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Lead Stories

A 43-year-old Catholic priest and a 26-year-old nun were given six-month suspended sentences in July after police caught them having sex in a Toyota Corolla parked at Lilongwe International Airport in Malawi. And in Birnin Kebbi, Nigeria, in August, police raided the headquarters of the Yan-Gwagwarmaya, an Islamic sect whose practices diverge widely from mainstream Islam, most notably in their emphasis on wife swapping.

People Who Need to Improve Their Excuses

Thomas Pinckney, 18, charged with criminal trespass in Tomah, Wisconsin, in June after a woman awoke at night to find him holding her arm, told police he had seen the woman's keys hanging from her apartment door and was just trying to return them. A 27-year-old man, arrested in July after allegedly trying to rob a Bank of America in Enid, Oklahoma, told police he wanted the money to repay the national debt. And Thubten Dargyel, 51, charged in June with sexually assaulting and impregnating a severely developmentally disabled patient at the Madison, Wisconsin, health-care facility where he worked, told police he suffers from sneezing fits that cause him to ejaculate and that's how the woman must have become pregnant.

Smooth Reactions

In June, Nebraska's Health and Human Services agency revoked the license of mental-health therapist Robert Powers after he pulled out a .22-caliber handgun and fired several shots through a memo informing him he couldn't have his own key to an office-supply drawer. And Clay Sullivan faced municipal charges in July resulting from his conduct as an official of Cheyenne's Frontier Days parade: Upon encountering a tow truck on its way to remove a car from the parade route, Sullivan, on horseback, told the driver to get lost. When the driver got out to explain what he was doing, Sullivan lassoed him and dragged him about 250 feet.

Questionable Judgments

Israeli physicians writing in the August issue of Pediatrics cautioned against a rare and ancient form of the circumcision rite in which the circumciser doesn't use a sterile suction device to stop the bleeding but instead sucks the blood directly from the wound. Researchers led by Dr. Benjamin Gesundheit of Ben-Gurion University found eight cases in which male infants contracted herpes via oral-genital contact with their circumcisers.

At a federal pretrial hearing in Austin, Texas, in June, alleged bank robber Adam Martin, acting as his own lawyer, called his brother Michael as a witness. Knowing that Michael was in prison after pleading guilty last year to another bank robbery, Adam asked him if he had ever committed any crimes. Michael, seemingly puzzled, replied, "Yeah. You were with me on four different bank robberies, Adam. You know that."

Latest Religious Messages

In June, Norway's Labor Inspection Authority criticized Skjaergard's School, a private Christian fundamentalist institution that's heavily subsidized by the government, for failure to comply with labor law. Asked to provide an organizational chart describing the roles of its teachers and officials, the school (which has offered, among other courses, a class in speaking in tongues for second graders) responded with a document containing just two names: deputy leader Pastor Glenn Rasmussen and executive leader Jesus Christ.

Dumb on the Fourth of July

Two 16-year-old Houston boys were hospitalized on July 4 after they tried to extract gunpowder from bullets and shotgun shells using a sledgehammer. And a 19-year-old Chicago man celebrated July 4 by seeing how high in the air he could blast a fire hydrant cap with an M-100 firecracker, but was hospitalized after the cap landed on his head.

Recurring Themes

In July police in Virginia Beach, Virginia, picked up a young man staggering out of a restaurant that had just hosted a "Jackass" contest. The man's scalp was bleeding where he'd received an amateur Mohawk haircut; his chest, stomach, buttocks, and legs were full of heavy-duty staples; and he had slice marks on his sides (from paper cuts and caning) and a broken collarbone (from doing a backflip off the bar). He told police he had also swallowed and vomited up a live goldfish and broken a beer bottle over his head. Though he apologized repeatedly for smelling strongly of urine (the result of making "snow angels" on the men's room floor) he said that all in all he was proud of having won the contest. Afterward the restaurant's manager was fired and two bartenders were reassigned to the pizza kitchen.

Readers' Choice

John Hutcherson, 21, was arrested in Marietta, Georgia, in August for vehicular homicide and DUI. He'd driven home from a bar one night, parked his truck, and gone to bed, seemingly unaware that his passenger had been decapitated along the way. According to police, a 23-year-old friend of Hutcherson's had been riding with his head stuck out the window and was killed by a telephone-pole guide wire when the truck veered off the road. A neighbor alerted police the next morning when he saw the headless body hanging out the window of the truck.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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