Games without frontiers

In December, NBC News, citing Pentagon and intelligence sources, reported that thousands of Sony PlayStation 2s might have been purchased by Iraqi sources recently, to capitalize on the device's powerful computer processor and video cards, possibly to use in connection with weapons systems. One expert told the World Net Daily news service that an integrated bundle of 12 to 15 PlayStation 2s could provide enough power to control a chemical-weapons-delivering Iraqi aircraft. (A Sony spokesperson said it was unlikely anyone could buy thousands of units.) And among similarly alarming, everyday products described in an October New York Times Magazine report were the 2001 Cadillac Deville (whose sophisticated night-vision system is potentially useful for tanks) and automobile airbags (whose compact explosive charge might be useful to terrorists).

All in the family

London's Observer newspaper reported in November an increasing number of artificial inseminations in which a woman is impregnated with sperm from her husband's father, in order to improve the chances of continuing the genetic line when her partner's own sperm won't work. Two Japanese physicians told The Washington Post in December that they, too, see the practice increasing: "Japanese people put strong importance on the bloodstream. We are a homogeneous people."

Brothers in arms

In July in Tucson, Ariz., Corey Viramontes, 15, pled guilty to murder and faces up to 22 years in prison for viciously stabbing a service-station supervisor to death during a robbery. Corey has three brothers: Robert, 21, is serving life in prison for beating a neighbor to death with a baseball bat; Anthony, 22, will be sentenced in January for beating a man to death for eating his pizza; and Samuel, 18, is already serving a life sentence for his role in bludgeoning the pizza-eater. The boys' records include other frequently vicious beatings. As an Arizona Daily Star writer put it, "Victims of the Viramontes brothers do not die easily."

Who needs carry-on bags?

News of the Weird has reported over the years on prisoners' sometimes-prodigious aptitudes for safekeeping valuables in their rectums. A man arrested on drug charges in Amarillo, Texas, in November 2000 allegedly was rectally housing 80 $100 bills (along with two $50s and money orders totaling $4,200), easily beating the record of $2,000 kept by a Florida State Prison inmate in 1991 (though that man also had six handcuff keys, seven hacksaw blades and 34 razor blades in a pouch in his rectum).

Charity begins at home

In December, CNN founder Ted Turner offered to donate $35 million to cover the shortfall in U.S. dues to the United Nations that Congress is so far unwilling to pay. Two months earlier, however, to show his appreciation to the three local fire departments whose workers had fought summer blazes on his ranch near Gordon, Neb., Turner could only manage donations totaling $3,500.

But was there a recount?

Al Gore (presumably, the same one who ran for president) was elected by write-in votes as director of the Marion County (Ore.) Soil and Water Conserva-tion board (but was disqualified because he owns no land in the district). And in Hartford, Conn., Terrell Bush beat out Johnny Gore in November voting to become homecoming king of Weaver High School.

Got milk

Child-protection officials removed a 6-year-old boy from the home of his 32-year-old mother in Champaign, Ill., in Decem-ber after they concluded that she had forcibly breastfed him until just recently. The mother defended her " parenting philosophy," telling the Chicago Tribune that society was too uptight about breastfeeding, and she denied that she coerced her son.

Slick reasoning

Michael H. Cautela, 39, was sentenced to 300 hours' community service in Columbus, Ohio, in December, specifically targeted to cleaning restrooms and zoo cages, for two counts of assaulting women by spraying them with a mixture of salad oil and urine. (When the judge asked why, Cautela said, "I just like to see ladies with oil on them." But, said the judge, "This had urine in it." Cautela held firm: "It was mostly oil." )

Arranged marriage

A judge granted John Turner a divorce after a 38-year union, persuaded by testimony that Mrs. Turner compulsively rearranged their furniture every single day they were married (Thornaby-on-Tees, England). The man claiming the world's longest fingernails (47 inches) announced he wanted to sell them to a museum for $200,000 (Pune, India). A 20-year-old hotel parking attendant joyriding in a guest's Ferrari 355 GTS ($175,000) totaled it into a palm tree (Dana Point, Calif.). A federal judge rejected, with a decision in poetic verse, a prisoner's lawsuit against Penthouse magazine for fraud in overpromising how revealing its recent nude pictorial of Paula Jones would be (Austin, Texas).

Out of the frying pan ...

A 22-year-old man died of massive head injuries after jumping reflexively out of an open convertible to avoid a cigarette butt flicked by the driver (Virginia Beach, Va., October). A 29-year-old woman was fatally run over by a street-sweeping machine (Washington, D.C., September).

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