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Now paging Nurse Lucy 

Cynthia Lane told reporters in February that she would file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission against Windsor Regional Hospital. The hospital, she said, had labeled her Down-syndrome child on its charts as "FLK," which several health-care personnel told her was a commonly used term meaning "funny-looking kid." Said the hospital's chief of pediatrics, "A lot of parents dislike the term."

Health care and other pet issues

A January New York magazine story on Manhattan's Animal Medical Center described its state-of-the-art veterinary care, which features kidney dialysis (at $55,000 per year), cataract removals, hip replacements, anterior-cruciate ligament repairs, root canals and brain surgery. CPR on small animals -- including, as was witnessed by the reporter, a pet rat -- consists of placing the animal's head inside a doctor's mouth. The New York Times reported in January that veterinary care flourishes in Canada because, unlike human health care, it is run by the private sector. One man who had languished on waiting lists for an MRI at Ontario hospitals quickly booked time at an animal hospital.

Gas chamber

In December, after a four-year legal battle, the Texas Supreme Court invalidated the contract between the makers of VitaPro -- a soybean meat substitute -- and the state's prison system. There was evidence that prisoners had become demoralized by their VitaPro diets, which had "led to adverse health effects, including rampant flatulence."

Fire in the belly

Former pastor Eric Daniel Harris, 37, pled guilty in November to the 1996 arson that burned down the Kentucky Missionary Baptist Church in Saline County, Ark. According to a federal prosecutor, Harris said he did it because "there was a division among church members, and they needed a project to unify them."

Public enemy? No. 1

In October, a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court accepted on appeal driver John Carlin's argument that it had been impossible for him to comply with the demands of police that he take a Breathalyzer test. At the time, Carlin said, he had needed to urinate so badly that he could not blow firmly into the device. Said Judge Rochelle Friedman, "The difficulty of such a task is obvious." Officers had denied Carlin a rest-room break until he consented to make the standard two blows; the first registered 0.18 (over the legal limit) and he refused to take the second.

Student aid

Last year, an official in the English department at the University of Tennessee accused a star football player of plagiarizing a class paper. But according to reports of an NCAA investigation that were published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel in February, the student's athletic-department tutor had merely misinterpreted the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. The tutor said she believed that the act allowed a student with a learning disability to talk to her about a classroom topic, and that the tutor could then draft a paper for the student.

Well, he said he was a "Mountie"

Jack Ramsay, a member of the Canadian Parliament who was convicted in November of attempting to rape a 14-year-old girl in 1969 -- when he was a member of the Mounted Police -- said the crime "would never have happened" if she had not let him see her panties. Ramsay recently admitted that, while questioning the girl as a crime victim, he had asked her to demonstrate her understanding of the concept of sexual intercourse. When she unfastened her jeans, he said, he caught the fateful glimpse of her panties. (Ramsay has been ousted from the Reform Party, but has not resigned his seat.)

Great interest

In recent months, two women in New York and Massachusetts received huge windfalls to their checking accounts due to data-processing errors. Both are now fighting to keep the money, citing their banks' incompetence. Susan Madakor, 40, has spent $230,000 of $700,000 that was intended for a United Nations environmental agency; retired Centerville, Mass., schoolteacher Joan L. Phillips has spent most of the $800,000 she has accumulated since 1990, when her pension checks mysteriously increased from $800 per month to $8,000.

That's my boy

The family of 15-year-old Lance Landers said it would appeal a January Alabama court decision barring the boy, who has been diagnosed as "emotionally conflicted," from public schools. His mother insists that he be mainstreamed into the school system under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, even though he has allegedly assaulted her, threatened to kill students, punched the driver of a moving school bus, spit in cafeteria food, thrown batteries at students, ranted during classes and regularly greeted the principal with the salutation, "Hello, motherfucker!"

On their own recognizance

Sentenced to prison on weapons charges in 1995, Matthew Harley, 27, surrendered at a Portsmouth, Va., courthouse, but was sent home. He went on with his life until September 1999, when authorities finally came for him. And Doris Preston, 74, sentenced to five years for arson in 1991, went home to Columbus, Ohio, on bail but was not called back until September 1999.

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