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Staff Report 

Greensboro News & Record 
Dec. 31, 2000

[Excerpt: Dec. 1: ALL THE COMPUTER'S FAULT. REALLY. Shortly after cybergossip Matt Drudge fails to win any Online Journalism Awards, he calls contest administrator Sreenath Sreenivasan to complain. Sreenivasan explains that one must enter the contest to win and that Drudge never sent in the paperwork. ]

Welcome to Strange Days VII, the News & Record's seventh annual roundup of the idiotic, the ironic and the just plain weird. Speaking of which, the year itself has been weird: no OJ, no Monica, no Chihuahuas to speak of. So now, more than ever, you're on your own in trying to figure out what it all means.

Just don't rely on your computer or weather forecasters for help.

Jan. 1: ALL THE COMPUTER'S FAULT: Computers worldwide fail to crash, fail to plunge the world into darkness and chaos and, in general, work just fine as 1999 turns into 2000, thus leaving journalists casting about for a big news story.

Jan. 10: SMELLS LIKE ... VICTORY!: High Point police charge four people after finding 101 pounds of marijuana in a car trunk - so much pot that the cops could smell it themselves even before the police dog got there.

Jan. 14: HE SAID IT, WE DIDN'T: At a memorial service for his Charlotte Hornets teammate Bobby Phills, point guard David Wesley calls Phills his "partner in crime." Wesley and Phills were both speeding when Phills' car collided with another at 107 mph, killing Phills and hospitalizing two other people.

Jan. 24: WHO DOESN'T WANT PEOPLE TO BE MILLIONAIRES?: The company that insures ABC-TV's hit game show "Who Wants to be A Millionaire" threatens in court to drop its coverage unless the show asks harder questions and selects dumber contestants.

Jan. 25: FORECASTING FOLLIES: Many Triad locations receive at least a foot of snow after forecasters call for just a couple of inches.

Feb. 5: SHOTS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT: Davidson County sheriff Gerald Hege pursues a fleeing suspect into Winston-Salem and fires shots over the man's head as he runs away, prompting former Winston- Salem officer Steven Cooper to ask, "Who's watching this cowboy?" and Forsyth District Attorney Tom Keith to request an SBI investigation.

Feb. 16: AND YOU THINK GREENSBORO HAS WATER PROBLEMS: The mountain town of Marshall discovers that 1.5 million gallons of water in its town reservoirs have vanished overnight. The town's larger reservoir, normally 42 feet deep, was down to 13 inches.

March 14: BUT WE LOVE HIM ... ESPECIALLY WITH WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE: A family in Deming, N.M., searching for its missing Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, "Tiny Boo," finds Boo as the main course at a neighbor's cookout.

April 16: DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO: Oprah Winfrey, who once proclaimed "free speech doesn't just live, it rocks" after defeating a libel claim brought by cattle producers, wins in court again when Illinois courts uphold a provision barring employees of her production company - for life - from talking or writing about working for her.

April 25: MAYBE NOT: A federal appeals court rules that the Ohio state motto - "With God, all things are possible" - is unconstitutional.

May 9: ALL THE COMPUTER'S FAULT, THE SEQUEL: State officials ask a nonprofit group headed by Greensboro City Councilman Earl Jones to return a $35,000 grant, saying the agency could not adequately document how it had spent the money. Jones later blames the discrepancy on a computer failure.

May 17: NOT THE COMPUTER'S FAULT: The Greensboro Area Chamber of Commerce, an organization that promotes business, is nearly bankrupt because of poor business management, the News & Record reports.

May 18: GLAD TO SEE THEY GOT THAT MISMANAGEMENT PROBLEM FIXED SO FAST: A day after the Chamber's financial problems are made public, chamber officials say they may take up a collection to pay Chamber President David Jameson's $30,000 membership dues at the Greensboro Country Club.

June 4: PARENTAL SUPERVISION AIN'T ALL IT'S CRACKED UP TO BE: Parents of a Page High School student are cited for throwing a keg party attended by 250 to 300 underage Page students.

