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Slippery little devils



LaFayre Marie Banks, 32, was charged with assault and child abuse in Port Huron, Mich., in May after her 7-month-old baby fell from Banks' second-story bathroom window, suffering severe head injuries. Banks told a police officer that she was bathing the child when "it reared up and went through the window." And in Wetumpka, Ala., in August, Melissa Wright, 27, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for putting her 18-month-old daughter in a hot oven. Wright's version was that the child slipped from her arms, fell to the floor and rolled into the oven, and then the door closed.

Stuck in the middle

A 29-year-old, 300-pound man was discovered dead of asphyxiation, stuck in a small bathroom window of his home after apparently trying to climb in late at night when he realized he had forgotten his house key in Paterson, N.J., in September. And a 36-year-old, 250-pound man (suspected of being a burglar) was discovered dead of asphyxiation, stuck in a small kitchen window, by a woman who had just gotten up to fix breakfast in Elgin, Ill., in October.

Riot girls

On Oct. 30, in South Philadelphia, a 25-year-old man who had apparently been indecently exposing himself to girls and women in the neighborhood for several weeks, tried it one time too many and was chased by "20 to 30" girls from St. Maria Goretti High School, caught, roughed up and held for police.

Putting the brake on spending

Medicare, facing a precarious financial future, decided for the first time this year that seniors who need motorized wheelchairs (typical price, $5,500) will have to get an in-person doctor's prescription. Medicare paid $289 million for motorized wheelchairs in 1999, but this year, before the rule change, the estimated expense was $1.2 billion. Medicare also revealed that it is spending $600,000 this year to put its toll-free telephone number on a blimp that flies over sporting events.

Crappy reception

On Oct. 29, thousands of rush-hour riders had to be rerouted on New York City commuter trains as firefighters tried to free Edwin Gallart, 41, whose arm got stuck in one train's toilet when he reached in to retrieve his fallen cell phone. Ultimately, the toilet had to be ripped out.

Animal attraction

Loren J. Adams, 40, was convicted in Indianapolis of distributing obscenity in May, based on a business venture that apparently emanated from his admitted interest in watching scenes of bestiality. Not only did Adams' website offer videos of people having sex with horses, snakes, etc., but Adams at one time offered to rent out his 3-year-old Great Dane, Tyson, for others' sex videos. Tyson was removed from the home, and Adams still faces a civil charge of animal cruelty, according to a September report in the Indianapolis Star.

Attention to detail

In July, a judge relented and allowed Richard Quinton Gunn to act as his own attorney in his aggravated-murder appeal, following his conviction earlier in the year in Ogden, Utah, by a jury that deliberated just two hours. Gunn had confessed, saying he killed his tenant using a crowbar, a butcher knife, a handsaw, a fireplace poker, a 12-inch bolt, a straight razor, an ax, walking canes, a pool cue and a large salad fork.

Profit motive

Ten days after Jonathon Russell killed three people and himself in a highly publicized workplace-rage incident in Jefferson City, Mo., in July, his mother, Nina Tichelkamp-Russell, filed a worker compensation claim on his behalf, seeking death benefits. Her version of the cause of death, according to what she wrote on the claim, was "by gunfire while on the company clock." The employer and its insurance company rejected the claim.

It's not brain surgery

According to a September safety hearing, British brain surgeon Donald Campbell, 54, crashed his twin-engine plane into a house in Shoreham, England (he survived, with head injuries) when he ran out of fuel because he miscalculated when converting "gallons" to "liters." And internationally renowned neuroscientist Patricia Goldman-Rakic, 66, was fatally run over in August while jaywalking in Hamden, Conn. Police said the driver was not at fault.

Capitalism in action

The New York Times reported in October that Nabors Industries, an operator of oil-well drilling rigs, which in 2001 moved its legal headquarters from the U.S. to Barbados (corporate income tax: 1 percent) and its tax headquarters to a mail drop in Bermuda (no corporate income tax), is now insisting that it receive favored U.S. legal status. Nabors wants to be treated as an American-owned company to get a competitive advantage under the 80-year-old Jones Act that bars non-U.S. companies from working on ships involved in domestic trade.

High crimes

Denver Garrett, charged with cocaine possession in Monterey, Tenn., in October, told police he bought it only to keep it off the streets and away from children. And James Howle, 61, and Kevin Williams, 41, stabbed each other in Pomona, Calif., in October in an argument over which of their two unidentified alcoholic beverages tastes better.

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