Stamp of disapproval

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A New York Daily News investigation revealed in March that the Postal Service has spent at least $3.6 million of stamp buyers' money in recent years sending its Inspector General staff through a series of executive conferences that featured exercises in wrapping each other in toilet paper and aluminum foil, building sand castles in freezing weather at the beach, and freely making animal noises. Conference sponsors had convinced Inspector General Karla Corcoran that those exercises would improve job performance and make the staff work together better. Other therapeutic tasks included dressing in cat costumes and asking make-believe wizards for advice.

Choke's on him

A 36-year-old man from Arcadia, Fla., checked himself into a counseling clinic in March after being identified as the one who had been pretending in public to be choking on food and persuading women to grasp him in the Heimlich maneuver, after which he would hug them lavishly and attempt clumsily to develop a relationship. A sheriff's spokesman in Charlotte County, site of the most recent reports, said the man probably had done nothing illegal. (Novelist Chuck Palahniuk, author of "Fight Club," recently published "Choke," whose storyline roughly matches the man's actions, but apparently some Florida incidents predated the book's publication.)

Go anywhere minutes

Three men fell to their deaths into a 40-foot latrine pit in Mombasa, Kenya, in March, all because the first man chivalrously climbed down a ladder into the pit to retrieve a woman's cell phone but fell off and suffocated. The other two men then climbed down, but also fell off, attempting to rescue the one before him. A search crew finally brought up the three bodies four hours later, but no cell phone.

Not my problem

Gerald F. Berg gave police a false name when stopped in Spokane, Wash., saying he had left his wallet at home, but when police saw the wallet in Berg's pants pocket, along with methamphetamine, he quickly professed confusion, telling police that the pants he was wearing weren't his.

Marcus J. Thomas, 20, who was being discharged from jail in La Crosse, Wis., was discovered to have eight rocks of crack cocaine in his rectum. He quickly told police that the drugs weren't his.

Barefoot and kidnapped

Police in Warren, Ohio, arrested Roger A. Hunt, 41, on New Year's Day and charged him with kidnapping his girlfriend, despite his story that the couple were just blissfully headed out to dinner in his truck. Police said their suspicions were aroused when they noticed that the woman was barefoot and Hunt tried to explain that by saying, "She's from Virginia. She doesn't wear shoes [when she goes out to dinner]."

Vampire but

Robert Paul Rice, serving 1 to 15 years in Utah State Prison, had filed a lawsuit demanding that the prison accommodate him as a vampire by providing special "vampire" meals and conjugal visits that would allow him to partake "in the vampiric sacrament" (drinking blood), but an appeals court turned him down in October. A prison spokesman said that no one gets conjugal visits in Utah, blood-drinking or otherwise.

Crime family

In March, after someone reported a brick thrown through his window, authorities went to the neighboring home of Phillip and Jerry Logan in Wyandotte, Okla., to question them. The Logans put out the word for other family members to come by and help them, and there soon broke out a series of fights that eventually involved 30 law enforcement officers from eight agencies. Six Logans (including the 61-year-old patriarch and the 55-year-old mother) were taken into custody. According to the Ottawa County sheriff, the immediate members of the Logan family have been charged with 250 crimes in the last five years.

Stop making sense

University of Manitoba professor Rod Yellon's appeal of his 1998 traffic ticket for running a stop sign was rejected in February, and it appears he will now have to pay the fine, equal to about $35. Yellon's strategy alternated between complaining of being oppressed and boycotting court proceedings, and in fact he was convicted in absentia. He refuses to pay the ticket because he thinks the word "stop" on a stop sign is too vague and that the government should set precisely calibrated standards of what it means to "stop."

War and pieces

Top Pentagon and CIA officials met in February with the author of "The Bible Code," who said Osama bin Laden's whereabouts can be detected by connecting letters from ancient Hebrew.

Eight hours before the United States' "Orange" alert on Feb. 7, four heavily armed Cuban military men wandered through downtown Key West, Fla., unknown to anyone in Washington. It turned out that they had arrived by boat to defect and were looking for someone to surrender to.

Jake Greenwald announced he would offer "terror tours" in Israel for $5,000 each to visitors wanting helicopter and simulated-games tours of West Bank bomb and battle sites, but has suspended the venture because of the war in Iraq.

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