Auto motives

In separate incidents over a 48-hour period in March, a fuming Spring Hill, Tenn., man fired about 90 rounds from an AK-47 point-blank into his car alongside a major highway after it died on him, and another man was turned down at the courthouse in Knoxville, Tenn., when he applied for a marriage license to make his 1996 Mustang his bride, following a depressing split with his girlfriend.

Grading on a curl

England's Plymouth University announced in March that it would offer an "academically rigorous" bachelor's degree in surfing beginning in September. The degree will be known formally as Surf Science and Technology and will offer research opportunities in surfboard, wetsuit and accessory design, and furnish to society not only surfers and product developers but organizers of surfing events.

Force of nature

In March, more than a thousand police officers in India completed a 10-day retreat at which they practiced traditional Vippasana meditation, with top officers lauding the session as a way to prevent brutality on the job. Said one newly mellow cop who had completed the program, "Today I bear no malice or ill will to anyone." In addition to 12 hours of meditation and introspection each day, the retreat required total silence, no sex and a regimen of fruit and cereals.

Poultry dilemmas

In December, the Kirkwood, Mo., home of Dennis and Bonnie Miller suffered extensive fire damage when the turkey they tried to deep-fry on a grill for Christmas burned a hole in the pot and ignited a propane cylinder. And in February, Canadian fugitive Allen Charles White-quill, 42, on the lam for two years on murder charges, was captured in Carrizozo, N.M., during a burglary when he attempted to cook a frozen turkey in an office microwave oven. (He badly undercooked it and became sick, and when he sought a restroom, he accidentally locked the door behind him and could not get out before police arrived.)

Urge overkill

In March, former Fairfax County, Va., school principal Anthony M. Rizzo Jr., 62, escaped with a hung jury on charges that he had repeatedly raped a 10-year-old girl in the 1980s. The jury had not been allowed to know one fact about Rizzo: In 1998 he had won a permanent disability retirement from the state of Virginia, worth three times what ordinary retirement is worth, with the "disability" being a "psychosexual disorder" that makes him unable to supervise females without also trying to force sex on them. (At the time Rizzo was fighting for the disability, he was also denying the claims of eight female former co-workers who said they were victims of Rizzo's "disorder." )

A head for business

Charlie Smith, 45, told authorities in Austin, Texas, in February that he might plead guilty to crimes in connection with a yearlong series of scams that bilked people out of more than $1 million, but that he wanted people to know he wasn't a bad person. He told the Austin American-Statesman that his nearly lifelong urge to rip people off traces back to a day in 1969 when his car slipped off of the jack while he was working on it, landing on him, cracking his skull and changing him morally.

Chemical brothers

Richard Davis, 51, defending his bankruptcy filing in London, England, in March, said it was a nasal decongestant by Novartis Pharmaceuticals that made him extravagant and irrational. And Gregory DeLozier, 35, explaining the attempted murder charge against him in Trenton, N.J., said in January that it was the sediment from a bottle of iced tea he drank that produced the weird side effects that made him stab his wife.

Fired up

Fired up

In March, the city of Yenshui, Taiwan, held a fireworks show to commemorate stamping out the plague bacteria by fire more than 100 years ago. Villagers wearing bulky, protective clothing stand in front of the fireworks, which this year consisted of bottle rockets, hoping to be hit by the missiles, which would bring good luck. Apparently some of the rockets exploded only after hitting the bulky clothing, creating serious injuries to about 30 lucky people.

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