Space cadets

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In 2000, News of the Weird reported that a major plank in the platform of a Montana man running for the U.S. Senate was to encourage the space program to build and use an "elevator" to lift satellites into orbit, rather than the far more expensive rocket ships. An October 2003 Associated Press report disclosed that a dozen or more scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory so deeply believe in the elevator that they work on their own time on studying and promoting its feasibility. The elevator would be a cable shaft about 50,000 miles long, lowered to Earth from a conventional spacecraft and docked to a land station. The shaft would be made of "carbon nanotubes" (many times stronger yet lighter than steel), but the main problem is that, so far, science only knows how to make nanotubes a few feet long.

Toro! Toro! Toro!

According to the arresting officer, Devikia Donise Garnett, 20, was calm when he stopped her for speeding in Hampton, Va., in November. However, after accepting the ticket, she quickly developed second thoughts and lit out after the officer, slamming her car into the back of his cruiser, then stopping and accelerating again, smacking the car three more times. After the officer avoided her fifth pass, Garnett spun around and headed straight for him, but he managed to pin her car before it struck his.

Burning bridges

After Norm and Darlene Scott's Montana farm burned in 1996, they collected $75,000 from Mountain West Farm Bureau insurance but weren't satisfied and demanded more, finally getting another $52,500 in 1999. However, they wanted still more money and sued the company, claiming it was dealing with them in bad faith. In November 2003, a jury in Helena not only rejected the claim for more money but found that it was the Scotts who had started the fire, a finding that probably never would have been made had the Scotts quietly accepted the first $127,500. The statute of limitations prevents criminal charges against them, but the insurance company will sue to get its money back.

Breaking news

In October, Vancouver, Wash., resident Toni Lynn Lycan, 44, in a shouting war with a downstairs neighbor over his loud music, stomped up and down on the floor, eventually breaking both her legs about four inches below the knee. And deer hunter Jeffrey Souza, of Lakeville, Mass., slipped while building his tree stand and, dangling by his feet, broke both ankles in November.

Doing hard time

Gary Moses and Rannon Fletcher, both 17-year-old inmates at the Iberia Parish, La., jail, filed separate lawsuits in October against jail officials, for $1.5 million and $650,000, respectively, because they were allowed to buy cigarettes at the commissary even though they are underage.

Former Australian inmate Craig Ballard won a settlement of his lawsuit in September for the equivalent of about $70,000 against the Grafton Correctional Centre in New South Wales for head injuries that occurred when he fell out of a bunk bed. Ballard was in prison for a vicious assault against a woman.

But you must pay the rent

In September, Rouse Co., a developer and landlord of shopping malls, acknowledged that it had somehow forgotten to renew the lease on its own headquarters in Columbia, Md., a blunder that will probably more than double its rent, perhaps costing as much as $11 million.

Of all the jail cells ...

In October, imprisoned child molester Kevin Kinder, 31, scheduled for a routine court hearing, was temporarily placed in a holding cell in Tampa, Fla., with 60 other prisoners, among them a 22-year-old man who immediately recognized Kinder as the man who had molested him when he was 11. The man started punching Kinder and knocked out a tooth before he was restrained.

Benefit of the doubt

In November, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Susan Winfield ordered no jail time (just drug treatment and probation) to a 25-year-old man who has 33 burglary arrests and seven convictions, including a gun count, plus previous failed probations and failed drug rehabs. And in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Dean Edmondson, 26, a white man, was sentenced to only house arrest in September after a conviction for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old aboriginal girl, whom Justice Fred Kovach found was perhaps "the aggressor."

Reality TV

A scheduled guest on the Dr. Phil television program filed a lawsuit in November, claiming it was the show's producers' fault that she had an anxiety attack in her quarters right before the show and tried to climb out a second-story window. She fell and shattered her leg so badly that it had to be amputated. And "Wheel of Fortune" contestant Will Wright, 38, filed a lawsuit in October against Pat Sajak for hurting Wright's back by jumping onto and bear-hugging him to celebrate Wright's having just won $48,000 during a 2000 show.

Second amendment follies

The 50-home village of Geuda Springs, Kan., through its town council, voted in November to require every household to own a working firearm, for "emergency management." Later, the mayor vetoed the ordinance, but it will be reconsidered in February.

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