Putting her house in order

The San Francisco Chronicle profiled astrologer/psychic Eloise Helm in March, after she upgraded her profession to "international feng shui consultant," a more lucrative calling. (Its going rate in the Bay Area: $1,000 per client.) Helm has rejected tarot cards for a "feng shui compass" that tells if harmony is breaking through in a room. And author Alison Daniels assured reporters earlier this year that her book "Feng Shui for You and Your Cat" is not a parody; cats, she said, are natural practitioners of feng shui, and owners should pay attention to their judgments. Common cat behaviors like the climbing of curtains are merely reactions to the presence or absence of energy streams, Daniels explained.

He can give as good as he gets

Attorney Michael Lazaroff, 50, pled guilty in St. Louis in June to federal charges that he gave clients extravagant gifts (totaling $380,000) over the past seven years, then surreptitiously inflated their bills with phony expenditures in order to make the clients themselves pay for the indulgences. Examples of Lazaroff's "generosity": concert tickets and trips to Las Vegas.

Loose-fitting genes

Texan Roy Criner, 33, has been imprisoned since 1990 on a 99-year sentence for rape, despite a subsequent DNA test's conclusion that the sperm in question was not his. An appeals court had overturned Criner's conviction even before the DNA test was performed, but the state's highest court reimposed the verdict. In her January interviews with the PBS-TV program "Frontline," Judge Sharon Keller of that court said that Criner was properly convicted, even though the sperm did not match.

Dick Hertz had no comment

Names in the news: Mr. 99 Daniel McGill (married last March in Knoxville, Tenn.); Mr. Will Wynn (who promised supporters he would win a city council seat in Austin, Texas, and who in May did just that); Mr. Chunky Click (defeated for re-election in June as sheriff of Carlsbad, N.M.); and Ms. Priscilla Feral, president of the group Friends of Animals (who protested the mistreatment of gophers during a June festival in Viola, Minn.).

No pussyfooting

In April, Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn.) freshman Cara Herbitter explained the rationale for a 35-member campus club that was formed to celebrate women's sexuality (and which was born out of the university's production of the off-Broadway play "The Vagina Monologues"). "If you don't make a point of talking specifically about vaginas," she said, "then they don't get talked about."

Personal property

Britain's national patent office marked a milestone last March: poet/waitress Donna Rawlinson MacLean's application for a patent on herself. MacLean told The Guardian newspaper that her application qualifies because she meets the legal standards of "novel" and "useful." "It has taken 30 years of hard labor for me to discover and invent myself," she said, "and now I wish to protect my invention from unauthorized exploitation."

Control issues

Prince Ernst August of Monaco apologized to Turkey for urinating on its pavilion during an urgent moment at the Expo 2000 World's Fair in Hanover, Germany. And in Seattle, America's leading advocate for permitting alcoholics to merely cut back on -- not abstain from -- imbibing was charged with vehicular homicide. His blood-alcohol reading was 0.26 percent.

Smack down

The Manchester (Conn.) Journal Inquirer reported in March that heroin is so cheap in nearby Hartford that one police lieutenant had seen its price dip as low as $2.50 per dose (one-tenth of a gram). At those rates, someone buying heroin in a convenience-store parking lot would be paying less for the drug than for a pack of cigarettes sold inside.

Not-so-extreme sports

In March, Remy Bricka set out from Los Angeles to "walk" to Sydney, Australia, using a pair of boatlike skis and a long paddle, and towing a catamaran behind him that contained supplies and a place to sleep. And in April, Belfast, Northern Ireland, hospital worker Willie Nugent raised money for charity by "swimming" across a river in downtown Dublin, Ireland, despite the fact that he cannot swim. Instead, Nugent crawled across a bridge in movements resembling those of a breast stroke. (Nugent made it, but Bricka's catamaran was wiped out by a storm on the first day, and he had to give up.)

Unhappy landings

A 39-year-old man committed suicide in May by jumping eight flights off the Keio department-store building in downtown Tokyo; he landed on pedestrian Shinya Obata, 27, who was seriously injured but survived. Less lucky was Yang Shu-hui, 26, who in March happened to be walking in the same spot in Taichung, Taiwan, where the suicidal Ms. Hsu Tzu-jung, 36, landed after a seven-story leap; both died.

Heap of trouble

The Environmental Protection Agency said in May that it cannot start its cleanup of the toxic Kim-Stan landfill near Roanoke, Va., because whoever owns the property has been hiding out since a 1990 bankruptcy proceeding. The government cannot legally begin to halt the leaking of cadmium, manganese, zinc and aluminum into the nearby Jackson River without the owner's permission.


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