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Lead Stories

Reuters reported in January that Harvard University had hired one of its recent graduates to be full-time promoter and coordinator of social activities. According to associate dean Judith Kidd, "The kids work very, very hard here. And they worked very, very hard before they got here in order to get here. . . . They arrived needing help having fun." In contrast, a week and a half later police in Durham, North Carolina, responding to a noise complaint, broke up a Duke University frat-house party at which bikini-clad students were wrestling in an inflatable pool filled with baby oil.

Recent Headlines

"Man Says Tight Jeans Caused Aggravated Assault Charge" (USA Today, December): Sean Duvall, arrested for aiming a gun at a police officer in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, said he had a permit for the pistol and would have kept it concealed, as required by law, had it not been impossible to fit it comfortably in his pants. "Men Arrested for Dumping Dirt in a Forest" (Associated Press report filed from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, November): It's illegal to unload anything on federal land, even what the alleged perpetrators described as "perfectly good dirt" removed from a garage (prior to pouring a new concrete floor) and spread under a fir tree in Coeur d'Alene National Forest. "Lawmakers Asked to Take Helm, Donate Sperm" (AP report filed from Melbourne, Australia, January): Hoping to relieve a shortage at sperm banks in the state of Victoria, a fertility expert sent a letter soliciting donations from state legislators 45 and younger, appealing to them as role models.

Alcohol Blues

According to evidence presented in connection with a December court proceeding, after Rafer Wilson drove into a parked car in Sydney, Australia, in October 2003, his blood alcohol level was found to be a near-lethal .462, more than nine times the legal limit (but well below the record for the state of New South Wales, a .572 reading taken in 2002 from a woman who was picked up just after dropping her kids off at school). Also in December, doctors in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, performed five lab tests on a 67-year-old male pedestrian knocked down by a car before concluding his blood alcohol level really was .914. The man had been conscious and able to speak after the accident, leading officers to suspect their breath-testing equipment was broken.

Government in Action

Viola Trevino went to court in Albuquerque in December 1999 seeking child support from her ex-husband, Steve Barreras, claiming he was the father of a daughter, Stephanie, born soon after their divorce. Over the next five years Barreras was forced to pay Trevino $20,000, at times having his wages and tax refunds garnished, despite his continued insistence that he'd had a vasectomy the year before the child was born. In December 2004 another judge found that Stephanie had never existed--according to the Albuquerque Journal Trevino had obtained fake DNA-test results and used a forged Social Security number and other documents to get a birth certificate. Ordered to produce Stephanie in court the following week, Trevino allegedly rounded up a two-year-old girl and her grandmother, promising them a trip to see Santa Claus. But when Trevino took the girl into the court building, the concerned grandmother (who was supposed to wait in the car) followed along, exposing the ruse. Governor Bill Richardson ordered an investigation of how so many state officials had been fooled for so long.

Least Competent Criminals

In Vancouver, Washington, in January, Cuitlahvac Renteria-Martinez, 26, was arrested after allegedly jumping into an idling 18-wheeler and taking off. His two major mistakes: (1) not realizing the rig had a global positioning system, making it easy to track, and (2) taking a swig out of what he thought was the driver's cup of coffee but was actually tobacco spit. When police caught up with Renteria-Martinez he was on the phone with a 911 operator, requesting assistance for choking.

Recurring Themes

In October News of the Weird described the Sinulator, a sex-toy system that transmits thrusting movements between users over the Internet. In November the New York Times reported that researchers at Carnegie Mellon, financed by a grant aimed at improving the lives of the elderly, have developed the Hug, a firm, velour-covered pillow shaped like a small torso and arms and outfitted with wireless-phone technology, sensors, and motors. Squeezes and pats can be sent (along with voice transmissions) from one Hug to another, to be felt in real time or, if the recipient isn't home, stored as a message.

Readers' Choice

School officials in Palo Alto, California, said in January that management consultant William Fried may not be asked to continue his three-year run as a career-day speaker at Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School. Asked at this year's presentation why he had included "exotic dancing" on his list of attractive careers for girls, Fried said the pay was great: $250,000 a year or more, depending on a woman's chest size. "For every two inches up there," he reportedly told the eighth graders, "you should get another $50,000 on your salary."

Undignified Deaths

A 34-year-old man was taking a sobriety test alongside Route 130 in Bordentown, New Jersey, in December when he was killed in a pileup started by an allegedly drunk truck driver. A 40-year-old New York City man died the same month after he fell, while drunk, into a fish tank, fatally slashing an artery; he had recently purchased the fish to help teach his girlfriend's kids responsibility. Also in December, a 47-year-old man was killed in Albany, Georgia, while using his truck to uproot a tree: the tree fell on the truck, crushing the cab and the driver inside; the engine then overheated and started a fire.

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

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