When owners attack

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The attorney for alleged San Francisco dog-abuser Steven Maul said in November that Maul only bit his dog in the neck as part of an unorthodox but loving method of discipline; in fact, Maul "is very oral" and "has French-kissed his dog," the lawyer said. According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, Boo, an 80-pound Lab, darted out into traffic in November (not for the first time), whereupon Maul attempted to censure the dog's behavior by clamping down on its neck, as he said dogs do to signal dominance of each other. (He did not break the skin.) Researchers have written about bite-training, but the method is currently far out of favor.

Touched by a (fallen) angel

In October, Rev. Derek McAleer revealed to his 350 parishioners at the St. Mary's (Ga.) United Methodist Church that they were the recipients of what is thought to be the largest one-time church donation in history: $50 million from a recently deceased man who founded the local telephone company. The donor, Warren Bailey, was a longtime church supporter, but was also known in town for not having attended services in more than 20 years.

No need for a recount

In the Sept. 19 primary in New Ashford, Mass., none of the town's 202 registered voters cast ballots, including the disgusted town clerk, who manned the polls for 14 hours. A Green Party candidate for the Maine legislature failed to vote for himself in the June primary, leaving him with zero votes and forcing him to return his public financing. Texas Lt. Gov. Rick Perry sent out a fund-raising letter in July that not only shook down lobbyists but asked them to rank their clients according to their levels of expected giving (from $1,000 to $25,000). And the money flowed so freely at the GOP's national convention in August that Philadelphia Inquirer reporters discovered a lobbyist's accidentally discarded $5,000 check to a congressman stuck to the bottom of a utility cart outside the hall.

Wee the people

The Golden Tower Project, an installation by Seattle artists at this year's Burning Man festival, consisted of 400 jars of urine donated by other artists. The specimens were stacked and lighted in an electroluminescent display described as "gorgeous," "faintly blue and gold" and "warm, kind of like biological stained glass" by Seattle's The Stranger weekly. (In 1993, News of the Weird reported that New York City artist Todd Alden had asked 400 art collectors worldwide to send him samples of their feces so he could offer them for sale in personalized tins. "Scatology is emerging as an increasingly significant part of artistic inquiry in the 1990s," Alden said.)

She's all talk

Under a summer contract with the city of Montreal, artist Devora Neumark performed "The Art of Conversation," a piece that saw her standing at the entrance to a subway station from noon to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and "conducting spontaneous interchange with interested parties on a variety of topics."

Thanks for multitasking

An August British Broadcasting Corp. documentary, Brain Story, profiled a man whose cranial lobes were surgically severed in order to treat epilepsy and is now able to perform the "party trick" of using both hands to draw two different designs at the same time.

News in brief

According to an August New Scientist report, Japan's Mizuno Corp. has developed a synthetic material for men's underpants that would keep the covered area one Celsius degree cooler than cotton underwear. Target customers include skiers, although doctors say that men seeking to increase sperm production would also benefit. Canada's Stanfield's Ltd., a manufacturer of polyester-mesh underwear, disputed Mizuno's claim of superiority; said a spokesman, "We just haven't got up the guts to measure the temperature of someone's crotch yet."

The beaten path to knowledge

Thomas Lavery, 56, was indicted in Akron, Ohio, in August on nine counts of roughing up two of his home-schooled daughters when they performed worse in their endeavors than he had expected. According to the indictment, Lavery threatened to kill one daughter who came in second in the National Spelling Bee (she missed the word "cappelletti"), and had to be physically restrained. The girl told the Akron Beacon Journal that Lavery would punch them in the head for their failures, and that screaming and profanity were common. Lavery complained to the Associated Press that he was "easier on `my kids` than my father was `on me`."

No good at little white lies

Cocaine "mule" Jose Antonio Campos-Cloute was arrested at the Melbourne, Australia, airport in September after a brief lapse: While filling out a customs form that asked him to state if he was carrying illicit substances, he absentmindedly checked the "yes" box, leading to a search. And Briton Alison McKinnon was sentenced in August to five years in a Turkish prison for attempting to smuggle six pounds of heroin (strapped to her chest) out of the country; she was ready to board a plane home from Istanbul but was designated for searching because one of her body piercings set off a metal detector.

Rock, paper, handcuffs

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn the conviction of a California resident on drug-possession charges, though one juror admitted he had decided guilt by flipping a coin. In his defense, the juror noted that he gave it "two out of three."

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