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Climbing Jacob's bladder



An August Knoxville News-Sentinel story profiled the self-described "prophet [that] God spoke of": Richard Settle, 44, who began spreading the gospel three years ago by vandalizing buildings in several states. Sometimes, Settle warns people of the impending New World Order merely by painting religious symbols on the buildings; in other instances, he spreads the Lord's word by urinating on the walls. Settle has been charged with crimes in 10 incidents and convicted so far in three. Settle's mother said his behavior stems from a fractured skull he suffered when he was hit by a car 21 years ago.

Some lovely parting gifts

According to a Chicago Tribune dispatch from Rome, it is a ritual that animal shelters are flooded with abandoned dogs and cats in August -- the peak time for Italian vacation departures. What's worse, wrote the Tribune (citing Rome press reports), is the surge in the number of disabled parents who are dropped off at hospital emergency rooms by the same departing vacationers.

Beating the rap

In July, four men won $7,500 each from the city of Livermore, Calif., to settle a lawsuit over alleged police misconduct during a sting operation at the Not Too Naughty adult bookstore. According to the men's lawyer, Bruce Nickerson, police violated his clients' privacy by spying on them as they masturbated in a video-arcade booth.

The arms of Jesus

Victoria Smith, 58, was arrested in March after pulling a gun on Pastor Chester Miller of the Saddle (Ark.) Baptist Church during the closing prayer. Miller hadn't preached from the book of Revelations, a text that was important to Smith in her feud with another church member. And Wesley Free, 44, was arrested in February after firing on the congregation at the Church of the First Born in Oklahoma City, allegedly because the pastor wouldn't remove his name from the membership rolls.

You can't go home again

In June, according to police, former master bank robber Stephen Reid, 49, who had gone straight in 1987 -- and had since written a best-selling novel and married an acclaimed poet -- unexpectedly returned to his craft by robbing a Royal Bank branch in Victoria, British Columbia. Reid and his partner, however, were arrested after a brief chase and shootout. And in April, Forrest Silva Tucker, 78, who was so brilliant that he once escaped from California's San Quentin Prison on a jerry-built river float, was arrested and charged with robbing a Republic Security Bank in Jupiter, Fla. Tucker's car crashed into a tree after a brief chase.

Legally challenged

In June, state regulators threatened to pull the license of Monique Dostie's home for the retarded in Lewiston, Maine, stemming from her prohibition of residents' sexual activity and ownership of sexual materials. Dostie resisted, citing her Catholic beliefs, her residents' limited abilities and the absence of complaints from their families. The state stood firm on the sexual rights of the retarded; in August, Dostie shut her home down and left the state.

Sanctum decorum

In July, the Arkansas Supreme Court tossed out the DUI conviction of Michael Norris because police had administered a field sobriety test in his bedroom. Responding to a tip, police had gone to Norris' home just after he arrived somewhat inebriated, and were let into the house by Norris' mother-in-law. The court ruled that warrantless searches for DUI offenses are illegal, and that the mother-in-law couldn't legally give permission for anyone to enter Norris' bedroom.

Flipping off this mortal coil

Donovan Moore, 43, was cited for disorderly conduct in April in Janesville, Wis., after he impatiently cut into a line of cars in a funeral procession and made obscene gestures at the mourners. And from the Barberton (Ohio) Herald police blotter, May 27: "A 33-year-old West Virginia man drove his vehicle into a 30-year-old Barberton woman's fence, then tore her gate off its hinges. He had driven to town to try to have sex with her, but she refused, so he drove back to West Virginia."

The lawn and the short of it

Last year, Susan Bauer claimed she couldn't cut her grass (thus violating a DeForest, Wis., ordinance) because she was protecting exotic prairie plants. After that excuse was rejected, she filed a lawsuit in July 1999 claiming that she has a bad back and that making her mow her lawn violates the Americans With Disabilities Act.

That beer has a head on it

In a June issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, two doctors affirmed that decapitated rattlesnake heads are still capable of injecting venom, and that "young men ... particularly while intoxicated" disproportionately receive such bites by "voluntarily" engaging snakes' heads.

Adult education

In May, officials at Langara College in Vancouver, British Columbia, canceled a course on shamanism after learning that instructor Lennart Aastrup had convinced his 23 students to take off their clothes so they could better identify their bodies' energy patterns. Two weeks earlier, Los Angeles police had arrested elementary school teacher Wendell Smith, 46, after his fourth-grade students turned him in for stripping during class and making obscene gestures.

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