Lead Story

Among the extreme sports practiced on the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten: standing on the beach behind the runway at Princess Juliana International Airport when a plane is about to take off and trying not to be knocked over by the blast of the jet engines. Thrill seekers ignore posted signs warning that the blasts can cause serious injury, reported a March article in the Chicago Tribune, which described one woman’s being “tossed in the air like a human shot put.”

New Frontiers in Charity Fund-Raising

Norwegians Tommy Hol Ellingsen, 27, and Leona Johansson, 21, started a Web site earlier this year that charges visitors about $15 a month to view pornographic video footage of the couple, donating all profits to environmental organizations (although Ellingsen says some groups have been reluctant to accept their money). And “Vix,” a 34-year-old British woman with multiple sclerosis, has since January raised the equivalent of $7,600 for the UK’s Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre through a Web site featuring topless photos of herself.


In January, according to Atlanta police, 20-year-old Nathaniel Lee Stanley was released from Fulton County Jail (charges against him, which included violation of controlled-substance laws, had been dismissed) and immediately drove off in an SUV he carjacked in the jail’s parking lot. And in March Kelly Handy, 37, retrieved some personal belongings that were held by Wheat Ridge, Colorado, police after her arrest the previous week on charges including burglary and forgery. She then went into a police station bathroom, emerged a few minutes later wearing a wig, and left the building. Detectives followed Handy and watched her spend the afternoon taking about 30 pieces of mail out of three mailboxes before rearresting her.

F for Effort

Though he praised lawyer Brian Puricelli’s courtroom skill in winning a case for a client against the city of Philadelphia, federal judge Jacob Hart reduced Puricelli’s legal fees by $31,500 for the poor quality of his filings, which Hart said were so badly written and full of typos that they showed disrespect for the court. In numerous documents Puricelli consistently referred to the “U.S. District Court for the Easter District of Pennsylvania” and at least once spelled Hart’s first name “Jacon.” Puricelli’s work apparently did not improve despite frequent criticism by both Hart and opposing counsel; a key paragraph in his response to complaints about the typos contained three more typos.

Recent Alarming Headlines

(1) “Trio Arrested for Breaking In and Performing Dental Work,” Town Talk (Alexandria, Louisiana), December (two people, one an employee at a dentist’s office, tried to perform a late-night repair on a friend’s partial filling); (2) “Jail Teaches Prisoners to Shoot,” West Australian (Perth), April (an official at Eastern Goldfields prison allowed aboriginal inmates to train with air rifles, reasoning that upon release they might need to hunt animals for food).

Not My Fault

BBC News reported in January that 21-year-old Michael McCarthy had filed suit for about $46,000 against the Dalmunzie Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland, where he formerly worked as a chef. McCarthy badly cut his finger while slicing open an avocado and now claims that no one had warned him that unripe avocados were harder to cut than ripe ones.

Least Competent Criminals

Another Cardinal Rule, Broken: If possible, do all prep work in private. John Parker and Rick Owens were arrested in Athens, Texas, in April after they were spotted sitting in a Wal-Mart parking lot allegedly cutting out counterfeit bills.

The District of Calamity

The Washington Post reported in April on the principal of one of D.C.’s “transformation” elementary schools (underperforming schools targeted for improvement), who was revealed in late 2003 to have obtained her doctoral degree from a correspondence college operated by a former stage hypnotist who was indicted last year for mail fraud. Supervisors decided to impose no punishment other than to drop her salary to that received by principals with master’s degrees. Also in April the school system declined to punish 110 employees who had circumvented spending limits on D.C. government-issued credit cards, often for questionable expenses including candy, flowers, and shoes. The investigating official explained that he’d found no evidence of “personal gain” from the improper spending but acknowledged that identifying such personal gain wasn’t within the scope of his review.

More Things to Worry About

According to a January Reuters report, 15 hooded men robbed a Catholic monastery near Guaratingueta, Brazil, of the equivalent of $6,200. The robbers were very apologetic and repeatedly asked forgiveness of the priests, but then forced one to swear on a Bible that that was all the money the monastery had. And officials of Canada’s Algonquin Nation recently convinced an advocacy group that educates U.S. high school teachers about the Arab world to remove a chapter from one of its study guides, saying there’s no historical basis for the book’s claim that descendants of Muslim explorers became Algonquin chiefs in the 17th century. (The book’s editor said she had no idea how the reference originated.)

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