASS
Pelosi Seen Moving Around Bush in Mideast--San Francisco Chronicle
$900 FOR JEANS? SHOULDN'T THAT BE THE SUCKER CAM?
Hub Clothing at Scottsdale Fashion Square, where jeans cost up to $900, installed video cameras outside dressing rooms to allow buyers to inspect the fit before plunking down the money. The so-called Butt Cam shows customers' rear ends on a screen nearby.
PAGING JOHN MCCAIN
In the months leading up to the 2007 Easter recess, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain missed 33 percent of the Senate's roll-call votes. His voting record was worse than any other, except South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson, who was recovering from a brain hemorrhage.
IS THAT A QUALIFYING CONTRIBUTION TO FLORIDA'S CLEAN ERECTIONS PROGRAM?
The co-chair of John McCain's Florida presidential campaign, conservative state Rep. Bob Allen, was arrested in a park restroom for allegedly offering to pay an undercover officer $20 for the chance to give the cop a blowjob.
SOUNDS KINDA GAY TO US
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig was busted by an undercover police officer while allegedly trolling for gay sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. The undercover officer said that Craig had slid his foot into the neighboring stall and run his fingers under the stall wall to signal his interest in a quickie.
After his arrest, Craig told the officer he had a "wide stance" when using the toilet. In a later press conference, he announced: "I am not gay. I have never been gay."
WORST NEW PHOENIX RESIDENT
The Rev. Ted Haggard, who left his leadership post with the New Life Church in Colorado Springs after a gay prostitute revealed the two men had engaged in meth-fueled sex romps, relocated to Phoenix to pursue a degree in counseling.
NOW THE POOR BASTARD'S UP ON THE SHELF WITH THE PEACHES AND APRICOTS
Musician Canned for Focus on Wrong Organ--The Associated Press
BUT IT'S OK FOR THE AIRLINE TO MAKE YOU WAIT SIX HOURS, SIT IN A FILTHY SEAT, BREATHE BAD AIR AND EAT CRAPPY PEANUTS
Kyla Ebbert, a 23-year-old bound for Tucson on a Southwest Airlines flight from San Diego, was asked to leave the plane after an airline official called her clothing too revealing. "This is a family airline," the employee told her. "You're too provocative to fly on this plane."
OCCUPADO, OLD CHAP
British actor Ralph Fiennes, known for his roles The English Patient
and Schindler's List
, had noisy sex with a Qantas flight attendant in an airplane toilet. Fiennes was on his way to India as a UNICEF ambassador to promote the awareness of safe sex.
IT'S NOT THAT MUCH DIFFERENT FROM FOX NEWS COVERAGE
The Federal Emergency Management Agency held a fake press conference in October regarding California wildfires in which FEMA employees posed as reporters and tossed softball questions to FEMA Deputy Director Harvey Johnson. In response to one question, Johnson replied: "I'm very happy with FEMA's response."
Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner called the dog-and-pony show "offensive and inexcusable," and White House spokeswoman Dana Perino called it an "error in judgment" that would not be repeated.
THEY'RE ALSO GOING TO STOP SELLING BURRITOS IN THE SNACK BAR
After allegedly receiving threats against animals in their care, the board of trustees at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum voted to take down a Mexican flag that flew outside the zoo, as well as the American flag that flew beside it. After a couple of days of community outrage, the board reversed itself and put both flags back up.
IT'S GONNA BE A BITCH TO COORDINATE ALL THE CONJUGAL VISITS
Warren Jeffs, leader of a breakaway Mormon sect of some 10,000 followers who still practice polygamy on the Arizona-Utah border, was convicted of being an accomplice to rape, because he had decreed that a 14-year-old girl had to marry her 19-year-old cousin.
JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO GO BACK IN THE WATER
Aaron Evans, a 14-year-old boy, was killed by a brain-eating amoeba that he picked up while swimming at Lake Havasu. The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri
, evidently traveled up Evans' nose and into his brain, causing a persistent headache and eventually killing him, according to The Associated Press.
DID ANYONE GET PHOTOS?
