Britain's Office of Communications decided in November that, despite viewer complaints, a scene from the reality show The Farm in which a minor celebrity manually stimulated a hog in order to collect its semen didn't violate decency standards since the task was a legitimate farming procedure and not "degrading" to the hog. And after an employee cracked a toenail in a new revolving door at BBC offices in Birmingham, staff received a memo in December providing illustrated instructions on how to walk through the door.
Those Hardy Floridians
Rudolph Hicks Jr., 30, was arrested in Brooksville, Florida, in early December for trespassing. Before deputies could cuff him he shrugged off five Taser shots, a bite in the leg from a police dog, and a faceful of pepper spray. A few days later police in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, were considering whether to file animal-cruelty charges against Robin Bush, who fatally strangled a 130-pound rottweiler after it attacked her Yorkshire terrier. And the following week in Miami, a man in his 20s suffered only minor injuries from an apparent suicide attempt in which he drove off the fifth floor of a parking garage at 60 miles per hour, breaking through a steel-reinforced concrete wall, flying 50 feet across an alley and a parking lot, and crashing into the second floor of a neighboring pharmacy.
Ron Huber, 59, an avid vintage-auto driver who'd won several NASCAR races, died in Las Vegas in November after he fell off a Segway scooter going five miles an hour and hit his head. And in China's Guangxi Zhuang province in September a feng shui expert and four others asphyxiated while conducting a ceremony to improve the harmonious energy flow in a dangerous lead mine.
Can't Possibly Be True
As a part of the Thai government's vigorous antidrug campaign, Bangkok police made their annual raid on the trendy Q Bar late one Saturday night in October: as they've done for the last few years, several dozen officers locked the club down, handed out sample bottles, and subjected each of the nearly 400 customers to an on-the-spot urinalysis.
Unclear on the Concept
In a November radio interview Jens Orback, Sweden's minister for integration and gender equality, responded to criticism from gay groups who have called him "neoconservative" and "fundamentalist." Denying that he was intolerant of sexual minorities, he said, "I had a wonderful aunt who lived in Canada with a horse. I thought it was wonderful. Let people live as they wish." Later, attempting to explain himself, Orback insisted that his aunt's relationship with the horse had been platonic.
In November government workers in protective gear began clearing out a house in Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin, where two women and a man had been living with 450 cats, some feral and many of them diseased, amid feces-covered debris including barrels and trash bags full of dead cats. A reporter from the Saint Paul Pioneer Press found that neighbors had had little idea conditions inside the house were so hellish: several said they had noticed a "disgusting smell" during the summer but had attributed it to either the nearby fish hatchery or the nearby sewage-treatment plant.
Brigham Young University's NewsNet site reported in November on Marilyn and Elton Pierce of North Salt Lake, Utah, whose phone number is easily confused with a BYU information line. The Pierces, both in their 70s, estimated they've received more than 25,000 wrong-number calls in the 14 years they've had the number but said they'd never considered changing it because they don't mind the calls and enjoy talking to people. Marilyn told the reporter, "We don't screen calls because we think it's rude."
Least Competent People
A 39-year-old man in Chillicothe, Ohio, was hospitalized in December after an unsuccessful suicide attempt that accidentally blew his own house to pieces and did heavy damage to houses nearby. He told police that as he let his home fill with natural gas it occurred to him that a spark might set off an explosion and harm others, but just as he dashed to the basement to turn off the electricity, the gas ignited. According to police reports the man had tried to kill himself a month earlier by attaching a garden hose to his car's tailpipe and running the other end through the passenger window, but his car ran out of gas before he could die; he then hooked up a propane tank for the same purpose but once again outlived his fuel supply.
Paul Eugene Levengood, operator of a Sno Biz dessert shop near Chattanooga, Tennessee, was charged with sexual battery in November after two 19-year-old female employees said he had spanked them for workplace errors. One said that once when she forgot to add a banana to a smoothie, Levengood, 56, took her into the back room, put her over his knee, and spanked her 20 times. Levengood allegedly required at least one employee to sign a statement saying "I give Gene permission to bust my behind any way he sees fit" and kept photographs of women's clothed posteriors at the store. A Sno Biz executive called Levengood a "very Christian person."
More Things to Worry About
Two men from Montana were robbed at knifepoint in Denton, Texas, in October; they told police they were on their way to Baton Rouge because they had read on the Internet that a medical school there would pay $100,000 for their testicles.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.