Posted by R. Neal

You go out of town for a few days and all kinds of weird things happen...

Item: A couple of convicts escaped from a Louisiana prison using a Popsicle stick as a key (no, I'm not making that up), stole a car, and made their way to Knoxville where they posed as Katrina refugees from Tulane, claiming to be members of a fraternity there. They went to U.T. fraternity parties, dated sorority girls, and one got a job as a bartender on "The Strip" where local U.T. students hang out. Oh, and they also setup a forgery and counterfeiting operation, and according to police were plotting a kidnapping. One of the pair was arrested by a cop who just happened to be in line behind him when he tried to pass a counterfeit $10 bill. The other hung around for some inexplicable reason and was apprehended the day after being spotted at a U.T. library, where a stolen gun was found in a trash can. A U.T. fraternity brother who befriended them said they were "real polite."

Item: The general manager of Knology (a Georgia based cable TV/internet/telephone company) here in Knoxville announced that last Friday November 11th was Judgment Day. You know, Armageddon. The Rapture. Etc. After writing a couple of letters to the local paper, they and a local TV station (hey, it's sweeps week, you know) interviewed him. In his newspaper interview (free registration required) he explained that the Illuminati, of which Bush is a member, is gaining control as predicted in the Bible, and that the number 11 is their code number: It was on Sept. 11, 1990, that the senior George Bush mentioned before Congress the phrase "A New World Order" for the first time. Eleven years later to the day, the World Trade Center was destroyed. The Madrid bombings were on March 11, 2004 - 911 days after Sept. 11, 2001. And, says Gilmore, something very big is going to happen on Nov. 11, 2005 - three days from today. "Look at that date: 11-11-2005. Add 1+1+1+1+2+0+0+5, and what do you get?" Eleven. Best I can tell, the world did not end on Friday. Or at least I wasn't called up in the Rapture. Mr. Gilmore, however, was relieved of his duties at Knology.

Item: Over here in Blount County, Tennessee, a local man is on a campaign to convince local residents and authorities that "the torso of 1977 was not Paul Hurst." Ronnie Sellers has been posting flyers and walking around town with a sign to that effect. It seems Paul Hurst was Sellers' boxing coach when Sellers fought the then unknown Sugar Ray Leonard at the Ohio State Fair in 1973 and almost beat him. Hurst subsequently disappeared in 1977, and Sellers apparently thinks the disappearance is somehow related to the Leonard bout. A headless torso was found, and police declared it the body of Hurst. The body was later exhumed, and new evidence suggested maybe not. Sellers wants the case reopened. I have no idea what this is all about, but the guy certainly has a compelling PR campaign slogan.

Item: And again in Blount County, someone has started a campaign to discredit the Pakistani owner of the Rocky Top Quick Stop Market and Deli, claiming that he is an Iranian who refuses to serve U.S. military personnel. Forwarded e-mails and flyers have been circulating around the community and have appeared as far away as Georgia. Some of the e-mails have originated from high-profile businesses in town. A lawyer for the Tennessee Press Association said the e-mails could be ruled libel or defamation, and that businesses should be careful because they could be held accountable for their employees' actions. The deli owner, a naturalized U.S. Citizen since 1991, denies the allegations and believes the e-mails and flyers are "racially motivated." Gee, you think?

OK, then.