Cut and Run

No porn future for a Bobbitt protégé

But at least it's not fatal, right? As long as you're not an elephant.

Kimba, a 13-year-old Asian elephant at the Houston Zoo, died September 6. Autopsy results have finally come back, and they indicate she died of…elephant herpes. Now the zoo is keeping close watch on the other elephants, looking to see if the disease spread.

"This thing is one of the most puzzling, confounding and frustrating diseases in animals that anyone has ever identified," says zoo spokesman Brian Hill. "We don't know how it is spread. We don't know how it got into the population."

Chad Crowe
Backe in his pre-Astros days
Backe in his pre-Astros days

It's these kids today with their loose morals, we're sure. At any rate, how do you look for elephant herpes? Just how big can a cold sore get?

"One of the first clues is a purplish tongue, because this virus attacks the body's blood vessels," Hill says. And they look for changes in behavior, too -- just like people, elephants can get pissed and annoyed if they get herpes, although we assume they don't make drunken late-night phone calls berating former paramours.

Handlers "ask the elephants to do other behaviors that will show the keeper 'Is this animal alert? Is this animal possibly depressed?' " Hill says. "Elephants are very intelligent animals and, yes, they can experience depression."

So elephant herpes is bad. "People herpes will not kill people," Hill says. "It may make them wish they were dead, but it will not kill them, as far as I know. And I have to qualify that because I'm not a doctor, and I don't even play one on TV."

A Baseball Factory

On October 18, much of America was clicking back and forth between the Yankees-Red Sox game and the Astros-Cards game. And at one point that night, folks at one small area college were hooting and hollering even though there wasn't a play going on.

Ace reliever Kevin Foulke took the mound for the Sox in the eighth inning. Just as he was doing so, the Astros' Brandon Backe left the dugout to continue his sterling pitching for Drayton's boys.

Big deal, right? Well, it was a big deal at Galveston College, a small school that has had a baseball program for only a dozen years. Both Foulke and Backe played for the Whitecaps, Foulke in 1992 and 1993, Backe in 1998.

Dominating the national baseball stage, even for a night, is pretty impressive for a school with an enrollment of about 2,700. None of the coaches of the two players is still around, but Joe Huff III, the college's director of public affairs, says the school plans to honor the former Whitecaps.

Backe will get a parade on the Strand and the school will retire his number; Foulke will…ummmm…get invited to a February "Breakfast of Champions." We guess it helps to be an Astro.

Foulke, by the way, notably displayed his Texas pride during the World Series run, where close-ups constantly caught the state flag stitched onto his glove.

Was this a silent tribute to his alma mater on Avenue Q? Apparently not. "He's just a big Texas guy," Foulke's agent says.

Mock the Vote, Part One

The eyes of a nation were on the key swing state of Texas November 2, eager to see just which way Lone Star voters would go.

Actually, of course, the voting held about as much suspense as a re-election of Vladimir Putin. But that didn't mean there wasn't the opportunity for some festive Election Day high jinks.

At St. Philip Neri Catholic Church near Hobby Airport, for instance, a near-blind African-American woman named Ethel Copeland wanted to have her daughter's assistance in the booth. A poll worker said no.

Copeland fumbled her way through the ballot and left; on the way out she told her tale to a poll-watching group called Election Protection 2004. An attorney with the group, Angela Williams, complained to Precinct 132 Judge James Burks.

Burks told Williams to leave him alone. "He says, 'There will be somebody else here you can speak to,' " she says.

And Burks was true to his word. A few minutes later, five police cars rolled up. Including a K-9 unit. "It was just another form of intimidation," Williams says.

Apparently do-gooders like Williams don't even consider the possibility that the police were there to help. To provide a cordon of security around the booth as someone like Copeland did her civic duty. And if you ask us, providing a service dog shows just how thoughtful the government can be.

Attorney Williams says that the extra-mile customer-service that Burks offered to Copeland wasn't unusual for him -- he went out of his way to help lots of voters. At least five people told the watchdog group Burks refused to let them cast provisional ballots.

Federal law mandates that people who don't show up on a precinct's voters list be allowed to cast provisional ballots, which may or may not end up being counted.

But a sensitive precinct judge like Burks would never want to give voters false hopes, to let people think they had participated in an election when actually there was a chance they had not. Better to let them know up front they're wasting their time.

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