*Former Gotti crime-family hit man Sammy "The Bull" Gravano cooperated on author Peter Maas's Gravano biography Underboss, to be published in April. Despite the fact that his testimony helped send Gotti to prison for life without parole, and 36 others to the slammer, and despite the fact that he admits to making nineteen hits for the Gotti family, Gravano reportedly left the witness protection program and said he'll take his chances on the street. Though he had plastic surgery after he went underground, he agreed to show off his new face in the book, perhaps, said Maas, because the recently divorced Gravano would like to hear from interested ladies.
*Unclear on the concept: The Multnomah County, Oregon, school system planned in March to begin test-marketing the idea of paying parents of chronic truants to help their kids get to and stay in school (three dollars if they stay the whole day, one dollar for a half-day). And in February the University of Maryland's Student Honor Council offered local-merchant discount cards to students who pledge in writing not to cheat. (Said a critic: "By the time you get to bribery, you're already pretty far gone.")
*Despite a lengthy development period for its new product and a year on the market, the Reebok company realized only in February that its line of Incubus shoes for women was named for a mythological demon who raped sleeping females. And Walgreens drugstores distributed discount-coupon books nationwide in February to honor Black History Month; among the products was a skin-bleaching cream aimed at the African-American market.
*In Woodbridge, Virginia, in January, a 35-year-old woman was charged with sexual abuse of her son, age 9; according to police, she also arranged at least one sexual instruction session with herself, the son, her 15-year-old daughter, and her boyfriend, age 34. According to the boyfriend, she wanted to spare her kids from having to learn about sex on the street. (She is a grandmother as a result of the boyfriend-daughter liaison.)
*Parenting license revocations: According to police in Cairo, Egypt, Ibrahim Mohei Eddin, age 40, pushed his 7-year-old son under a moving train and left him for dead at the behest of his brand-new, 23-year-old wife. (The boy survived but lost both legs.) And in January in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, David W. Crist, age 38, was convicted of pushing his deaf 9-year-old daughter in front of an oncoming truck in order to collect on an insurance policy. (He is also charged with trying to electrocute another daughter in 1990 and hiring a hit man to kill his brother in 1982. Both kids survived; the brother didn't.)
*In October Richard E. Clear, age 32, was arrested in Tampa for shooting his gun toward a neighbor who had complained about Clear's barking dog. Clear runs a martial arts studio and advertises his experience in "stress management."
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*In October the Des Moines Register reported that Daniel Long, age 35, had been fired from his job as a greeter at a local Wal-Mart. According to records in the state unemployment appeals agency, Long called one customer a "snob," told another she had to be "smarter than the cart" to get two carts unstuck, and called another a "fat elephant."
*In November retired Manhattan, Kansas, police department custodian Jay Pfaff, age 73, was fired from his job as a school crossing guard because, said a police spokesman, "a number of parents" complained that they were uncomfortable because he was too nice to their children.
-- By Chuck Shepherd