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Lead Stories

In September in Knoxville, Tennessee, 51-year-old Thomas Martin McGouey left a suicide note in his apartment, painted a bull's-eye on his body, walked outside, and attracted a crowd of police officers by firing a pellet gun in a parking lot. But his plan to provoke the officers to kill him in self-defense fell flat: though he pointed his gun at several Knox County sheriff's deputies and six of them obligingly opened fire, discharging a total of 28 rounds, they missed McGouey with 27 and only grazed his shoulder with the 28th.

In October the Federal Communications Commission ruled that the word "fucking," as employed by U2 singer Bono during the live Golden Globe telecast in January, was not indecent language: Bono did not use it to describe a sex act but rather to intensify the word "brilliant." And two weeks later, a state court of appeals in Austin, Texas, ruled that giving someone the finger in traffic does not constitute disorderly conduct, since the gesture is no longer provocative enough to incite an "immediate breach of the peace."

So Hard to Be a Student Nowadays

In October in Conroe, Texas, 15-year-old Brandon Kivi was arrested and suspended from Caney Creek High School (and threatened with expulsion and felony charges) for lending his girlfriend his asthma inhaler. The couple have the same prescription, and the girl had left her inhaler at home; nonetheless, administrators decided that Kivi's potentially lifesaving generosity was "delivery of a dangerous drug." (He's now homeschooling.) And in September in Duncanville, Texas, 13-year-old honor student Raylee Montgomery was suspended because her shirt had come partway untucked, a violation of the dress code (her school, which has roughly 3,500 students, handed down more than 700 dress-code-related suspensions in the first five weeks of the academic year).

Questionable Judgments

In August in Marion, Ohio, inmate Willie Chapman got permission to delay his scheduled parole by one day so he could attend a rally in the prison hosted by the Christian men's group the Promise Keepers; his dedication to his newfound faith inspired a few newspaper stories, which in turn alerted the grown children of his manslaughter victim of his impending release. They complained to Ohio's parole board, and Chapman's parole was delayed until May 1, 2006.

Police Blotter

In July the police blotter from the Lakeshore Weekly News immortalized Wayne Leonard Hoffman, 45, who'd been arrested for DUI at a gas station in Minnetonka, Minnesota, where he was "attempting to add air to his vehicle's tires using a vacuum cleaner hose." (His blood-alcohol level was recorded at 0.39.) And the August blotter from the Jackson Hole News & Guide contained the following story from Wilson, Wyoming, about a feud over a Kmart parking space that culminated when one man spit at the other through his open car window: "As [the victim] saw the projected body fluid traveling through the air, he dropped his jaw in shock, and the phlegm landed square in [his] mouth where he swallowed it in a gag reflex."

Unclear on the Concept

In July in Bangkok, Thailand, massage-parlor mogul Chuwit Kamolvisit reacted with outrage when he was charged in connection with the procurement of underage girls and the bulldozing of a rival nightclub; he had been paying police almost $300,000 a month in bribes, including "whole trays of Rolex watches," to ensure his immunity from prosecution. In retaliation Kamolvisit called almost daily press conferences, hinting melodramatically at which high-ranking officers and cabinet members had accepted his bribes (or patronized his prostitutes); in September, after an arrest for defamation, he announced he would form a new political party to fight Thailand's culture of police corruption.

In August the city of Edmonton, Alberta, ordered the owners of the Keep It Simple Club, a "bar" that caters to recovering alcoholics by creating the ambience of a tavern without the temptation of drink, to enforce the no-smoking ordinance that applies to local businesses. However, because smoking is such a popular substitute addiction for ex-alcoholics, the owners sought an exemption from the law; the city stuck to its guns, insisting that the only loophole in the ordinance was for businesses with liquor licenses. (In September the owners applied for such a license, but their application was rejected when the city learned they did not actually intend to sell alcohol.)

In the Last Month

In Scunthorpe, England, an 18-year-old student diagnosed with vasovagal syncope syndrome was ordered to stuff himself with junk food to increase his salt intake--otherwise his blood pressure drops so low that he passes out, sometimes three or four times a day. In Muncie, Indiana, a 39-year-old man was arrested for burglary after police found his dentures at the scene; state law requires dentures to bear their owner's name below the gumline. And in Henan province, China, a 27-year-old man was arrested for pouring a pint of pesticide into a reservoir that serves 9,000 families, sickening at least 64 people and sending 42 to the hospital; he'd hoped to increase demand for the water purifiers he was selling.

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

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