*Tape recordings played in March at the Detroit trial of an organized crime gang exposed two alleged soldiers as somewhat less than "wise" guys. FBI bugs planted in their cars and homes revealed, among other comical exchanges, that they got lost trying to find an expressway after shooting out a rival's windows, were not sure whether they needed to fill out federal forms to buy ammunition, and expressed frustration that they couldn't fire their guns at 11:00 p.m. on a Sunday night because of heavy pedestrian traffic.
*In December, according to an exchange of letters excerpted in the Wall Street Journal, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality acted on the complaint of a neighbor and scolded a Montcalm County landowner for "construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond." He was reminded that a permit is required for such "inherently dangerous" construction and warned him against any further "unauthorized activity." Subsequent investigation by the department determined that beavers had built the dams.
Got Cold Water?
*In downtown Belleville, Illinois, in April, police blocked a lane of traffic so that two dogs could continue their mating interlude. Five days earlier, in a small holding area adjacent to a courtroom in Reading, Pennsylvania, a male and a female prisoner had sex in front of two other inmates while Judge Stephen B. Lieberman conducted business about ten feet away.
Not Bloody Likely
*Tangier Island, Maryland, town council members recently informed producers of the Warner Bros. movie Message in a Bottle (starring Paul Newman and Kevin Costner) that they were looking forward to the movie being shot in their town but decreed that the script would have to be changed to eliminate all cursing, sex, and alcoholic beverages. And Joe Paul of Sun City, Arizona, has been keeping score at Arizona Diamondbacks baseball games this year -- not of runs and hits but of players spitting, a habit that Paul says violates state law. He demanded that health authorities intervene to stop the unsanitary practice.
People with Too Much Money
*An April Associated Press report disclosed that, since 1961, Americans have sent the U.S. Treasury more than $56 million in voluntary contributions to help reduce the national debt. Gifts are mostly $15 or so, but one Minneapolis woman gives $3000 a year. In 1994 an anonymous altruist gave $20 million.
*Charles Cornell, age 31, won his lawsuit in High Court in London, England, in March and was awarded about $100,000 in damages. Cornell's insurance business failed when sales plummeted after his automobile accident. He sustained a head injury that his doctors said left him with a gentler, more amiable personality, which Cornell said made him unsuited for selling insurance.
*In April the New York Times profiled the third generation of the Ayala family to perform "hair hangs" for the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. Like their mother and grandmother, Andrea, age 24, and Michelle, age 28, hang and spin by their hair while twirling rings and juggling fire batons, enduring a level of pain Andrea describes as "twenty!" on a ten-point scale. Mother Marguerite says, "You see the faces of the people and you forget the pain."
-- By Chuck Shepherd