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LEAD STORY: Windsor, Ontario, hair stylist Waddah (Martin) Mustapha was awarded $270,000 by a court in April after he testified that he became racked with depression upon seeing a fly inside a commercial bottle of water at his salon. Presumably, damages would have been more if Mustapha had actually drunk from the bottle (or even opened it). As it was, he and his wife vomited, and he required extensive psychotherapy for nightmares, loss of sense of humor, increased argumentativeness, lack of desire to shower regularly and constipation.

Compelling Explanations: An arbitration panel in April issued a two-year suspension to champion cyclist Tyler Hamilton for having transfused another person's blood for a race in Spain last year. At the panel's hearing in March, according to an April New York Times story, Hamilton and his lawyers had denied the charge and raised the possibility that maybe Hamilton had a "vanishing twin" who had shared the womb with him during his first trimester, which would explain why he wound up with some blood that doesn't match his "other" blood.Police in Morrisville, Vt., who arrested a teenager in April for allegedly removing a corpse's head in a cemetery tomb said the suspect had spoken of using the head as a marijuana bong.

Least Competent Criminals: In March, Jonathan P. Mitchell, dressed in black and wet from crawling in the nighttime mud up to a store in the KOA campground near Watsonville, Calif., was found by police, stuck and dangling from the rafters after trying to climb in through the roof. However, the manager admitted that he had not locked the door that night and that Mitchell could have just walked in. Three weeks earlier, in Fostoria, Ohio, thieves broke in and carried off a safe in the office of a local organization that serves the poor (Fostoria Bureau of Concern), but director Susan Simpkins said that not only was the safe empty but the bureau had decided to junk it awhile back and was looking for someone to haul it away.Thanh Nhat Le, 51, was arrested in Dorchester, Mass., in April, when he tried to cash a check he wrote to himself for $7,550 on his account at a Sovereign Bank. He had opened the account two weeks earlier, handing over $171 in small bills. He was certain that he had plenty of money in his account, though, because in the interim, he had also mailed the bank three checks for deposit: one for $250,000, one for $2 million, and one for $4 billion.

Recurring Themes: In Springfield, Mass., in April, Thomas P. Budnick became the most recent man to be convicted at a trial in which he had persuaded the judge to let him act as his own lawyer, then argued with a straight face on appeal that his conviction should be overturned because his trial lawyer was incompetent. (The decision is pending.)

Cutting-Edge Research: 1) Homelier-looking kids get taken care of by their parents less attentively than do the good-looking ones (e.g., they don't get buckled into carts as frequently in supermarkets, and are allowed to drift farther away in the store), reported Dr. Andrew Harrell, University of Alberta in April. 2) Gay men resemble women in their approach to reading road maps (determining directions by, for example, use of landmarks, rather than the typical heterosexual male approach of spatial reasoning), reported by psychobiologist Oazi Rahman, University of East London in February.

The Classic Middle Name (all-new): Arrested for murder recently: Darrell Wayne Maness, 19, Wilmington, N.C. (January); Timothy Wayne Ebert, 40, Cleveland, Texas (February); John Wayne Blair, 49, Sevier County, Tenn. (April); Derek Wayne Jackson, 18, Norristown, Pa. (April); Nathaniel Wayne Hart, 34, Austin, Texas (April). Convicted of murder: Donald Wayne Shipe, 37, Winchester, Va. (May). Sentenced for murder: Emmanuel Wayne Harris, 28, Bisbee, Ariz. (February). Executed for murder: Dennis Wayne Bagwell, 41, Huntsville, Texas (February); Lonnie Wayne Pursley, 43, Huntsville, Texas (May). Committed suicide while suspected of murder: Eric Wayne Jacobs, 27, Castroville, Calif. (April). And a Classic Middle Name Special: In April, in New Scotland, N.Y., Jean Balashek, 86, was found murdered, and police charged her daughter, Corianna Thompson, with the crime. Thompson's birth name was Corey Wayne Balashek, and before his sex change, he had served nine years for another killing. (Thus, Thompson/Balashek may be the first American ever charged with homicide in both genders.)

© 2005 Chuck Shepherd

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