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Keep your eye on the rodent 

In summers past, some parishes in the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati have hosted a fund-raising game in which a small rat is placed on a roulette-type wheel; players then spin the wheel and take bets on which slot the rat will stagger to. According to a Scripps Howard News Service report, local animal-rights activists have protested the activity this year, but at least one parish has vowed to continue the game anyway. Said one activist, "The Church said it was OK to spin animals. What's to keep someone from going home and putting their cat in a dryer?"

Late-breaking heartbreak

On April 27, a reporter for Russia's RTR television arrived in the town of Ivanovo to shoot a piece on a housewife who was merrily feeding her family while her absent husband served as a peacekeeper in Kosovo. However, the reporter had received word minutes before that the husband had just been killed in the line of duty. Thus, the reporter shot some "before" scenes, in which the carefree wife spoke earnestly of her husband's imminent return, and then the "after" scene, in which she cried uncontrollably upon receiving the news.

Get with the progrom

In Berlin, Germany, owners of pit bulls and other aggressive breeds planned a May protest against proposed legislation to ban the dogs. Organizers decided to dress the besieged canines in yellow Stars of David that resemble the ones the Third Reich forced Jews to wear as identification.

Workers of the world unite

A robber who cleaned out the cash register at a Tim Hortons doughnut shop in Hamilton, Ontario, in February came back a few minutes later and returned the portion of the money that had been segregated as employees' tips. And in April, recently released sex-assaulter Jody Robinson, 33, offered one of his kidneys to his 1996 victim, who is awaiting a transplant.

Good with tools

After stopping and questioning motorist Harold Anthony Mazzei, 32, in January in Spokane, Wash., suspicious police decided to arrest him: The only way Mazzei could turn off his car's engine, they learned, was by using pliers and a screwdriver. (The car turned out to be stolen.) In February, Chicago police arrested Steven Coleman, 24, for robbing a family sewing-machine shop and provoking a fracas while the owner was heating chicken noodle soup for lunch; Coleman was picked up when he was spotted nearby with noodles in his hair. And in November, police in Sydney, Nova Scotia, elected to arrest a 38-year-old man on drug charges after they found him dazed and with syringes hanging from both arms.

Coughing up the evidence

Police in Dublin, Ohio, arrested alleged veteran thief Rudolf Nyari, 64, in April for taking a diamond bracelet from Leo Alfred Jewelers. Nyari had handled the bracelet, then left the store, after which an employee noticed it missing. Supplied with Nyari's license-plate number, police stopped him just outside town; after a fruitless search of his car, they threatened to take him in for X-rays that they hoped would reveal the missing bauble. Later, according to a detective, Nyari "drank several glasses of water and smoked cigarettes to build up enough phlegm to cough `the bracelet` up." The bracelet was seven inches long and contained 39 diamonds.

Works in mysterious lays

A court in Lusaka, Zambia, issued a final divorce decree in March to John Sakapenda and Goretti Muyutu, despite Ms. Muyutu's last-minute attempt to persuade the judges that the customs of her village of Chingola obligated the couple to one last round of sexual intercourse.

Barrier to credibility

In December, the longtime North Korean ambassador to China issued another of his periodic rants in Beijing, denouncing the long (150 miles), high (16 to 26 feet) and thick (33 to 62 feet) concrete "wall of division" South Korea built 20 years ago that "artificially bisects" Korea. Despite the vividness of his description, however, experts -- including The New York Times and numerous diplomats from many countries who have visited the area -- say that there is no wall there of any kind, and never has been.


In Englewood, Fla., in February, minutes after Judy Neuhaus scolded her son Ryan for not taking better care of his 1995 Mercury Cougar, a sputtering, single-engine Cessna cleared some trees and fell nose-first onto the car, doing considerable damage to both vehicles but not seriously injuring the pilot.

Hostile witness

Mob informant Tommy Del Giorno, living a new life under the federal witness-security program, was quoted in a January New York Times story. "Legitimate people are worse than mob people," Del Giorno said. "All the time I was in the mob, I never really wanted to kill anybody. Out here in the legitimate world, there's 10 people I've met that I would kill."

Penal implant

In February, Britain's Prison Service launched an inquiry when Donna Stokes, 19, became pregnant after her boyfriend had sex with her through the bars of their temporary cells in the Swansea Crown Court building, where both awaited a hearing on burglary and theft charges. Said Stokes of the couple's brief encounter: "We hadn't seen each other for months."

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