June 7: HIGH STAKES: A Halifax County man is accused of beating another man to death in an argument over who owned a videotape of "Planet of the Apes."

July 4: TELL US AGAIN HOW THE WAY Y'ALL DO THINGS IN NEW YORK IS SO MUCH BETTER: A Long Island, N.Y., man is decapitated when he peers inside a 5-inch fireworks mortar tube to try to find out - prematurely - why it hadn't detonated.

July 10: GONE BUST: Frederick's of Hollywood, famous for push-up bras and sex toys, files for bankruptcy reorganization.

July 18: GLAD WE CLEARED THAT UP: Guilford County Commissioner Melvin "Skip" Alston says his lobbying of Greensboro City Council members on a proposed billboard ordinance makes him not a lobbyist but a consultant paid to inform council members about his client's position.

July 19: WE'RE ALSO AFTER A BANK ROBBER WHO LOOKS LIKE OPRAH WINFREY: Police arrest a suspect in the beating and carjacking of an elderly woman after distributing a description of the suspect that said he looked like corpulent talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.

July 28: ALL THE COMPUTER'S FAULT III: The state historical site marker erected at the old Stroh Brewery on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit in 1976, then stolen years later, turns up for sale on eBay, an Internet auction house.

July 31: DISCRIMINATES AGAINST STRONG WORKERS 21 WAYS: The maker of Wonder Bread is found liable for $11 million in actual damages after a jury in San Francisco determines that the company discriminated against 21 workers.

Aug. 9: ALL THE COMPUTER'S FAULT IV: Women are now the majority online, composing 50.4 percent of Internet users, Media Metrix magazine reports, with teenage girls representing the fastest- growing age group.

Aug. 21: PROFESSIONAL COURTESY: A block of Battleground Avenue in downtown Greensboro is evacuated after a 2-inch natural-gas line is cut by workers from Piedmont Natural Gas.

Aug. 24: FORECASTING FOLLIES, THE SEQUEL: Twenty-two days before the Summer Olympics open in Sydney, Australia, the Olympic track-and- field facility is opened at a temperature of 51 with wind chills in the low 30s.

Aug. 26: WOULDN'T A LETTER TO THE EDITOR HAVE BEEN LESS WORK?: Guilford school board member Keith Green throws a chair at John Hammer, editor of the weekly Rhinoceros Times, after the two exchange words at a school-board retreat.

Sept. 4: BARNYARD DANCE: Before a speech urging his audience to "put plain-spoken Americans in the White House," Texas Gov. George W. Bush, unaware that his microphone is on, refers to a New York Times reporter as a "major-league (bad word)," driving dozens of the nation's best-paid journalists to devote time and effort to exploring whether Bush's epithet constituted an obscenity, a profanity, a vulgarity or merely earthy language.

Sept. 7: KATHY LEE WHO?: Regis Philbin's talk show is drawing 26 percent more viewers in its first three months without former co- host Kathy Lee Gifford than it drew with her, Nielson Media Research says.

Sept. 18: BLAME IT ON THE ELECTION: After the movie industry's slowest weekend in three years - 129 films playing in North America took in a combined $54 million, less than "Jurassic Park" once took in by itself in one weekend - industry officials blame the public's preoccupation with the TV show "Survivor," which ended weeks ago; the Olympics, whose TV ratings are flat; and the presidential election.

Sept. 20: NATURE STRIKES BACK: A pregnant woman in Mattapan, Mass., tells police that a squirrel that had fallen into her car through the open sunroof as she drove had "tried to kill himself by jumping out of a tree." The woman was treated at a regular hospital, not a psychiatric one.

Sept. 17: NATURE STRIKES BACK, THE SEQUEL: Three monkeys, believed to be escapees from the Virginia state fair or a shipment headed to a circus in North Carolina, hurl bananas and crab apples at cars on Interstate 95 in Jarratt, Va., then escape into the woods.

Sept. 22: CUE OMINOUS MUSIC HERE: The man driving the truck that struck and critically injured horror novelist Stephen King in June 1999 is found dead at his home in Fryeburg, Maine. His body shows no signs of trauma, and an autopsy the next week is inconclusive.

