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A supreme whitewash



The leadership of the Aryan Nations white-supremacy organization kicked out its founder, Richard Butler, in January for allegedly tarnishing the organization's name. According to one leader, Butler "surrounded himself with idiots." Another leader said the group needed to get rid of the "troublemakers and riffraff" to "clean up `our` image," although he was the same guy who also recently threatened to "leave the dead bodies of the enemy scattered everywhere." (Butler's associates lost the group's 20-acre Idaho compound last year after an incident in which they fired at a motorist whose engine had backfired, thinking the loud noise was the start of a government siege; the motorist's subsequent victorious lawsuit for $6.3 million forced the sale of the compound.)

A bright idea

Britain's most prestigious annual award for unconventional art (the Turner Prize, with more than $30,000 in prize money) went in December to Martin Creed, 33, for an installation consisting only of an empty room in which lights switch on and off automatically every five seconds.

Self defense

In January, murder defendant Ernest Spann, 35, an 11th-grade dropout serving as his own lawyer (dressed throughout the trial in his prison uniform because he is serving a 10-year sentence on drug charges), embarrassed a prosecutor by convincing a jury in Tampa to acquit him in less than three hours of deliberation. At an earlier trial, Spann -- with the help of a public defender -- had earned a hung jury, but he told the judge this time that he thought he could do better by himself.

Sperm counts

In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that federal inmate William Gerber had a constitutional right to procreate and so reinstated Gerber's lawsuit against his warden for preventing him from mailing sperm home to his wife; the future Gerber baby would not only have a questionable genetic legacy (Dad's a recidivist drug and firearms convict) but a single-parent family (he is serving 111 years). ... And in October, Mexican singer Gloria Trevi, wanted by police at home but jailed in Brazil, was reported to have inseminated herself with smuggled sperm so that, due to pregnancy, she could avoid extradition. ... Also, the sheriff in Syracuse, N.Y., reported in November that a female inmate had been impregnated by her husband-inmate during a two-minute "contact" visit; the woman said later it took them only 30 seconds anyway.

Avenues to success

As one of his last acts in office in November, outgoing Atlanta city councilman Lee Morris tried to rename two obscure streets for his two youngest kids (who had complained to their dad that he had six years earlier gotten a street named for his other daughter). Morris defended his action as an appropriate reward for his apparently nearly perfect children: "The only thing they ever asked from me was this." Several days later, after constituent complaints, he changed his mind.

This one takes the cake

In an earnest anti-terrorism exhibition in Kayseri, Turkey, the top prizes were won by (1) two bakers who made a 5-foot-high cake topped by two skyscrapers, one with a hole near the top and the other with an icing-made plane embedded in it and (2) a men's hairstylist who created a swept-up look that formed hair into twin towers.

French dip

The French artist Cho was profiled in a December BBC News report for his street-beautification project of sticking little flags into some of the many piles of dog droppings on Paris sidewalks (an estimated 5,800 tons per year) and then painting artistic borders around them.

Crime pays

In the new "Dibbles and Dollars" board game, on sale in prominent stores in England, players earn money-points by selling drugs and bribing the police. They can even draw a card that awards them about $250,000 in points for kidnapping a young blond-haired girl.

Internal affair

In Bangor, Maine, two female streakers were acquitted of indecent conduct because state law penalizes only "exposure" of the genitals. That, said the judge, almost never happens with women because their organs are mostly internal. ... In British Columbia, a 40-year-old man recently smashed a theater's soda fountain and cash register, and knocked over a plant in the lobby because he was upset at the excessive violence in the film "Lord of the Rings." ...