The bonds of matrimony

In November, Robert Horton, 52, walked into a Phoenix courthouse carrying his wife, Belinda, who was bound at the legs, arms and mouth with gray duct tape. He told a security officer that she was due in court that day on a charge of assaulting a police officer; that he had posted bail for her; that she had threatened to skip the court hearing; and that he had taped her up and lugged her downtown to make sure he got his bail money back. Unknown to the Hortons, the charge against Belinda had been dismissed earlier that day. Prosecutors are still deciding whether or not to file charges against Robert for kidnapping his wife.

Taking the essay way out

Patrick J. Murphy, deputy superintendent of schools in Cambridge, Mass., resigned in December after admitting that he solicited two of his staff members to write papers on Shakespeare for his 19-year-old daughter, a student at Stonehill College in nearby Easton, Mass. The scheme blew up on Murphy when one of the papers received a D and he tried to get the employee to rewrite it.

Putting on the dog

Among the new designer fashions for dogs that were unveiled at the 12th Pat Pet Friend Festival in November in Bangkok: a red-and-black, Michael Jackson-style military coat; a yellow-and-black bike racing jacket with bike-style helmet; a silver space-suit-like cape; and a blue silk gown. According to designer Vasinee Apornpanit, the biggest market by far for dressing up dogs is Japan, where pet owners ask for cell phones and other high-tech gadgets to be sewn onto their furry pals' outfits.

Hair club for fugitives

In October, Argentina exiled former Paraguayan military leader Luis Oviedo to remote Tierra del Fuego for violating the rules of the political asylum it had granted him six months earlier. Oviedo unsuccessfully requested a stay of his banishment, arguing that he had recently undergone a hair transplant and felt that the windy, sunny weather in Tierra del Fuego would disrupt his new plugs.

Tragic kingdom

In an August dispatch from Katy, Texas (near Houston), the San Francisco Chronicle profiled Forbidden Gardens, P.H. Poon's 80-acre, $20 million, 1/20th replica of the Forbidden City in Beijing (which was shown life-size in the 1987 film "The Last Emperor"). According to the Chronicle, Forbidden Gardens "must be one of the world's least known theme parks." The reporter noted only one vehicle in the parking lot, and an attendance that was limited to a tour group of 16 children.

One-stop shopping

After arresting Teri Harrington, 31, and Deana Watson, 28, in September, Sacramento, Calif., police told reporters that the women had apparently stolen large numbers of items from local stores at least 14 times in the previous two weeks, casually walking out each time with 20-gallon bins that were filled with clothes, videos, CDs, games and cosmetics.

Slipped discipline

In October, a first-grade teacher in Rialto, Calif., taped a disruptive student's head to the wall of the classroom. Seventh-grade teacher Carrie White was accused in October of flinging a dictionary and a calculator at two disruptive students in Lodi, Ohio. In June, high-school substitute teacher Steven M. Catena was fired in Keansburg, N.J., after reports that he wrapped one student in masking tape and butcher paper in class and implored students to give another classmate a "swirly" (dunking in a toilet). And in Durban, South Africa, in May, a high-school teacher and a principal pulled guns and opened fire on students who were protesting higher fees.

Out of sight, out of their minds

Convicted killer Kenneth D. Williams escaped from an Arkansas prison in October by hiding in a 500-gallon barrel of hog slop that was being towed to a prison farm; he was apprehended 36 hours later. Two weeks later, robbery suspect Roderick King, 19, was found in a Dumpster full of fetid garbage in Knoxville, Tenn. He was trying to evade police who had chased him from the home of the victim's aunt, where he had gone to protest his innocence.

She works in still lifes

Diana Thorneycroft's government-supported art exhibit in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in September consisted of 12 dead rabbits, which were hung from trees to rot in the woods outside town. Said the artist, "I'm celebrating the gloriousness of putrefaction." And in November, an unnamed male artist who had submitted a project for an Accrington, England, show that was intended to revitalize the local village acceded to sponsors' wishes by redesigning his live-maggot exhibit, which was opposed by environmental officials.

Hazardous waste

Margaret Barrs filed a lawsuit in Houston in November against the Jack in the Box chain because she lost a fingertip when a heavy rest-room door in one of its restaurants slammed on her hand in 1998. And Toronto lawyer Edward Skwarek filed a $1.5 million lawsuit in November against Starbucks for a rest-room injury he suffered in one of the chain's New York City coffee shops. Skwarek said he had been seated on the commode, and that when he turned to reach for toilet paper, the seat slipped and trapped his penis between it and the top of the bowl, mangling it.

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