Americans' Special Relationship with "Taxes": It is not just that the secretary of the Treasury owed back taxes for years, or that two other presidential cabinet-level nominees owed back taxes. In January, federal prosecutors revealed that District of Columbia Council member Marion Barry, who was already on probation after a 2005 conviction for failing to file tax returns for the years 1999 through 2004, and subsequently almost tauntingly failed to file a return for 2006, has now doubled-down the taunt by failing to file for 2007. And in March, a Georgia state senator proposed punishment for the 22 members of the legislature who either owed back taxes or had failed to file returns for at least one year since 2002. The 22 were not identified, in compliance with privacy laws, but the Senate's Democratic leader, Robert Brown, outed himself as one of the 22 in the course of calling his scolding colleague a "bloodsucker."
(1) The 2-Legged Dog: Pet rescuer Judy Walker of Oviedo, Fla., and Oklahoman Jude Stringfellow are battling over custody of Walker's two-legged puppy, which Walker believes has special needs but which Stringfellow is seeking to adopt, in part to portray Stringfellow's own famous, hind-legs-walking dog "Faith" as a puppy in a movie she is working on. Stringfellow said Walker had reneged on a firm Feb. 2 adoption date and implied that she had hired celebrity attorney Mark Geragos to get the puppy. (2) The 11-Year-Old Bullfighter: Michelito Peniche killed six young bulls in a single fight before 3,500 spectators in Merida, Mexico, in January, despite the mayor's ban on the event as a child-labor violation (but which was allowed to proceed after Michelito's father appealed to a state prosecutor). Michelito began his career in the ring at age 4.
-- Gildazio Costa, 54, was arrested in Framingham, Mass., in February and charged with kidnapping and beating his girlfriend following a five-hour-long argument they were having about what the operating hours are for the local library.
-- First, Do No Harm: Tennessee anesthesiologist Visuvalingam Vilvarajah was arrested in February in Kentucky and charged with providing controlled-substance prescriptions (OxyContin, methadone) to as many as 350 non-patients. However, the more basic question is why Tennessee licensed Dr. Vilvarajah in the first place, since he had been approved by the state Department of Health even though officials knew that he was on parole at the time after serving a sentence for murdering his wife and mother-in-law. A department spokeswoman told The Tennessean newspaper that no law prevented Dr. Vilvarajah's licensing.
-- A 25-year-old man was arrested in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., in February after an apparent suicide attempt. According to police, the man tried to gas himself inside his car in a closed garage, but apparently did not have a garage himself, and was arrested for trespass when he drove into a stranger's garage for the attempt, causing about $1,000 damage.
-- Total nudity is prohibited during Brazil's annual Carnival, as immoral and, especially, artistically tacky, but samba dancer Dani Sperle appeared in the street parade in Rio de Janeiro in February wearing a headdress, necklace, matching armbands and nothing else except a patch three centimeters long (1.2 inches) covering an intimate area.
-- In Airdrie, Alberta, in January, police officers responded to a report from the Ralph McCall Elementary School that a man was standing in the yard yelling with a portable loudspeaker toward a group of frolicking kids, calling, "Girls in the field, come over to my truck, come pet my dog." When alarmed adults nearby approached him, the man quickly got in his truck and took off.
-- In response to a bomb threat called in to Hays High School in Buda, Texas, in February, Principal Shirley Reich directed the evacuation of all students, who were kept out for two hours until the all-clear. The building had not been completely cleared, though. Reich had ordered that eight special-needs students, who presented mobility problems for the staff, be kept inside during the evacuation, and afterward Reich defended her decision, crediting herself for compassion because it was cold outside, and she wanted the special-needs students to be comfortable.
-- In February, a federal jury in Tucson, Ariz., awarded damages of $77,000 to six illegal immigrants who had trespassed on rancher Roger Barnett's land in 2004 (only one of hundreds of forays onto his land over the years by border-jumpers from Mexico) because Barnett had detained them while he was carrying a gun, which the jury said constituted "infliction of emotional distress" (though Barnett said he was merely protecting his property). Originally, 16 Mexican nationals had sued for $32 million, accusing Barnett of violating whatever civil rights illegal-immigrant trespassers might have.
-- How Could These Victims Have Acquired So Much Money in the First Place? (a) A 27-year-old "psychic" was sentenced to two months in jail in San Jose, Calif., in December after somehow convincing a woman, who had come to her for a $10 reading, to pay her, in ever-increasing increments, $108,000 for a "spiritual cleansing." (b) Charles Silveira filed a lawsuit in March in Morristown, N.J., to recover the $250,000 he had incrementally paid to a "psychic," who said she needed to make a golden statue for him to ward off negativity. The woman also convinced Silveira to buy her a $700,000 home, but that house is in Silveira's name, and he has asked a court's permission to evict her.
-- Crime Doesn't Pay (except maybe $25 an hour): According to police in Longview, Wash., a 57-year-old woman entered a Winco Foods store at 5 a.m. on March 2 and did not leave the store until 5 p.m., and upon exit, paid for about $80 worth of groceries but also possessed about 100 other small, concealed items such as greeting cards, sunglasses and batteries (the total value of which was about $300). She had spent at least part of the day surreptitiously removing the items' packaging so they would not appear to be the store's stock.
Once again, a man was found to have climbed into the waste tank of an outdoor toilet, but according to a March report in the Twin Falls (Idaho) Times-News, the emergency crew seemed to accept his story that it was all a mistake and not a manifestation of perversion. Rescuers from the town of Filer, Idaho, said the man told them he was just looking for his keys that he had accidentally dropped and had been in the tank for 15 minutes before help arrived. The man declined to identify himself, and no official report was required, but after the man was hosed off by a fire truck, he "discovered" that his keys had been in his pocket all along, and he drove away.
In March 1991, Florence Schreiber Powers, 44, a Ewing, N.J., administrative law judge on trial for shoplifting two watches, called her psychiatrist to testify that Powers was under stress at the time of the incidents. The doctor said Powers did not know what she was doing "from one minute to the next," for the following reasons: recent auto accident, traffic ticket, new-car purchase, overwork, husband's kidney stones, husband's asthma (and noisy breathing machine in their bedroom), menopausal hot flashes, "ungodly" vaginal itch, bad rash, fear of breast and anal cancer, fear of dental surgery, son's asthma, mother's and aunt's illnesses, need to organize parents' 50th wedding anniversary, need to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 20 relatives, purchase of 200 gifts for Christmas and Hanukkah, attempt to sell her house without a broker, lawsuit against wallpaper cleaners, need to return newly purchased furniture, and toilet constantly running. (Nonetheless, she was convicted.)