David Hans Schmidt, known as the Sultan of Sleaze for his work brokering celebrity sex tapes, was found hanging in the shower stall of a Phoenix apartment. Schmidt was under federal indictment over charges he had tried to extort a million bucks from Tom Cruise to facilitate the return of wedding photos that had been recovered from a photog's damaged hard drive.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard demanded that the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau do something about advertisements for energy drinks containing booze.
Goddard co-signed a letter with several of his counterparts across the United States that stated: "Unfortunately, alcoholic beverage manufacturers have taken advantage of the youth appeal of these drinks by engaging in aggressive marketing campaigns for pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks. These campaigns claim that such beverages increase a person's stamina or energy level. However, they do not mention the potentially severe, adverse consequences of mixing caffeine or other stimulants and alcohol."
MAYBE HE'D REMEMBER THE DETAILS IF THEY WATERBOARDED HIM
Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger, who helped concoct the false story about how Army Ranger Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan in April 2004 charging the enemy when he was actually killed by his own troops, couldn't remember details during an investigation into the cover-up. Tillman had given up a contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"You've got me really scared about my brain right now," he told investigators. "I'm really having a problem."
THAT EXPLAINS THE NEW SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING ABOUT HOW VOTING DEMOCRATIC CAN BE HARMFUL TO YOUR HEALTH
After returning to Tucson after leaving Washington, D.C., former Surgeon General Richard Carmona told Congress that the executive branch had allowed political calculations to override public-health considerations.
"The reality is that the nation's doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget, and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas," Carmona said.
Marcia Luhman of Oro Valley was the lucky winner of a Roto-Rooter-sponsored contest that awarded her the "Pimped out John," a super-toilet that includes a 20-inch flat-panel TV, a laptop computer, an Xbox 360 game console, a DVD player, a TiVo DVR, an iPod and even a refrigerator with a beer tap.
A Roto-Rooter press release explained: "Roto-Rooter created the one-of-a-kind 'Pimped out John' as a exercise in hedonism because the average person spends one year, four months and five days on the toilet in a lifetime. Management at the plumbing and drain-cleaning company felt that time spent on the john should be more productive, or at least entertaining."
Luhman, whose name was picked out of 318,000 entrants, said she would be dismantling most of the system and handing out pieces to family members.
NAKED REPUBLICANS! RUN FOR THE HILLS!
The Arizona Republican Party appointed Horst Kraus, owner of the Shangri La Nudist ranch north of Phoenix, to its finance committee. The 77-year-old German immigrant, who has hosted GOP events in his resort's Bare Buns Café, told the Arizona Daily Star that nudity "gives you an unbelievable feeling of personal freedom."
Residents of Tucson's Blenman-Elm neighborhood, east of the UA, complained about white rats swimming up into their toilet bowls from the sewers below. The problem has been ongoing for 10 years.
WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS A LONG TIME
Tucson City Councilman Steve Leal spent 10 hours behind bars when a door locked behind him as he was inspecting a vacant area of the Pima County Jail. He was rescued when worried co-workers went looking for him. "I thought I was going to die in there," Leal told the Arizona Daily Star
QUICK, FIND THE HAPLESS PRIMATE IN THIS STORY
A thief stole a cardboard cutout of the Geico caveman from the lobby of the UA Recreation Center and hustled it into a waiting getaway car. A student returned the caveman a week later, saying his roommate had taken it, and he was sick of looking at it.
The insurance giant was using the cutout to promote a look-alike contest.
USUALLY, MCCAIN DOES HIS SHOPPING AT A DRIVE-THRU WINDOW WHILE RIDING IN AN ARMORED HUMVEE SURROUNDED BY 1,000 TROOPS
During a visit to Baghdad, Sen. John McCain took a trip to the Shorja marketplace, where he was suited up in a bullet-proof vest and guarded by more than 100 soldiers and a couple of Apache helicopters. Following his shopping adventure, McCain told the press: "Things are better, and there are encouraging signs. ... Never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today."
Shopkeeper Ali Jassim Faiyad later told The New York Times: "They paralyzed the market when they came. This was only for the media."