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The Toronto Globe & Mail reported in December the imminent publication of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's first collection of short stories, to be titled The Village . . . The Village, The Land Is the Land and the Astronaut Commits Suicide.


In October several rows of 25-foot-high shelves filled with tons of business records toppled over like dominoes at ProFile Systems in Saint Paul, Minnesota. ProFile stores records for 85 clients, including corporations and hospitals. "It's the greatest disaster in the history of the records business," said ProFile chairman Jack Berry, who said the company "can't handle" the $2 million cleanup cost.

In October a young couple had to be treated for hypothermia at a Gernsheim, Germany, clinic after the parked car in which they were having sex rolled down a boat ramp into the Rhine River. The man who owned the car, who wasn't in it at the time, was cited by authorities for the water pollution caused by leaking gasoline.

A man whose name was withheld by reporters was rescued in November by fire fighters after he spent the night in the pit of an outhouse at a boat landing near Eugene, Oregon. The man claimed he'd been high after sniffing glue, had heard someone calling for help from the pit, had fallen in looking for him, and couldn't get out.

Gun expert Stephen Barlow, testifying in October for the prosecution against a man charged with murder in Salt Lake City, held the murder weapon in his hand and told the jury that it couldn't possibly have discharged by accidental jarring, as the defendant had claimed. To demonstrate, he placed a pencil in the barrel, pointed it at the ceiling, and jarred the handle. The gun fired the pencil. And it fired pencils in two more demonstrations. "Oh, I'm sorry," Barlow told the prosecutor. The defendant was allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter instead of murder.

A Walnut Creek, California, woman, unidentified by reporters, set off a three-hour search last August that involved police officers from two towns, a search-and-rescue team (using hastily printed photo posters), Explorer Scouts, and several bloodhounds when she reported her three-year-old daughter missing from the family car during a round of errands. Upon returning home, the woman found the girl and realized she hadn't taken her on the errands.

Dwain C. Johnson, 32, was arrested in Akron, Ohio, in December, and a warrant was issued for his colleague Steven T. Carter, 31, for trafficking in cocaine. The two men had given their car to car-wash attendants to wash and vacuum, and the vacuum cleaner had sucked up a small bag on the front seat containing about 30 rocks of crack cocaine. Police caught Johnson after the men returned to force the car-wash manager to open the vacuum canister. Carter escaped.

Bowling Green, Ohio, fire fighters responding to a blaze in December discovered that they couldn't connect to the nearest hydrant because a 900-foot hose had fallen off their truck en route. Fortunately fire fighters from nearby Weston arrived with the proper hose. Said Chief Joe Bums, "We're going to have to take a look at maybe a better way to keep it up there [on the truck]."

In April construction workers renovating Baltimore's old Vermont Federal bank building for the new Harbor Bank accidentally locked a safe that had gathered dust for six years but that Harbor planned to use. It turned out that no one knew the combination. Rather than pay a locksmith an estimated $10,000 or ask an imprisoned safecracker to try his hand, the building owner placed a classified ad in the Baltimore Sun asking to hear from anyone "familiar with" the combination. A former Vermont Federal employee came by and opened the safe.

In December the chairman of a new state agency, the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, admitted that the agency had forgotten to include a request in its 1994 budget for rent for its offices. To cover the $6 million expense, the chairman said, some pollution-prevention programs would have to be delayed.

Thomas Plachy, 30, was charged with driving while under the influence after he was pinned under his own car in December in Bozeman, Montana, while trying to push it with the engine running. And Robert H. Betts, 73, was seriously injured in March in La Palma, California, after he was hit by his own truck four times. He had accidentally knocked the transmission into reverse as he was getting out of the truck; the door knocked him down, and he could not get up as the truck kept backing in circles. And a 40-year-old woman was hit by her own car and killed in Vernon Hills, Illinois, in November when she jumped out of a tow truck that was towing the car.

The Weirdo-American Community

In November campus police at California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo ejected David Potter Lawler, 40, from campus after seven episodes in which they say he stealthily approached women in the library, dropped to his hands and knees, and sniffed their behinds. Describing his confrontation with Lawler, a police investigator said, "The sweat was running off his head. He looked like a rain forest."

I Don't Think So

Brazilian legislator Joao Alves, the subject of a corruption investigation because he's amassed the equivalent of $51 million on a legislator's salary, told a congressional panel in October that he accumulated his wealth by winning national bingo and local and national lotteries a total of 24,000 times since 1988.

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

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