Screen saver 

Roman Catholic Monsignor Ignatius McDermott, 88, blessed a Dell laptop computer in December at his headquarters in Chicago, which he believed to be a first (though priests have blessed animals, houses, Harley Davidsons and other things). "Maybe this will get `the younger generation's` attention," he said

Government waste

After a two-week hearing in January in Washington, D.C., outraged federal judge Royce Lamberth threatened to hold two Cabinet secretaries, Interior's Bruce Babbitt and Treasury's Robert Rubin, in contempt of court for failing to turn over records of federal trust funds held for Native Americans -- records that Lamberth originally ordered released in November 1996. Among the excuses offered by the two departments was that a federal records depository in the Southwest is contaminated with rat droppings, and as a result researchers will not enter it because of the fear of the deadly hanta virus.

Odor in the court

In Medina, Ohio, in December, David Donathon was sentenced to a year in jail for telephone harassment -- specifically, calling people up and asking them if their feet stink. According to his lawyer, Donathon "realizes what he does is wrong, but he is unable to stop himself." And two weeks earlier in Belleville, Ill., James Dowdy, 27, was sentenced to six years in prison for his second offense of entering women's homes and stealing their socks. And in Boulder, Colo., in May, a 28-year-old man was charged with harassment and assault of four women with whom he struck up conversations on the street and whose feet he eventually forcibly fondled. According to one victim, "`The man's` eyes rolled back in his head like he was really excited."

Rubber raft

Rubber raft

In December, workers for an AIDS awareness campaign constructed and inflated a condom as long as 10 football fields and large enough inside to allow dance celebrations. The condom was part of a parade in Cali, Colombia.

Mane attraction

In December in St. Paul, Minn., John O. Sexton, 43, was sentenced to 45 days in jail for cutting off 50 strands of a woman's ponytail on a busy street in August. (He had been rebuffed in his offer to purchase the locks.) He apologized for his "urges about hair," and he vowed to get counseling.

Drastic steps

In July in Telford, England, in the first court case of what prosecutors called "crush videos," Keith Twogood, 44, was fined about $3,000 for importing two tapes from the United States featuring nearly nude women in stiletto heels, stepping on mice and frogs. A British animal-protection advocate said he "just can't imagine the market for this," but a New York animal-rights spokesperson said he thought the point of the videos was a "foot-fetish type of thing" rather than deliberate cruelty to animals.

Heavy markup

According to the Oakland Press, an unidentified "big blond" female customer was sought by Oakland, Mich., police in December for allegedly punching out a 55-year-old female clerk at a Hudson's department store when the clerk rolled her eyes at the customer's request for a price check on a dress. "Don't you ever roll your eyes at me," were the last words the clerk recalled before being decked. And USA Today reported that William Fagyas, 82, was charged with stabbing his wife, Eleanor, 84, in the chest in Crown Point, Ind., in December because, according to the police, she "was not in the Christmas spirit."

Fair-weather Friends

A November Chicago Sun-Times dispatch described the problems encountered by Anita and Jacob Martin, who moved from Daviess County, Ind., five years ago in an attempt to build an Amish community in Poreby, Poland, about 20 miles east of Warsaw. Jacob told a reporter that the couple had made zero converts. Furthermore, they faced imminent local pressure from the less-strict Mennonite missionaries from Pennsylvania. The couple's lack of success has made Jacob believe that the Amish rules about dress and socializing might be a little too strict.

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