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Another rash of sightings



As they look for a man who has appeared in public several times since early July wearing baby clothes, police in North Platte, Neb., are calling their suspect "The Big Bonnet" (his most prominent article of clothing). The man was last spotted Oct. 29, when he was spied bending over a bench and paddling himself.

Putting litter in its place

Stephanie England complained to school authorities in Joplin, Mo., in October that her son Preston's fifth-grade teacher had brought in a plastic bag of cat feces and taped it to Preston's desk for an hour as an object lesson. The punishment went too far, England said, even though she acknowledged that Preston has a tendency -- at home and at school -- to overuse the phrase "Suck a turd." Said England, "We've gotten on to him about it."

Eating with the enemy

In June, a Utah judicial commission reprimanded Judge Dee Alldredge for improperly sentencing stalker Michael Penrose in 1997 to take his victim, Anita Ferroni, out to dinner as a hostility-leavening measure. And in July, a Massachusetts appeals court reversed Judge Robert Howarth's 1996 10-day contempt sentence against a woman who had made an obscene gesture toward her abusive ex-boyfriend while in court. Howarth is the judge who in 1994 ordered another violent boyfriend to take martial-arts training, believing that it would teach him self-discipline rather than make him more violent.

Admission charge

David Oraha was convicted of perjury in Toronto in September. He had landed in trouble in 1998, when, minutes after being acquitted of assault by a judge, he wandered up to a police officer and asked, "So that's it? It's over? I was acquitted, like O.J.?" After the officer nodded, Oraha confided, "Well, off the record, it was me. [The people I beat up] had it coming." The officer then turned Oraha in.

Both hands and a flashlight

In September, authorities in Athens, Tenn., called on state officials to investigate a claim of impropriety against local jailers. Inmate Tracy Spurling, 38, complaining that his foot hurt, was discovered by X-ray to have a 6-inch flashlight in his rectum that the inmate insisted must have been planted there by deputies (since he had no recollection of it). After an investigation cleared the jailers, Spurling admitted to owning an identical flashlight.

Up in arms

In August, Detroit police chief Benny Napoleon acknowledged that the department has in recent years sold about 6,000 used guns to dealers who put them back on the street, even though the city has filed a $400 million lawsuit accusing firearms manufacturers of making it easy for buyers to skirt the city's antigun law. Many other police forces also sell their used weaponry: CBS News reported in August that the Irving, Texas, police department once sold used grenade launchers to a dealer for $3,500 each.

Punching in for work

Since his business went bankrupt, electrical contractor Akira Hareruya, 36, has been working the streets of Tokyo, inviting passersby to put on boxing gloves and take swings at him for about $9 a minute. He promises not to hit back, but only to try to evade the punches, and suggests that his customers relieve their stresses verbally as they swing. He told the Los Angeles Times that he averages about $200 a night.

Going ballistic

Terrance G. Stafford, 49, was charged with reckless discharge of a firearm at a gun show in St. Paul, Minn., in August. He said he wanted to test a .22-caliber automatic, but feared damaging the gun if he attempted to "dry fire" it without a round in the chamber ... so he loaded it and fired at the floor of the city's RiverCentre. Bullet fragments hit four people, one of whom required hospitalization.

In over their heads

The July lifeguard tryouts in Huntington Beach, Calif., went less than swimmingly: Only 20 of the 129 applicants were deemed even minimally qualified, and six of the other 109 had to be rescued during the half-mile swim. And in June, the Pine Bluff (Ark.) Commercial, citing state medical-board records, reported that the family of the late Ms. Marvelous Cann has alleged that surgeon Michael Joseph Rook mistook Ms. Cann's heart for a lung while performing gallbladder surgery in 1998. Rook frequently operated while alcohol-impaired, the family asserts.

Friendly fire

In September, two Sheboygan, Wis., teen-agers told police they had been hospitalized with leg wounds because they were curious to see what it was like to get shot. According to Sheriff's Capt. David Adams, a 34-year-old relative had obliged them and done the shooting. He was arrested.

Where'd you get those baby blues?

All in August: Mexico City's police chief replaced his 900-man traffic-enforcement squad with women, hoping they would be less likely to demand bribes from violators; an all-female police station opened in Mashhad, Iran, with the women uniformed in traditional black robes (chadors); Mobile, Ala., police officer Lark Huber was fired because she insisted on wearing a skirt instead of her uniform, which her religion classifies as men's clothing; and Bangkok police officials prohibited female officers from wearing miniskirts and heavy makeup, causing some to resign because they feared diminished marriage prospects.

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