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Pull the wool over their eyes



Two thieves abandoned their rental car in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in May, leaving a sheep and three goats in the car, allegedly rustled from a farmer. The sheep was wearing a dress, and the goats wore shirts, pants and hats. Police guessed the thieves had dressed the animals to avert suspicion, but with nightfall approaching, the driver actually created suspicion when he failed to turn on his headlights.

Lowering the bar

In October Derek Farmer, 42, who served 18 years in prison for the murders of a civil-rights activist and a police officer in Dayton, Ohio, passed Ohio's bar exam and was sworn in as a lawyer. However, two weeks earlier, Kevin Kapel was denied permission to take the same exam because of insufficient "character and fitness" to become a lawyer; Kapel's criminal record consists only of charges that he stole a girlfriend's cat and once tried to take his car back illegally from a mechanic. (Farmer's application was helped by the strong support of his presiding judge and two other judges.)

Eat the rich

According to a November Boston Globe story, upper-crust restaurants in New York and Boston have taken to adding genuine gold flakes to some dishes, not merely as garnish but with the expectation that they be eaten. Boston's Riba restaurant recently offered "risotto of summer's golden squashes with leaf of 24-carat gold." Said the owner, "It's so thin and weightless that by the time you eat it, it's gonzo." She added, "There's a feeling of plenty around. People are feeling rich."

Bone of contention

Police in Stockton, Calif., arrested Tina Watts, 28, in June and charged her with cruelty to an animal after she shot a neighbor's dog. She claimed the dog had just bitten her 4-year-old son, but she later admitted it wasn't true after police discovered that the bloody dog-bite wound was just a bandage she had saturated with ketchup.

Intimate knowledge

In July, London art student Kursty Groves told reporters she had developed a prototype "Techno Bra," which houses in its lining a Global Positioning Satellite locator, heart-rate monitor and cell-phone transmitter, to be activated if the wearer is attacked (which supposedly produces a heartbeat distinct from that produced by exercising or passion). Also in July, a report of an American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery study indicated success with the battery-operated vacuum bra that removes air from its two domes so that breasts are sucked forward; 15 women testers grew by an average of one cup size after 10 weeks.

Pyramid scheme

Tensions grow daily in rural Eatonton, Ga. (60 miles southeast of Atlanta), between the Putnam County sheriff intent on enforcing agricultural zoning laws and the 80 African-American disciples of Chief Black Eagle Malachi York, who has built a religious retreat, with shops and 40-foot-high pyramids, called Tama-Re: Egypt of the West. York, a convicted felon who says he was born in the galaxy Illyuwn and who invented the group's Arabic-English-blend language, Nuwabic, teaches that a spaceship will land in 2003 and take away only 144,000 chosen people.

Say amen, somebody

According to an October report in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, a national Christian "lighthouse movement" seeks to pray for every single person in the United States by the end of next year. Among the techniques suggested: praying for the 10 households to your left and right and to the five in front; praying for people listed in telephone directories; and, in rough neighborhoods, "drive-by praying." In late August, a convention of related groups met near Dallas to assess how they could best spend the remaining months on their particular goal of exposing every single person on Earth to Christianity by the end of next year.

Losing my religion

The Wall Street Journal reported in September on efforts by the United Society of Believers (better known as the Shakers, named for the way they tremble while worshipping) to recruit new members. By the mid-1800s, there were 6,000 members, but since part of their philosophy is celibacy, there are now only seven, living near New Gloucester, Maine. Though their original philosophy was built on "separation from the world," the Shakers now have a website, give musical concerts and sell CDs.

Heavy lifting

In July, thieves stole more than a mile of natural-gas pipeline, weighing 250 tons, near Kotovskoye, Russia. And in August, thieves stole an entire neighborhood garden in London's West End. And in March, thieves stole an 11-prefabricated-building school, along with its security fence, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. And in July, thieves stole every single thing (except a few clothes) out of a house in Montreal, including toilet paper on the holder.

Focus on what's important

In September, Roland Tough, 22, and five colleagues, convicted of theft in Greater Manchester, England, were given sentences of from three to six years. The men had burglarized a Tesco's department store in Walkden, with Tough commemorating the heist as the gang's official photographer. However, Tough later dropped off the roll of film for processing at the very same Tesco's, and employees recognized some of the stolen items.

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