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In February the Associated Press reported on 54-year-old Mexico City cabdriver Manuel Quiroz and his dream of being recognized as the world's greatest eater of raw chili peppers. Besides being able to consume dozens of ultrapotent habanero peppers at a sitting, Quiroz can also squeeze their juice into his eyes and rub them all over his face with no ill effects.

Bustin' Loose

A spokesperson for Kinross Correctional Facility, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, confirmed in March that a group of inmates had over a period of months chipped through the eight-inch-thick outer wall of their cell and dug a roughly 30-foot tunnel extending beneath the prison's perimeter fence; they were discovered before they could tunnel the final six feet up to the surface. According to the Sault Sainte Marie Evening News, the inmates bagged much of the excavated dirt for use in reinforcing the tunnel against collapse and flushed the rest down their cell toilet, which likely explained some mysterious plumbing problems the prison had recently encountered.

After becoming South America's chess champion with a win at a January tournament in Argentina, 15-year-old Emilio Cordova of Peru told his family he was traveling on to Brazil for more competitions. According to a March dispatch in the Times of London, when months went by and he hadn't returned, the Peruvian press tracked him to Sao Paulo, where they found he'd gotten involved with a 29-year-old woman who worked as a dancer at a well-known after-hours nightclub. Though he swore he wouldn't leave, ultimately his father (with help from the Peruvian foreign ministry) brought him back to Lima. Cordova explained to reporters, "I have to live."

Government in Action

The San Jose Mercury News reported in February on Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority bid invitation VTA06-513-P04, in which the south Bay Area transit body solicited bids from local bakeries to provide sheet cakes for its office parties. In 33 pages of instructions, the VTA advised prospective candidates that they must offer decorated cakes in combinations of at least 11 flavors (including peach), 16 fillings (also including peach), 5 icings, and 6 toppings, in at least 7 shapes and sizes, and must carry a minimum of $3 million in liability insurance. No bidders responded; a spokesperson said the VTA would now buy its cakes on a per-party basis.

Principals Gone Wild

John Acerra, a middle school principal in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was charged in February with selling crystal meth; police said that when they arrived at his office after hours to arrest him, Acerra was naked and watching pornography. And Robert Holloway, until recently a Catholic-school principal in Lorain, Ohio, pleaded no contest to sex charges in April. Authorities said that after losing a bet he'd made with three 14-year-old boys on a student-teacher volleyball game, Holloway paid them $15, then eagerly honored another condition of the bet the boys assumed he hadn't meant literally: he had them take off their shoes and socks and kissed each of their feet 50 times.

People Different From Us

An April article in the Wilmington News Journal profiled Barney Vincelette of Houston, Delaware. A Vietnam veteran and doctoral candidate in physics who lives in a tiny vintage prefab house shaped like a flying saucer, Vincelette claimed his mild autism makes him extremely sensitive to noise (to him most popular music "sounds the same way feces smells," he said). He admitted he was once fined and evicted from an apartment for killing a dog that was prone to barking, and in 2002 he retaliated against neighbors who played music too loud by hooking truck horns up to an air compressor. Upon being cited for disorderly conduct, he challenged the fine in court--arguing that his composition "Sonata for Calliope of Truck Horns About to Be Transcribed for Locomotive Horns Opus No. 1" was also music and thus the citation amounted to selective enforcement--and ultimately charges were dropped. More recently he and another neighbor, Elizabeth Ramirez, had gotten mutual restraining orders; to temporarily disable her family's stereo, he said, he rigged up a jamming device out of microwave parts and copper sheeting.

Fetishes on Parade

In March police in Citrus County, Florida, arrested 40-year-old ex-convict Michael Derenberger for an incident in which an 11-year-old girl awoke one night to find a long pole with a hook on the end reaching through her bedroom window and pulling down her comforter. An initial search turned up no suspects, but authorities matched Derenberger's DNA to semen found on the house below the window. And in April a coroner told an inquest in Middlesbrough, England, that there was no sign 48-year-old Ian Kemp had meant to take his own life when he apparently climbed inside a huge plastic bag while naked, bound his arms and legs, and switched on a vacuum cleaner he'd hooked up to the bag.


Following a January street assault in Levin, New Zealand, a 22-year-old man was rushed to a hospital to have his car key removed from his head, where it had become embedded just behind the right ear. And in March in Perth, Australia, a man reached into a parked car and stabbed the two 18-year-olds sitting inside; the driver managed to speed away and make it home safely with a screwdriver sticking out of his face.

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

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