Oct. 3: HOLLIDAY ON ICE: Greensboro Mayor Keith Holliday, expressing concern that innocent people might be executed for murder, suggests freezing convicted murderers instead, then thawing them out if they're later found innocent.

Oct. 14: PUTTING MONEY WHERE HIS MOUTH ... WASN'T?: A Vietnam veterans' group offers $1,000 to anyone who can prove that Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush actually showed up for Air National Guard duty in Alabama in 1972 after the unit's commander and executive officer say he never did.

Oct. 25: YUMMY: Duke University football players sick with food poisoning passed the virus to their Florida State opponents during a 1998 game in the first such documented case of transmission of the virus in a sports event, researchers announce.

Oct. 25: ALL THE COMPUTER'S FAULT. NOT: The state tells Greensboro City Councilman Earl Jones it will permanently stop giving money to the nonprofit he runs after a state audit finds $700,000 in questionable expenses.

Nov. 5: DEATH: A GOOD CAREER MOVE: Entertainer Steve Allen wins a seat on the board of the Screen Actors Guild despite having died Oct. 30, two days before balloting ended.

Nov. 7: DEATH: A GOOD CAREER MOVE, THE SEQUEL: Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, who died three weeks earlier in a plane crash, ousts incumbent U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft. Carnahan died too close to Election Day for his name to be removed from the ballot.

Nov. 10: SON OF ALL THE COMPUTER'S FAULT: Cybergossip Matt Drudge releases a new book in which he derides traditional media and proclaims himself the cutting edge of the digital revolution. Then he lists 19 favorite bookmarks, of which nine are newspapers.

Nov. 13: WE REPORT AND WE DECIDE: Fox News, which promotes itself as less biased than other network news operations, confirms that executive John Ellis, a first cousin of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, played a key role in the network's premature announcement on Election Night that Bush had clinched victory and that Ellis had spent much of Election Night in communication with his cousin.

Nov. 18: WHEN PIGS FLY: US Airways acted reasonably when it allowed a pig to fly first class from Philadelphia to Seattle, the Federal Aviation Administration rules.

Dec. 1: ALL THE COMPUTER'S FAULT. REALLY. Shortly after cybergossip Matt Drudge fails to win any Online Journalism Awards, he calls contest administrator Sreenath Sreenivasan to complain. Sreenivasan explains that one must enter the contest to win and that Drudge never sent in the paperwork.

Dec. 3: FORECASTING FOLLIES III: After forecasts calling for up to a foot of snow, Greensboro receives ... nary a flake.

Dec. 4: ALL THE COMPUTER'S FAULT, PART XXXVIII: An accrediting agency says Greensboro's Bennett College could lose its accreditation because a financial audit was late. Bennett President Gloria Scott blames the delay on a computer software failure that she said misplaced half the school's annual budget.

Dec. 5: THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD ... The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, having written and edited a front-page story on the end of a special session of the Arizona legislature, forgets to run the story in the paper.

Dec. 6: THEY'RE NOT INSANE, THEY'RE JUST TWISTED: The Washington Post publishes a photo of a music group identified as Insane Clown Posse; actually, the group shown was Twiztid.

Dec. 8: PRIORITIES IN ORDER: U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms' press aide issues a news release to reporters denying that Helms is ill, adding, "He is absolutely fine and will - God willing - be around to torment you for a long time."

Dec. 12: PRIORITIES IN ORDER, THE SEQUEL: The Flamingos will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame March 19, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner announces. Lou Reed will not.

Dec. 15: AT LEAST THEY'RE NOT SAYING IT'S THE COMPUTER'S FAULT: Internet retailer eToys downgrades its fourth-quarter sales and earnings estimates by almost half, blaming not only a "harsh retail climate" but also that consumers have been "meaningfully distracted by the presidential election and its aftermath."

Material from News & Record wire services, Salon.com and Poynter.org also was used in this report.

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