Maintaining the illusion of wealth

In a decision published in February, Canada's Tax Court rejected Newfound-land magician Hans Zahn's attempt to claim business losses on his income tax returns, ruling that Zahn's record of losing money for the last 17 years, plus the province's economy and the nature of its far-flung communities, urge the conclusion that no reasonable person would think Newfound-land could support a magician. Zahn said he once earned about $1,200 (USD) a week but started suffering setbacks; for example, the rabbits he used in his act started dying in the frigid Newfoundland winters. "You try to bring world-class entertainment to the regions," lamented Zahn, "and `the taxing agency` Revenue Canada penalizes you for it."

A slip of the tongue

Police in Jacksonville, Fla., arrested Robert Eric Denney, 19, for a 1998 murder, and a March Florida Times-Union report revealed that his DNA is linked to the crime scene. Despite close surveillance, Denney had avoided giving up a DNA sample, three times foiling officers (refusing a glass of water; putting a cigarette butt back in his pocket rather than discarding it; declining to lick-seal an envelope) and smirking that he knew what the officers were trying to do. Shortly after that, while walking around outside his workplace, Denney absentmindedly spit on the ground, and officers scooped up the saliva and rushed it to the lab.

Cat scratch fever

News of the Weird has reported several times on cat "hoarders" who may "collect" felines as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but none had the quantity of Jack Wright of Kingston, Ontario (361, down from his Guinness Book record 689 in 1994). He drew the attention of the Globe and Mail newspaper in January when he fell behind several months in mortgage and utilities payments because of litter, food and other cat expenses (about $100 `USD` a day) and also because, unlike the typical hoarding case, the local Humane Society has no issue with Wright, in that his cats appear properly cared for.

An affront to his intelligence

In March, Charles Douglas Stephens Jr. was acquitted in Panama City, Fla., after only 15 minutes' deliberation, apparently because the jury accepted his indignant denial that he ever robbed a convenience store. Stephens had pointed out to police that he had served time for murder and that he would probably murder again if the circumstances warranted, but that he could not have robbed that Circle K because he would never have been "stupid enough" to leave witnesses alive.

Chances are Slim to none

The Federal Communications Commission proposed a $7,000 fine against WZEE-FM, Madison, Wis., in January for violating its "indecency" regulations by playing the raw, unedited version of the Eminem song "The Real Slim Shady" during hours when children could be listening. Station personnel defended themselves by saying that they of course had cued up the milder, edited version of the song but that "static electricity" caused the station's CD player to skip that and jump right to the nasty version.

Not a typical drinking problem

In February, Australian ex-soldier Frederick Somerfield, 79, won his appeal and will now receive a military disability pension, based on heart trouble that he said was caused by having drunk too much beer while stationed at remote locations during World War II. In fact, he said, some of the locations were so remote that the only alcoholic beverages available were very cheap brews, which were especially bad on his heart.

What a blast!

Lawyer Craig Wormley, explaining his client to reporters in January (the client being the 19-year-old San Jose, Calif., college student Al DeGuzman, in whose home were found 60 explosive devices and four long guns along with a map and tape recording detailing a plan to make a Columbine-like attack on the De Anza College library and cafeteria): DeGuzman merely has "an innocent fascination" with bombs.

Child proof

Child proof

In December, according to Albuquer-que police, James Sammon skipped out on a tab at Paisano's Italian Restaurant, but his chances for success were not good because he was dining with his two young sons and left the 6-year-old behind. And a shoplifting suspect (Home Depot, St. Louis, January) left his 10-month-old son behind as he fled the store's security guards; the baby's mother identified Vernell Parker, 41, as the alleged culprit, and he was found and arrested three days later.

Ceiling his fate

A 56-year-old man who lived in unit 712 of a Miami Beach apartment building was shot to death in February, allegedly by the resident in 512 who had once too often endured the overflow bathtub in 712; the resident of 612, who usually mediated the men's disputes, was not home that day.

Candidates for the gifted class

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported in December that a 9-year-old boy started up a parked transit bus using a screwdriver and drove it an eighth of a mile in morning rush hour in downtown Quezon City before police overtook him. (He said his father taught him the trick with the screwdriver.) And 2-year-old Harry Fairweather caused a furor last winter in Winsford, England, by setting off retail stores' shoplifting alarms just by passing by the detectors; medical exams have to date turned up no certain answers on how Harry could have such a strong electrical field around his body.