Hot for teacher 


In August, residents learned that the county librarian in Concrete, Wash., offered her spare-time services as the S&M dominatrix Lady Jane Grey in nearby Bellingham. Despite her credentials and passion as a librarian, her contract was not renewed in November. Also in August, Shannon Williams, 37, a teacher for the Berkeley, Calif., Unified School District, was arrested for misdemeanor prostitution. Williams, who was previously scheduled to be on a leave of absence this school year, said in September she would challenge the prostitution law as unconstitutional.

(File) size does matter

Enraged that his computer was virtually disabled by e-mail spam earlier this year, Charles Booher, 44, of Sunnyvale, Calif., allegedly repeatedly threatened employees of the spammer with torture (castration with a power drill and an ice pick) and murder (using a gun and anthrax spores). He was arrested in November and admitted to the Reuters news agency that he had "sort of lost (his) cool" at the bombardment of penis-lengthening ads from DM Contact Management. DM's president blamed a rival company for stealing DM's e-mail address and said such companies give a bad name to the penis-enlargement business.

Evolution in action

As part of a hazing ritual for a new Ku Klux Klan member near Johnson City, Tenn., in November, several Klansmen would shoot the man with paintball guns while another simultaneously rapid-fired a 9mm pistol overhead to make the pledge believe he was being shot with a real gun. According to police, one of the bullets, fired straight up in the air by Klansman Gregory Allen Freeman, 45, came down through the skull of Klansman Jeffery S. Murr, 24, who was hospitalized in critical condition. Freeman was arrested.

One eye on the road

Officials in Lakeville, Ind., weren't certain, but it appeared that a cause of a fatal Oct. 10 car crash on U.S. 31 might have been that Dale Brenon, 50 (a private detective who survived in critical condition), was working on his laptop computer while driving. A police spokesman said the computer was thrown clear of the collision but was turned on, and a program was running. The driver of the other car was killed.

Leave no baby-sitter behind

In October, former Massachusetts day-care center proprietor Gerald Amirault, who is believed to be the last person still imprisoned on the basis of now widely discredited, fantastical, heavily coached, child-sex-abuse testimony from the 1980s, finally won parole and will be freed in April. Officials have long refused to cut him slack because of his defiant, 18-year insistence that he never molested a single child. He noted that his sociology textbook for an in-prison college course mentioned his own case as an example of that era's hysteria-driven prosecutions of accused child molesters.

Preventive measures

In October, the Dollywood amusement park in Tennessee announced the end of free passes for the blind and the crippled after someone complained of discrimination against people with other disabilities, who still had to pay. The town of Mosgiel, New Zealand, barred children from sitting on Santa's knee this year because of the risk of future molestation complaints. In November, the Royal British Legion announced it will no longer give out poppy pins to donors on Remembrance Day (for military veterans) because of fear that people might stick themselves and sue.

Fairy tales can come true

Prof. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State University said recently that, hoaxes aside, there is enough legitimate evidence of Bigfoot to warrant a comprehensive scientific investigation of his existence, once and for all. National Geographic reported in October that a Texas fingerprint expert, as well as noted chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall, have said they are certain of Bigfoot's existence. And Provo, Utah, explorer Steve Currey is organizing a July 2005 expedition to the North Pole (cost: $21,000 per person) to find the so-called polar "opening" to the hollow center of the Earth, supposedly the kingdom of God where the biblical 10 Lost Tribes reside.

Not the full monty

For the second time in 12 months, news broke in November that a python had crushed and swallowed a human. Unlike the devouring of a small boy in Lamontville, South Africa, in 2002, the body of 38-year-old Basanti Tripura, of the Rangaman district in Bangladesh, was downed only to the waist before villagers killed the snake.

Don't choke on your coffee

Two headlines that greeted morning newspaper readers in October: "Patrol Car Hit by Flying Outhouse," a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about Wisconsin trooper Rich Vanko's squad car being smashed when a truck carrying portable toilets lost one along Interstate 90; and "Shatner Frozen Horse-Semen Suit Dismissed," a Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader story about William Shatner's ex-wife's accusation that she was being denied divorce-settlement-mandated access to a breeding stallion for her own farm.

The long arm of the law

In Norway, a 19-year-old intoxicated backseat passenger was convicted of drunken driving because he reached to adjust the stereo and accidentally bumped the idling car's gearshift into "drive."


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