Press-on dilemma

Police in London, England, announced in August that they were searching for a man in his mid-20s who for two years has been approaching women, grasping their hands, complimenting them on their fingers and then attempting to chew off one or more of their nails. And in May in Milwaukee, Chad J. Hammond pleaded no contest to swiping a woman's underpants off her body at gunpoint during a convenience-store incident.

Taking their show on the road

Scotland Yard has announced that it overestimated the number of deaths in October's fiery commuter-train crash in London. The miscount occurred because some of the survivors quickly walked away and left town right after the accident, spontaneously deciding to start new lives. (Detectives know this because several later changed their minds and returned home.) After an announcement was made that some bodies had been burned beyond recognition, other people called investigators to falsely claim that their estranged spouses had been on the train, hoping for official death rulings so they could inherit marital property.

Unnatural drives

After questioning Stephanie Loudermilk in depth, police in Okeechobee, Fla., said in October that they believe the June death of her 28-year-old husband, Bryan, was the accidental result of a sexual stunt gone wrong. Bryan's body was found in a specially constructed pit, laying beneath a board that was underneath one of the rear wheels of his sport-utility vehicle. The police believe that Bryan received erotic thrills from being driven over.

Disgrace the nation

After analyzing public records, the online news service Capitol Hill Blue revealed in September that 29 current members of Congress have been accused of spousal abuse, 19 have drawn fire for writing bad checks, 71 have received bad credit reports and 117 have been involved in two or more bankrupt businesses. Also included are seven arrests for fraud, 14 on drug-related charges, eight for shoplifting and three for assault. In 1998 alone, 84 members were stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, but were released when they claimed constitutional immunity.

He's a rare specimen

In July, San Antonio, Texas, probation officers caught Micah Sheehan, 37, using a fake penis and tubing to lend authenticity to the dispensing of urine he had purchased to help him pass a mandatory drug test. According to a September Washington Post story, the schemes athletes employ to beat such tests include hiding pouches of clean urine in the vagina or anus and squeezing it through tubes that are obscured by pubic hair; in extreme cases, clean urine is directly injected into the bladder. In another September Post story, South Carolina urine seller Kenneth Curtis said he now only urinates professionally: "I don't waste any of my assets," he vowed. "It's literally liquid gold."

Gratuitous slap

A special assessor for the British government has offered Eddie Browning, 46, about $125,000 as compensation for the six years he spent in prison for a murder he did not commit. But in March, the assessor informed Browning that the amount would be decreased by about $8,000 to pay for Browning's room and board during his incarceration, which the assessor called a "lodging fee."

Six feet blunder

Police in Anne Arundel County, Md., told outraged citizens in August that there is no law requiring state residents to report their relatives' deaths to authorities, and that Richard Lee Marshall's suspicious private burial of his 3-year-old daughter was thus legal. And in June, the Pennsylvania legislature restored a state law against bestiality, which had accidentally been repealed in 1995 when "deviate sexual intercourse" was decriminalized. (The purpose had been to legalize gay sex, but lawmakers forgot that some states have equated gay sex with bestiality for decades.)

Alien concepts

An August Wall Street Journal report estimated that Las Vegas hotel magnate Robert T. Bigelow may have spent $10 million of his $600 million to $900 million fortune on UFO research, including the endowment of a university chair in "consciousness studies" and contributions to a scientific institute that investigates sightings. Bigelow vows to spend $500 million to build the solar system's first space hotel.

Baby, it's you

Michael David Rostoker, 41, a CEO with an electronics firm, was arrested in San Francisco in September. Rostoker was allegedly on his way to meet his 13-year-old Vietnamese paramour, whom customs agents say he intended to bring home as his wife. According to the agents, Rostoker had spent $150,000 on the girl and her family, and his e-mail messages to her mentioned Rostoker's "needs" to have his intended bride stay thin, learn English and have sex with him "often." Rostoker's arrest was underreported, perhaps because of ongoing media interest in Patrick J. Naughton, 34, an executive with the high-profile Infoseek. Naughton had been arrested a week earlier in Santa Monica, Calif., and charged with using the Internet to arrange sex with a "13-year-old girl" who was really an undercover officer.

Breathing room

In October, the mayor of Lanjaron, Spain, whose town cemetery is full, said his people should "take utmost care of their health" until additional land is found.