Hot-dog fenders

Recent episodes of car surfboarding: Hampton, Va. (November): William Vaughn, 29, jumped onto a car's roof during a dispute to prevent his friend from leaving, but the friend drove off anyway (distance surfed: 25 miles, at speeds up to 60 mph). Chicago (November): Charles Gardner jumped onto his SUV's roof to prevent its carjacking, but the suspect drove off anyway (time surfed: 20 minutes). Ship Bottom, N.J. (January): Gas station attendant Matt Thomas jumped onto the hood of a car to try to prevent the customer from leaving without paying, but she drove off anyway (time surfed: a few minutes, at speeds up to 80 mph).

Endless patients

A French study, appearing as a February Archives of Internal Medicine article, reported that one of every nine persons admitted to intensive-care units is there because of illnesses caused elsewhere in the hospital (including infections or inappropriate drugs or excessive doses). Also in February, Claudia Archer, 52, settled her malpractice lawsuit against Walter Reed Army Medical Center for about $4 million. Archer entered the hospital to have a benign tumor removed from her neck, but over the next four months, allegedly because of errors and infections, both her legs had to be amputated below the knee and tubes inserted in her body to help her eat and breathe.

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Group home

After a report of her lifestyle was shown on MTV in November, April Divilbiss, 21, of Memphis, Tenn., found herself in a custody fight over her 3-year-old daughter. She is married to Shane Divilbiss, 24, but the couple shares a sex life with Mr. Chris Littrell, 22, and April spoke on MTV of bringing another female into the home because having sex with two men was tiring her out. Her daughter was fathered by yet another man, whose parents filed the custody petition against April, who also argued that her freedom of religion (as a self-described pagan) was being abridged.

Upward stupidity

Steve and Michelle Chambers pled guilty in August in Charlotte, N.C., to stealing $17 million from the Loomis, Fargo & Co. armored car firm in 1997, a caper that hit the headlines again in February 1999 when the Chambers' post-theft purchases were auctioned off to help Loomis recover its money. While on the lam from the heist, the couple called attention to themselves when Michelle walked in to a Belmont, N.C., bank with a suitcase containing $200,000 in Loomis, Fargo currency wrappers and asked the manager, "How much can I deposit without the bank reporting the transaction?" The couple had also moved directly from a rural mobile home into a $600,000 mansion and made many other equally exhibitionistic purchases. Said one federal marshal, "It was very much 'The Beverly Hillbillies.'"

Womb for one more

According to a December Denver Post story, Katy Emery, 27, agreed to a second straight pregnancy for her sister, Judi Conaghan of Chicago, who has been advised against carrying a fetus because of a heart condition. Previously, family black sheep Katy and ;super-responsible Judi had been estranged, but Katy, trying to shed the image of "the bad kid I'd been through my teen years," agreed to carry Judi's twins to term and enjoyed it so much that she signed on again.

Close call

In October in the Dent de Crolles region in France, sheepherder Christian Raymond, 23, was rescued from a cliff from which he had been hanging by his fingers for about 20 minutes. He had called the emergency rescue operator on his cell phone earlier in the day and managed to make another call from the cliff by pressing "redial" with his nose against the phone, which had fallen down the mountain with him but had landed right beside him.

Reverse order

Mathematics professor David Liu of the University of Alberta was named Canadian Professor of the Year in January. The award was based partly on the math clubs he has established for disadvantaged youth, but also on his having taught himself to work out equations upside down so that students could follow his explanations from across his desk.

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