*England's Plymouth University announced in March that it would offer an "academically rigorous" bachelor's degree in surfing beginning in September. The degree will be known formally as Surf Science and Technology and will offer research opportunities in surfboard, wetsuit and accessory design, and furnish to society not only surfers and product developers but organizers of surfing events.
*Still Rather Dine with Her Than with Him: In February a court in London, England, convicted restaurateur Sarah Kyolaba Amin, 42, the ex-wife of former Ugandan dictator (and, reportedly, sometimes-cannibal) Idi Amin, of several major health code violations in the eatery (named "S") that she owns. Authorities cited "heavy and active" cockroach and mouse infestation and "filth" throughout the kitchen and inside a refrigerator.
Cook a Turkey, Ruin Your Life
*In December the Kirkwood, Missouri, home of Dennis and Bonnie Miller suffered extensive fire damage when the turkey they tried to deep-fry on a grill for Christmas burned a hole in the pot and ignited a propane cylinder. And in February Canadian fugitive Allen Charles Whitequill, 42, on the lam for two years on murder charges, was captured in Carrizozo, New Mexico, during a burglary when he attempted to cook a frozen turkey in an office microwave oven. (He badly undercooked it and became sick, and when he sought a restroom, he accidentally locked the door behind him and could not get out before police arrived.)
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Not My Fault
*In March, former Fairfax County, Virginia, school principal Anthony M. Rizzo Jr., 62, escaped with a hung jury on charges that he had repeatedly raped a ten-year-old girl in the 1980s. The jury had not been allowed to know one fact about Rizzo: In 1998 he had won a permanent disability retirement from the state of Virginia, with the "disability" being a "psychosexual disorder" that makes him unable to supervise females without also trying to force sex on them. (At the time Rizzo was fighting for the disability, he was also denying the claims of eight female former co-workers who said they were victims of Rizzo's "disorder.")
*Charlie Smith, 45, told authorities in Austin in February that he might plead guilty to crimes in connection with a yearlong series of scams that bilked people out of more than $1 million, but that he wanted people to know he wasn't a bad person. He told the Austin American-Statesman that his nearly lifelong urge to rip people off traces back to a day in 1969 when his car slipped off of the jack while he was working on it, landing on him, cracking his skull and changing him morally.
*In March the city of Yenshui, Taiwan, held a fireworks show to commemorate stamping out the plague bacteria by fire more than 100 years ago. Villagers wearing bulky, protective clothing stood in front of the fireworks, which this year consisted of bottle rockets, hoping to be hit by the missiles, which would bring good luck. Apparently, some of the rockets exploded only after being propelled into the bulky clothing, creating serious injuries to about 30 lucky people.
-- By Chuck Shepherd