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Lead Story

In June in Washington County, Georgia, Angela Bridges filed a lawsuit against the regional medical center (and a doctor who treated her there) for failing to properly clean a wound to her leg before sewing it up. (She'd been hurt falling into some shrubbery in her yard.) Nine months after Bridges's emergency-room visit, a second doctor found that a small boxwood twig, with five thriving green leaves, had broken through her skin where the sutures had been.

Things You Didn't Know Were Problems

In September the Industrial Christian Fellowship, a British think tank, complained that churchgoers' prayers go disproportionately to teachers and nurses, and claimed that it had already used its Web site to distribute a set of prayers for the financial sector (under the heading "When did you last pray for your stockbroker?"). And in November the Saudi Arabian government established new restrictions on the export of sand, fearing that increased regional demand (from the reconstruction of Iraq and from Bahrain's land-reclamation projects in the Persian Gulf) would create a shortage.


Four years ago Joseph Tomaino of Neptune, New Jersey, won a $3 million settlement because an impotence drug he'd injected into his penis gave him a constant erection that had to be surgically corrected three days later; in 2001 an appeals court demanded the award be reduced, finding that the erection had not interfered with most of Tomaino's activities, but the original judge shaved only a penny off the total sum and in November was removed from the case. And Ivette Jones, a passenger on the Staten Island ferry during the October pier collision that killed ten people, filed a lawsuit against New York City before the month was out, claiming she now has insomnia and a sore back and demanding $200 million in damages--$80 million more than a woman who lost both legs in the accident.


In November, the town of Bolinas, California (908 registered voters), passed the following ballot measure, 314 to 152: "Vote for Bolinas to be a socially acknowledged nature-loving town because to like to drink the water out of the lakes to like to eat the blueberries to like the bears is not hatred to hotels and motor boats. Dakar. Temporary and way to save life, skunks and foxes (airplanes to go over the ocean) and to make it beautiful." Its author and sponsor, Jane "Dakar" Blethen, is a beloved local artist and eccentric who paints her face with chocolate and ground pepper, and many townspeople seem to have voted for the measure to avoid hurting her feelings.

On November 11 in Sandwich, Massachusetts, police found Daniel L. Kelleher, 48, lying in a full bathtub at the Sandwich Motor Lodge and covered from the neck down with roofing tar. Kelleher, a carpenter, apparently purchased the tar himself, and he'd rented the same room a week earlier and left tar in the bath. While sealed in the tar his body had overheated so badly that police assumed he was trying to kill himself (he did require hospitalization), but Kelleher has refused to answer their questions.

Weird Science

An October Associated Press report on a hypothetical "space elevator"--essentially a 62,000-mile cable used to lift satellites into orbit--disclosed that several scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory believe so deeply in the project that they donate their time to promote it and study its feasibility. The elevator's cable would be lowered to earth from a conventional spacecraft, then anchored at one end to an oceangoing platform and at the other to a geosynchronous satellite; even the first prototype of the elevator would be ten times cheaper per pound of cargo than rocket delivery. The shaft would be made using an experimental material called carbon nanotubes (more than a hundred times stronger than steel and far lighter), but there's one big problem: no one has yet figured out how to make nanotubes more than a few feet long.

Readers' Choice

In November in East Saint Louis, Illinois, 46-year-old Emanuel Fleming tried to make a call on a pay phone while waiting for a bus, got a busy signal, then stuck his right middle finger into the coin-return slot to retrieve his 50 cents. Unfortunately an antitheft device fitted to the slot trapped his finger, and after three hours of struggling (and waiting in vain for passersby to help) he dialed 911 with his free hand. Ambulance personnel had to take both Fleming and the entire telephone to the hospital, where doctors gave him a painkiller, then applied a lubricant to his finger and worked it out of the slot.

In the Last Month

In Salem, New Hampshire, a student's scheme to fake report cards for money ran aground after several "clients" insisted on boosting their Ds and Cs to As, provoking their parents to call the principal to see why their kids weren't on the honor roll. In East Saint Louis, Illinois, a 43-year-old man pleaded guilty to felony shoplifting charges for the fourth time in two years; on each occasion he'd stolen pork products from a grocery store. And in Modesto, California, a bank robber who'd forgotten to cut eyeholes in his mask (and who kept lifting it to peek out) nonetheless escaped with his loot, but not before walking into a steel door frame on his way out.

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

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