In October, West Point, Ky., hosted 12,000 visitors for the weekend Knob Creek Gun Range Machine Gun Shoot, billed as the nation's largest, with a separate competition for flamethrowers. Especially coveted is "The Line," where 60 people (the waiting list to participate is 10 years long) get to fire their machine guns into a field of cars and boats, and during which a shooter might run through $10,000 in ammunition. Among the champions: Samantha Sawyer, 16, the top women's submachine gunner for the last four years. One man interviewed by the Louisville Courier-Journal said he met his wife at a previous Shoot, knowing that "if she could accept flamethrowing as a hobby, she could accept anything." Said another: "This is one of those times when you know this (the United States) is the greatest place on Earth."
A senior Vatican spokesman, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, told a BBC Radio audience in October that condoms are useless in preventing the spread of HIV (claiming the virus seeps through the "porous" latex) and therefore should not be used, even in AIDS-wracked Africa, where as much as 20 percent of the population is reportedly infected. The World Health Organization denounced Trujillo's claim but said it had heard similar Catholic Church messages in Asia and Latin America.
Size does matter
In Easton, Pa., in July, Robert M. Peters Sr., 47, became the latest man to be acquitted of indecent exposure by persuading a jury that his penis is too small to have been seen by the complaining witness. A woman testified that she had seen "3 inches" of erect penis beyond the bottom of his shorts while he was working in her home, but via photographs and a brief trouser-dropping in the courtroom, Peters convinced the jury that he is very modestly endowed and that she must have seen something else, such as a fold of fat on his 312-pound body.
But is it art?
In September in East Finchley, England, Daniel Wade, 37, his wife, Eti, and their two sons began a project "to challenge or confirm notions of the middle-class family and domestic space": They opened their home to about 50 strangers every Sunday so people could walk through their house and observe their typical behavior (eating, arguing, sleeping, watching TV). According to Wade, this would help the visitors contemplate the modern family.
Two hunters on a remote mountain in northern Sweden in October came across an installation of 70 pairs of shoes filled with butter, according to an Associated Press report. Artist Yu Xiuzhen was attributed as the probable creator, in that he had staged a similar display in the Tibetan mountains surrounding Lhasa, China, in 1996. (A non-art-appreciating official in Sweden was more concerned about getting the shoes down before the butter rots.)
Flying the friendly skies
In September, customs officials in Amsterdam stopped a Nigerian man trying to enter the Netherlands with a suitcase containing 1,500 to 2,000 baboon noses, which some people use in traditional healing, but which were in an advanced state of putrefaction.
In October, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's inspector general released questions from the final exam for airport screeners, which is designed to measure the intensive training that the screeners had just completed. One question: "How do threats get on board an aircraft?" The answers: "A) in carry-on bags; B) in checked-in bags; C) in another person's bag; D) all of the above." The inspector general also complained that 22 of the exam's 25 questions were repeats from previous exams.
In April, according to Uganda's prison service, 15 inmates escaped near Kampala after allegedly having weakened the jail's walls and cell bars by months of urinating on them. And in October, a tipsy undersecretary in the Philippine government apologized after inadvertently urinating in the rear of President Arroyo's plane during flight, in an area he mistook for a rest room.
Thinning the herd
In August, a 22-year-old student from Saint-Denis, on the French island of Reunion, trying to get a better position to take photographs of the Piton de la Fournaise volcano, got too close and fell in to his death. And in July, a 47-year-old man in Camp Verde, Ariz., who was apparently reaching up a utility pole to illegally hook up power to his business after it was cut off for nonpayment, was electrocuted.
In July, the state of Kentucky sent a check to the state's American Civil Liberties Union chapter for $121,000 as costs awarded in a 2000 lawsuit in which the state was forced by a court to remove a Ten Commandments monument from state Capitol grounds. According to a Louisville Courier-Journal report, that brings to nearly $700,000 that the state has been forced to pay the ACLU in the last 10 years as costs for challenging various unconstitutional moves by the state.
Another scary clown
In Jupiter, Fla., in October, yet another part-time professional clown pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography; David Deyo, 43, a Presbyterian Sunday school teacher, appeared often in the community as "Noodles the Clown."