Cutting a deal

This October in Alberta, Canada, judge Shelagh Creagh ruled that prison inmate Shane Arthur Wilson could not be punished for carrying around a homemade plastic knife since Wilson said the knife was only for defending himself against prison gangs. This, and a similar decision currently being appealed by another Alberta judge, has predictably outraged prison guards across Canada.

A November Washington Post dispatch from Mexico reports that escaping from prison is not a crime in that country (nor is running away from police or lying about guilt) because, as one Supreme Court justice put it, Mexico respects the individual's "basic desire for freedom."

Playing with fire

All 21 volunteer firefighters of Elgin, Iowa, submitted letters of resignation in October after they were told they could no longer keep beer at the firehouse. Later in the month, they backed off in exchange for the City Council's agreement to open an investigation of Councilwoman Jean Roach, the person who allegedly first ratted them out to the city's insurance carrier.

Hairy situation

Police in Mansfield Township and Hackettstown, N.J., charged Emmanuel Nieves, 23, with aggravated assault on Nov. 13 after he allegedly slashed the face of his friend Erik Saporito, 21, as the two men fought after arguing over which one had more hair on his buttocks.

Stop making sense

In September, Robert Rozenhart, now 56, won his 7-year-old lawsuit against Skier's Sportshop in Edmonton, Alberta, for injuries suffered on his maiden attempt to in-line skate, which came after a Skier's employee tried unsuccessfully to tell Rozenhart not to venture out until the store's instructor arrived to help him. Rozenhart skated away anyway and was on a downward incline when he first realized he did not know how to stop.

What a gas

Octavio Soto, 44, and Jose Cezares, 23, were hospitalized with third-degree burns in Fitchburg, Mass., this September when they attempted to saw into a gas tank in which they had hidden $100,000 worth of cocaine. An errant spark from their sawing created a flash fire.

Two men escaped after an unsuccessful attempt to rob a guy filling up at the Swifty Service Station in Indianapolis in October. The victim merely flicked the gasoline hose at the men, dousing them and sending them scampering.

Mayor Shelton Richardson of North Randall, Ohio, charging racism, proposed to make it illegal for any gas station to make customers pay before pumping despite a marked recent increase in customer "drive-offs."

Dead to rights

Mayor Jay Lee of Virgin, Utah (a town that once required a gun in every house for self-defense and that also once banned United Nations activities within its borders), announced this October that there would be a $25 charge for anyone who wished to speak up at Town Council meetings.

Last month, Alabama, one of two states to ban the sale of devices whose main function is to assist in sexual pleasure, had its law declared unconstitutional by a federal judge.

Making a killing

In October, Kevin William Presland, 44, commenced his lawsuit against the James Fletcher Hospital in Newcastle, Australia, in which he is asking to be financially compensated because, he alleges, hospital personnel released him prematurely after a brief psychiatric admission in 1995 and thus made it easy for him to kill his prospective sister-in-law a few hours later. Presland's lawyer acknowledges that nothing can be done to help the woman's family but says Presland at least deserves a payoff. The hospital says Presland was calm and rational and that it had no legal basis for detaining him.

No kidding

Bryan Furrow, 17, was charged in Manchester, Conn., this August with masturbating in front of 10 children and sexually touching five of them. His mother, Lenora Furrow, told reporters that Bryan had simply "made a wrong judgment call."

In September, the North Tyneside Council in England advised a local business group not to hold the annual children's Christmas caroling contest this year because it would be a bad experience for the kids who did not win.

Another thing coming

Conscientious workers at the ARO Campulung auto plant in Romania offered in October to help pay off the company's debts by selling their sperm to a fertility clinic in the city of Timisoara, at the equivalent of $50 a session. The plant's union leader said, "We have found [a solution] that even the best economists have never thought of." However, to pay the $20 million debt in full would require 400,000 sessions, or 400 sessions for each of the 1,000 males at the plant.

Blown away

At Taipei's annual judicial conference, Taiwanese judges voted 49-11 that oral sex, without intercourse, should not be a legal ground for adultery.

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