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Folding under questioning 

Spearfish, S.D., Highway Patrol officers arrested a 17-year-old boy on Feb. 19 and charged him with stealing a car in his hometown of Madison. According to police records published in the Madison Daily Leader, the troopers were finishing a meal at a Perkins Restaurant when the boy, who was seated in an adjacent booth, suddenly placed himself spread-eagle on the floor in front of them. "Please don't shoot me," he implored. "The car is in the parking lot."

A tooth for a tooth

In February, Union City, N.J., prosecutors began looking into the dental practice of Kevin P. Ward, 42, after a 5-year-old boy emerged from a routine office visit with a broken leg. The boy told his mother that Dr. Ward reacted violently when the boy kicked him as a reaction to pain. Also, in January, Dr. Ward was sued by the parents of an 8-year-old girl who suffered a broken wrist while having a tooth pulled in 1996.

Census suffering

Ernesto Alvear, 74, told reporters in Valparaiso, Chile, in December that he would never again try to vote; for the third time in 10 years, he had been ruled ineligible because records indicated he was dead. Islam Karimov was re-elected president of Uzbekistan in January; the 4 percent of the vote that was garnered by his opponent, Abdulkhafiz Dzhalalov, did not include the support of Dzhalalov himself, who voted for Karimov. And Mary Fung Koehler, 65, lost her bid for mayor of Lake Forest Park, Wash., in November, despite the divination of victory she had experienced while "reading" a pendulum. (Koehler admitted that an auto accident had left her with short-term memory loss, but assured, "You can't tell because my I.Q. is so much higher than the average person's." )

Sit up and take notes

Malone College of Canton, Ohio, announced in October that it would offer an eight-week exercise-and-fitness class entirely online. Instructor Charles Grimes said he was confident that, by conducting online chats and by requiring students to keep journals, he would know if they were really doing the exercises.

Guardian no angel

In December in Eugene, Ore., Eric E. Wray, 35, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for assaulting the teen-age boy who had been living with him. According to the prosecutor, Wray had sexually abused the boy for years, but had grown so jealous that his housemate had acquired friends of his own (including girls) that he one day came after the boy with a pistol. Ignoring the abuse and focusing only on the incident with the pistol, Wray delivered these remarks at his sentencing: "`The boy` makes it seem like I am a criminal. It was one day in my entire life."

Not one cavity

According to international police statistics, South Africa has the world's highest incidence of reported rape. In draft legislation circulated in January, the South African Law Commission proposed to criminalize "any act which causes `any` penetration to any extent whatsoever." According to a researcher, that would cover "simulat`ing` sexual penetration by putting your finger in a guy's nose," which "some people have told us `is` a serious problem."

Spit take

Kind-hearted Lee Ming-chi, 31, was sentenced to five years in prison in Hong Kong in December for two taxicab robberies totaling about $220 (U.S.). Lee had taken pity on one victim and given him back about $12 of the loot; wary of leaving fingerprints, however, he removed the money from the stash with his teeth and dropped it in the cabbie's hand. Police matched the DNA from the saliva on the money with DNA from Lee's blood.

No target too small

East Penn Township, Pa., police officer Shawn Phillips was charged in December with conspiracy to commit assault after a Little League pitcher said that Phillips had paid him $2 to hit a batter with a pitch during a game in May 1999. The pitcher complied and was paid; so far, the well-known "Officer Phil" has not revealed a motive.

Swindlers list

In Boston in February, chemical engineer Glenn Elion was sentenced to nearly four years in prison on a federal charge that he defrauded investors of $3.8 million by claiming to have duplicated the (potentially lucrative) genetic code of spider silk. According to the prosecutor, Elion needed the money because he had just been relieved of at least $700,000 in a familiar scam: A man told Elion that he possessed millions of dollars in U.S. currency that had been ruined by indelible ink applied by the Nigerian government, but that he knew an expensive process to remove the ink and would split the proceeds with whoever funded the cleaning.

Pretzel logic

Police in New Albany, Ind., said that Charles E. Adams, 28, in January convinced his buddy Clifton "Scooter" Foster to stab him, in order to determine whether or not Adams' ex-girlfriend would visit him in the hospital. (Adams survived.) And Frederick Alex Hunchak, 35, pled guilty in Wynyard, Saskatchewan, in January to puncturing the tires of three cars driven by women; Hunchak said he wanted to "rescue" them in hopes of finding true love. And an Arizona State University student let football player J.R. Redmond use her cell phone, then convinced him that the favor would be considered an NCAA rules violation unless they got married. (They did. An annulment was scheduled for March.)

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