-- Among the diversionary shipboard classes serving U.S. Marine combat-expeditionary units on the USS Peleliu warship in the Arabian Sea are an anger-management class taught by a chaplain and an English class taught by intelligence officer Chris Picado, delving into poetry from World War I. In an October Reuters interview, one admiring student in Capt. Picado's class (who might be minutes away from combat), explained: "Just by what (the poet wrote), you can actually feel (the war), or you can get a mental picture of (death)."
-- Sexual assaults by adults against children in South Africa have almost doubled in two years, prompted probably, say officials, by a growing belief in the countryside that having sex with a virgin will cure an HIV-positive man. According to a health official in Durban: "We have no idea where this idea has come from, but it has been around for a few years and has certainly taken hold," especially in view of the country's sharp increase in AIDS cases. The country was stunned in early November when six men, attempting to "protect" themselves, were charged with the rape of a baby.
Jack Wilke filed a lawsuit in August against the police in Reedsburg, Wis., because, when he asked for his wife's "personal effects" back after her suicide, they gave him only a container holding some actual internal organs. And as part of a Charleston, W.Va., wrongful-firing lawsuit, it was revealed in August that the box of remains of murder victim David Allen Williams, which the medical examiner sent to his sister in 1998, were by mistake deer bones, which the sister unknowingly had cremated. And the parts (nose, scalp, teeth) that startled a woman when she found them in her attic in September were later revealed to be her late husband's souvenirs of his 1981 plastic surgery (Mohegan Lake, N.Y.)
-- Emma Ness of Fargo, N.D., passed her driver's license-renewal eye test in September despite the fact that she is so severely vision-impaired that her nurse must drive her around. Ness, 79, said she had 75 percent blockage in one eye, 25 percent in the other, and sees spots in the middle of road signs, according to a report in the Fargo Forum, but she bet the nurse that clerks would renew her license, anyway, and they did. ("We're only human," said a state transportation official.) (In October, a 34-year-old legally blind man, who did not have a license, died when he accidentally smashed his car into the back of a tractor-trailer in Lenoir, N.C.)
-- Port of Oakland (Calif.) commissioners ordered a full inquiry in October on why 1,000 secure-area access badges to Oakland International Airport were missing. However, the FAA had come down hard on the airport only because 1,000 badges was too many, in that regulations permit that airport to have only 500 unaccounted-for access badges.
-- During the summer, cell-phone users who dialed 911 in Northern California and who were placed on hold for the next available operator did not receive the traditional, calming recorded messages of reassurance. Rather, the often-panicked callers had to listen to tapes of either energy-saving tips or job-recruiting notices for the California Highway Patrol. After the San Francisco Chronicle publicized the messages in an August story, the traditional calming messages were returned to the line.
-- For reasons not yet explained in the British press, when David Devlin of Glasgow, Scotland, retrieved prints from his four rolls of Greek-vacation photographs from a film processing shop in August, he found that his package contained not his photos but rather year-old snapshots taken by Cherie Blair (wife of the British prime minister) of husband Tony and their children on holiday in Italy. Devlin returned the photos to the shop, and Blair's office said only that the prime minister was grateful to have them back.
-- Mark Wayne Toon, 24, was arrested in September and charged with breaking into the Van Alma Tire Center in Fort Smith, Ark., and stealing some things. Police investigators learned that Toon had not only accidentally dropped his wallet at the scene but, in the course of urinating against a front window, had had occasion to rest his buttocks against the pane, leaving two sets of what police described as buttocks-shaped prints.
A September San Francisco Chronicle profile highlighted the several victories of free-lance postal-customer advocate Doug Carlson in getting sluggish or recalcitrant postal supervisors to do their jobs better, but also described Carlson's lifelong fascination with the post office: "As a kid, he followed the postman around. He got his first post office box when he was 15. (H)e toured mail-processing facilities." "It's fun to watch," he said. A law-school graduate and now a university administrator, Carlson reads the postal manual as a "hobby," he said, to be able to cite instances in which the USPS doesn't follow its own procedures.
According to police in Brockton, Mass., among suspected DUI driver Edward T. Petit's first words to officers after fatally hitting a 24-year-old woman in June were that he was just bragging to his buddy a few minutes earlier that he could "drink him under the table any day." And in September, inmate Timothy Mize, 43, was beaten up by cellmates in jail in Enid, Okla., after he started bragging about his crime of molesting a 15-year-old girl. And on being informed that Canada had chosen a secluded rural retreat for next year's Group of Eight summit, possibly because the area's grizzly bear population would discourage the usual protestors, Alberta activist Alan Keane said the protestors would be out in force, anyway, because grizzly bears "are our friends."
Arrested for murder in Shelby, N.C., in August: John Wayne Moses; and in Hastings, Minn., in October: Steven Wayne McBride; and in Ehrenberg, Ariz., in October: George Wayne McBroom; and in Bangor, Maine, in October: Carl Wayne Heath; and in Irving, Texas, in October: Darrell Wayne Wright; and in Toledo, Ohio, in October: Mark Wayne Jones. Sentenced to life in prison for murder in Dallas, in September: Michael Wayne Henry; and in Wellington, New Zealand, in October: Richard Wayne Gorrie. Executed for murder in Raleigh, N.C., in August: Ronald Wayne Frye.
The Human Blockhead (Melvin Burkhart, 94), a carnival star who hammered spikes into his face through a cavity behind his nostril, passed away (Riverview, Fla.). British researchers found that a sheep can distinguish and recognize as many as 50 other sheeps' faces for up to two years, even in silhouette. A San Francisco motorcycle cop ordered a Fire Department Toys for Tots van, actively collecting for the holidays, towed for having expired license plates. A 49-year-old computer programmer was sentenced to two years in prison for hacking into a town's waste-disposal system to divert millions of gallons of raw sewage onto land, out of frustration that the town wouldn't hire him (Maroochy Shire, Australia).