A chip on his shoulder

The Alaska Court of Appeals ruled in November that a judge could not take away a man's gun permit just because the man is suffering from a delusional disorder, causing him to believe that he has been injected with deadly chemicals and that a computer chip has been implanted in his head. State law, said the court, allows the denial of a permit only if a person has been taken through a full incompetency adjudication. The man, Timothy Wagner, came to the attention of authorities when he entered a store in Anchorage dripping wet because, he said, he was trying to soak the chemicals out of his body. He had a loaded .357 handgun (fully licensed) with him.

Going to the dogs

According to witnesses, Kevin Rodriguez, 11, choked to death a year ago in his school's cafeteria in Broward County after a "hey-watch-this" exhibition during which he shoved a large part of a hot dog into his mouth. Last month, Rodriguez's family filed a lawsuit against the school board because cafeteria and other personnel were not able to save Kevin's life -- and because hot dogs are too dangerous to serve to 11-year-old kids.

Open-pit flavor/p>

Trial got under way this month in the law suit by residents of Anniston, Ala., against Monsanto (and its corporate successor, Solutia Inc.). The suit charges that Monsanto routinely dumped deadly PCBs into the ground and local rivers for 15 years -- and it should have known better. The company's own research had revealed that the pollution was so deadly that fish died bloody deaths within 10 seconds of exposure to the water. According to documents from a chemical-safety organization and published in The Washington Post, Monsanto hid the dangers from its factory's neighbors while also dumping millions of pounds of PCBs into oozing open-pit landfills. Monsanto no longer produces chemicals but does make genetically engineered food, which -- it assures consumers and the government -- is totally safe for human consumption.

A sizable decision

In October, a judge in Rio de Janeiro turned down a defamation lawsuit brought by the daughters of the late Brazilian soccer player Manuel dos Santos ("Garrincha") against a biographer who had written that Garrincha was a "sex machine" with a penis nearly 10 inches long. The daughters had thought the disclosure was an insult to the memory of their father, who died in 1983, but Judge Joao Wehbi Dib concluded that, contrary to defamation, most Brazilian men would view such a reputation with great pride.

Judge not ...

Albuquerque Metro judge Barbara Brown was temporarily suspended in November after she and an ex-boyfriend were charged by police with throwing rocks at a Cash Mart check-cashing store. The management had refused to grant Judge Brown a loan, on the ground that she hadn't yet paid off a previous debt.

The ex-boyfriend, Richard "Dickie" Hone, suggested that the charges would amount to nothing because his case would win support from clients of his sports-and-entertainment agency, including Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson. Hone also said he would produce personal references from people familiar with his humanitarian work, names such as Nelson Mandela, boxing's Don King and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Albuquerque Journal reporters contacted several of those people, but no one recognized Hone's name.

Out-of-hands getaway

James Clyde Shields, 35, has become the latest person in custody to escape by driving off in a law-enforcement patrol car despite having been handcuffed with his arms behind him. Shields had been arrested on drug-manufacturing charges near Vancouver, Wash., and was momentarily left in the back seat of the locked car with its engine running. He pulled his hands underneath his legs, opened the Plexiglas shield, squeezed into the front seat, wiggled behind the wheel, and led a chase up Interstate 5 before finally crashing into a pole.

Fatal attraction

Hospital authorities in Australia told The Sydney Daily Telegraph in December that a (now-deceased) 15-year-old terminally ill boy, who had decided that his one dying wish was to experience sexual intercourse, got his wish via a hospital-arranged prostitute. The boy's parents and church leaders were outraged. ... A 63-year-old woman, watching a supposedly helpful video demonstrating the open-heart surgery she was preparing for, got scared and suffered a heart attack in Workington, England. ... The mayor of Rio de Janeiro pressured prosecutors to send TV meteorologist Luiz Carlos Austin to jail for incorrectly predicting rainstorms over New Year's (and possibly panicking already flood-weary residents).

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