-- In January, an appeals court in Eidsivating, Norway, acquitted a 22-year-old cab driver, a Middle Eastern immigrant, of raping a woman who had the mental disorder Williams Syndrome, because, said the court, he could easily have mistaken her overly friendly behavior (a characteristic of some people with the disorder) with a desire for sex. The court said it also considered that the man had trouble with the language (despite 12 years in the country) and that some male immigrants believe that Norwegian women are easy.
-- Marcos Martin Parra, 18, hit the basketball court again in January, only six months after having his head nearly severed from his body in a traffic collision caused by a drunken driver. Parra's skull had been ripped from the cervical spine and neck ligaments, leaving the head fragilely attached, only by the spinal cord. At St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Dr. Curtis Dickman performed first-of-a-kind surgery, which worked so well that Parra lost only about 5 percent of his neck's range of motion.
Joe R. Thompson, 18, was thrown 25 feet into the air in a car crash near Highway 40 and Woods Chapel Road in Blue Springs, Mo., in January, but survived when he landed among, and held onto, live overhead power lines. Thompson remained conscious until rescuers arrived 20 minutes later and the electricity was shut off. He even made a cell phone call. (Fortunately for Thompson, the power lines were insulated.)
(1) Average fee per lawyer working on New York's portion of the 1998 multistate tobacco settlement (according to New York Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos in October): $14,000 an hour. (2) For permanent loss of her marital sex life for a 31-year-old Chinese woman (when her husband became impotent after a car crash, according to a Chinese court in October): the equivalent of $2,210. (3) Amount Geneva Burger, 80, earned for uttering one question on an answering machine ("When people get hooked on pot, can they get sick if they don't get it?"): $515,000 (the amount awarded by a Pomona, Calif., court in December, and from prior settlements, as a result of rap producer Master P's using the recording without permission on an album).
-- Hemorrhoid-suffering pilgrims are trekking to the town of Murtosa, Portugal, to rub the affected body part against a statue of St. Goncalo, hoping for relief (since the the 13th-century priest was known for curing acne), according to a January report in the country's largest daily newspaper, Jornal de Noticias.
-- The Agri Gold Co. of Vijayawada, India, has begun marketing an instant, just-add-water version of the holy cow dung that many urban Hindus use in their purification rituals, according to a December dispatch from Kolkata, India, in the Sydney Morning Herald. (The dung sells for the equivalent of 25 cents to make about 2 pounds and is mixed with camphor, turmeric and sandalwood paste, which alleviates the foul smell, which is the main reason many Hindus had been leaving the dung part out of the ritual.)
-- Seduction Techniques of Priests: (1) Tell the 17-year-old girl that intercourse is a therapeutic method to help her forget her bad experience in a previous sexual assault (allegedly used by Catholic priest Roman Kramek, 40, visiting from Poland, who was arrested in New Britain, Conn., in December). (2) Tell teenage girls planning to become nuns that having sex with him would bring them closer to God, that undressing with him would "link spiritual stages with sexual acts," and that she should imagine Christ (and not him) touching, kissing and having intercourse with her (allegedly used by Father Robert V. Meffan, according to Boston Archdiocese documents released by plaintiffs' lawyers in December).
-- Police in Johannesburg, South Africa, reported that 46 people in the Hillbrow district were injured during New Year's celebrations from the tradition of throwing items from windows and balconies; doing the most damage this year were several beds and television sets.
-- In December, the manager of Greenland's government hired an ethnic Inuit faith healer to "cleanse" government offices ("give the walls some fresh paint") in the capital of Nuuk, by "driv(ing) away the negative energy." That was regarded as such nonsense by the non-Inuit political party that, on Jan. 15, the governing coalition collapsed. The manager said he hired the spiritualist as a bridging gesture to promote harmony and "the special Greenland spirit."
On Jan. 6, according to police in Prestonburg, Ky., Quinton G. Bailey, 20, was caught preparing to re-enter the apartment below his, by way of a hole in his floor (obscured by removable ceiling tile in that apartment); a box of that tenant's jewelry was found in Bailey's apartment. And on Jan. 27, according to police in Plainville, Conn., Jimmy Tran, 32, sawed through his own ceiling and the floor of the apartment above his and was caught by the female tenant after he had reached out and was dragging her purse along her floor toward the hole.
A January New York City indictment resulted in the arrest of alleged Colombo family mobster Joe Cacace as the central figure in a whacking gone bad. Imprisoned family head Carmine "the Snake" Persico had ordered Cacace to rub out former federal prosecutor William I. Aronwald, whom Persico said had 10 years earlier disrespected him (although Aronwald had actually lost the case he brought against Persico's brother). Cacace's hit men mistakenly whacked Aronwald's 78-year-old father, an error for which Cacace allegedly had them killed, along with the two men he had hired to kill those two men. Cacace then married Kim Kennaugh, the widow of one of the original hit men, and after Cacace and Kennaugh divorced, Kennaugh married an NYPD officer, who himself got whacked (on Cacace's orders, prosecutors suspect).
Benny Zavala, 34, was convicted of animal abuse for dissecting his daughter's pet guinea pig because he said he thought it was a government spy robot (Oxnard, Calif., October). Christopher Campbell, 42, was arrested and charged with mutilating his beloved house cats because, he said, he thought they were supernatural entities that had changed shapes (Cedar Crest, N.M., November). Gary Damon Stephens, 28, admitted that he killed his parents five years ago but said he stands by his earlier explanation, that the deceased were not his real parents but only the pod people of his parents (Harlan, Ky., October).
Latest Christian congregationalist to sue for injuries after falling backward upon being saved but landing on the floor because the "catcher" clumsily missed breaking her fall: Loraine Daily, 40, at the Sydney (Australia) Christian Life Center, September (suing for the equivalent of $380,000). Latest restaurant to offer ostentatiously exotic food specialties: PieWorks, Gwinnett County, Ga., January (featuring pizza with 163 toppings, including meats such as alligator, ostrich and rattlesnake).
Authorities at Uplands Manor Primary School (Smethwick, England) ordered teachers to use green ink for correcting papers because red was too negative. And a 61-year-old female motorist, after causing a major collision with a senior citizens' medical transport van, first tried to flee the scene but then sat down on the curb and began to knit while rescue operations continued (Miami Beach, Fla.). And Wiltshire County (England) police, adopting a new tack, hand-delivered letters to 22 persistent criminals asking them for the new year to please stop breaking the law.