Lead Story

French tourism minister Olivier Stirn resigned in July after his plan to increase attendance at a conference backfired. When only 37 people showed up (out of 5,000 invitees), Stirn hurriedly called a local actors’ union and offered about $50 each to 200 actors to sit in the audience to make it respectable in size. (Featured speakers were 12 government ministers and two former prime ministers.) However, the actors thought their gig expired at 6:15 PM and walked out en masse while defense minister Jean Pierre Chevenement was speaking.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Jeffrey Pederson and Laurie McDonald were arguing so loudly at a Toronto hotel in March that the clerk called the police. When Constable Andy Hickerson arrived, he demanded identification from the two, and Pederson produced credit cards and a driver’s license belonging to Hickerson, who had reported his wallet missing several days before.

South Dakota newspaper editor Ward Bushee, who had written critical editorials about Air National Guard flyovers during patriotic ceremonies because they were noisy and dangerous (“What if a jet crashed?” he wrote), was invited in May to ride in an A-7 fighter jet in such a ceremony and accepted out of journalistic curiosity. His jet collided with another, and both pilots and Bushee were forced to eject.

Leslie Steven Slovak, 28, was sentenced to a year in jail in Calgary in May for aiding a felony after the fact. During a bank robbery, Slovak had been standing in a teller line, and afterward Slovak gave a perfect description of the robber, omitting only the fact that he was his brother. Slovak said he had no advance knowledge that his brother would be robbing the bank.

Things Not Supposed to Happen These Days

A 30-year-old Hong Kong man, standing alongside a road in Dublin, Ireland, in May, was injured when a passing motorcyclist shot him with a fisherman’s harpoon and rode off.

Five New Guinea tribesmen died and dozens were injured as 2,000 warriors battled for four days near Papua in May after a dispute between two tribes over how to serve a roasted pig at a peace ceremony.

A bridge collapsed near Oklahoma City in May when a 24-year-old truck driver failed to heed the sign that warned of the 5-ton weight limit. He was carrying over 41 tons of gravel.

San Antonio police discovered in April that a local street gang called Damage Inc. distributes professionally printed business cards for its members. Members are mostly between 14 and 16 years of age and are suspected in a variety of local crimes.

Janna Stubbs claimed in May that she shot her husband to death in Leesburg, Ohio, in self-defense after he stabbed her twice and challenged her to a gun duel. She said Dwight Stubbs had retrieved two guns from the closet, laid them on the bed, and said, “I’m going to count to three, and the one who fires last is dead.”

Low-Probability Schemes

Robert Haag, 33, of Arizona was charged in January with attempting to steal a 27-ton, car-sized meteorite from Chaco province in Argentina and smuggle it out of the country.

Police in Bridgeport, Connecticut, uncovered a plot last November in which a 29-year-old woman made herself up to look pregnant, reported to a local hospital, and then allowed her bed to be taken by a nearly due pregnant 18-year-old. The older woman then returned to her bed after the birth and claimed the child.

David Matthew Winfree, 22, pleaded guilty in July to burglarizing a Houston Municipal Prison maintenance building to steal a battery charger.

Vincent Pannone, 63, was charged in Brooklyn in February with swindling at least 20 people out of sums of $500 to $1,000. Claiming he had a contract to paint above-ground subway structures, he would “hire” workers but ask them to give him money up front for “health insurance.” Before the scheme was detected, numerous structures were painted, and some victims had firebombed Pannone’s car.

Police in Cheverly, Maryland, arrested Brice Myers Nickel, 58, in July after tracing to his home a video camera that was discovered set up outside a neighbor’s bathroom window. In Nickel’s home, police found ten tapes with scenes of men and women using the bathroom. Nickel had checked the camera out from a city government office.

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