Chopped sticks in court

Susan Heitker and Matt Glass staged a week-long anti-logging protest in Vinton County, Ohio, sitting on a platform they had constructed in two stately trees near a patch of forest scheduled to be cut. But the state Department of Natural Resources got in the last licks. The protesters were arrested for trespassing, and the two trees -- not part of the forest to be cut -- were chopped down on the grounds that they contained the protesters' fingerprints and would be needed for trial evidence. The state also billed the two $152 for the cost of taking out the trees they occupied.

Riding in cars with the Taliban

According to an interview with one of his physicians in London's Sunday Telegraph, the Afghanistan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, 43, suffers periodic brain seizures that incapacitate him for days at a time and bring on a deep depression during which he often engages in childlike behavior. One typical behavior, said the physician: sitting in the driver's seat of one of his SUVs with the engine off, turning the wheel and making his own engine sounds. (Shortly after the story ran, the Pentagon announced it had bombed a Chevrolet Suburban belonging to Omar, although he was not among the people inside at the time.)

War games

Both the U.S. and Afghanistan seem to be heeding President Bush's call to act normally during these times of strife: Just a few miles up the road from the anthrax-shuttered National Enquirer offices in West Palm Beach, officials of the brand-new National Croquet Center have staged a two-week series of matches, preparing for their grand opening in January. And Afghanistan's application to play in a prestigious cricket tournament in Pakistan, which began about the same time as the U.S. bombing, was accepted. Although the Afghan team eventually lost, one Afghan player said, "Sport and war are two different things."

They're in good hands

London's Goodfellows Co. has made news again by selling two more whimsical insurance policies. Model Claire Roe's coverage against loss of beauty would provide her a $170,000 payout (for a $350 annual premium). And coverage purchased by the male-stripper troupe Dreamboys at a cost of about $15,000 a year would pay them up to $1.2 million if their genitals are injured by fans. Among the firm's most popular policies: the Alien All Risks package (about $400 a year for $1.7 million coverage) for being abducted or impregnated by an alien, which Goodfellows has sold to 40,000 people. More than 15,000 women also bought Y2K immaculate-conception insurance in 1999, fearful they would be called upon to give birth to the messiah.

Dirty deed

With great fanfare in August, the U.S. Department of the Interior declared the Fresno, Calif., municipal landfill an historical landmark on the National Register. The designation cited the landfill's pioneering methods of disposal. Later the same day, the department came to realize -- thanks to environmentalist critics -- that the landfill also has a long-standing spot on the Superfund's list of the worst-polluted land in America. The next day, the Department of the Interior rescinded the honor.

Ninny of a nanny

Nanny Ildiko Varga, 25, on the run and wanted for trashing an employer's home and mistreating the family's toddler in a New York City suburb, was finally caught when she stopped a police officer on the street to show him the article the New York Post had written about the crime. She wanted to know whether the officer thought she had a good case for a slander lawsuit.

Vial artwork

England's Wolverhampton Art Gallery reopened in September (after extensive remodeling) with the exhibit "Fluid," composed entirely of artists' works that featured human bodily liquids. Included were a brilliant red and yellow abstract photograph by Andres Serrano (mixed blood and urine); Mona Hatoum's representation of the flow of her food during the hours following a meal (including photographs from her own intestine-invasive procedures), and assorted testaments to sperm and sweat.

What's her beef?

Austrian artist Wolfgang Flatz's latest performance-art exhibit, "Meat," came off as scheduled in Berlin despite an attempted court injunction by a 13-year-old girl, who said the show was going to be way too gross. Flatz suspended himself from a crane, crucifixion-style under a bloody sheet. Then a helicopter lifted a dead, headless cow that he had packed with fireworks. The cow was dropped onto an abandoned building, blowing it up. (Previously, Flatz has been a human doormat, a human dartboard and a human bell.)

Rapid response

Julie Gable has filed a $100,000 lawsuit against the police department of St. Pete Beach because it continues to employ community-service officer Michael Mehill, whom Gable says has been stalking her for 10 years -- the last few with the knowledge of the chief. The chief even allegedly found one of Mehill's notebooks, in which was written very detailed descriptions of his stalkings: For example, on Aug. 5, 1998, an entry said, "At 1343 (hours), (Gable) was on a lawn chair, red halter-top, white shorts. Waiting for someone?" In her complaint, Gable also said that Mehill has an uncanny ability to arrive on the beach with his video camera only moments after she does.


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