A regional development commission in Michigan, purchasing equipment for 13 counties in May using homeland security grants, bought 13 machines that make snow cones, at a total cost of $11,700 (after rejecting one county's request for a popcorn machine). Pressed to justify the purchases, officials pointed out that the machines make shaved ice, which might be useful for medical situations stemming from natural disasters and heat emergencies (but that they also make snow cones to draw crowds at homeland security demonstrations).

- Once again, a genius tried to pass a piece of U.S. currency in an amount not even close to being legal tender: a $1 million bill. (The largest denomination is $100.) Michael Fuller, 53, was arrested in Lexington, N.C., in November when a Walmart cashier turned him in after he attempted to buy electronics totaling $475.78 (apparently expecting change of $999,524.22).

- In October, Toni Jo Silvey, 49, was arrested in Houston when her ex (artist Peter Main) reported that she made 146 phone calls in one day and more than 1,000 (and 712 e-mails) in three months, following their 2009 breakup over his seeing a younger woman. She was also charged with attacking his home with a tire iron, eggs and a sword.

- Joseph Romano, 2-year-old son in tow, was allegedly selling drugs when police picked him up in September in Tunkhannock Township, Pa. And Edward Chatman Jr., 32, who was arrested for raping a woman in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in August, had brought his 6-month-old baby with him when he climbed through the woman's window (though, police said, he stashed the kid in another room during the assault).

- The law of child support changes only slowly in the U.S., but maybe less so in Australia. American courts are reluctant to end payments even if the man later disproves paternity (citing the harm to the child if the payments stop). However, in October, the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne, Australia, acting on fertility-test results, ordered a mother to reimburse the man she swore was the father after he proved he had been sterile. The woman also "recalled," after extensive therapy, that she might have had a one-night stand with a stranger around the time of conception.

- A New York City jury awarded the family of a late teenager $1 million in November in its lawsuit against the city for mishandling the boy's brain after his 2005 death. Following "testing," the medical examiner kept the brain in a jar on a shelf, where it was inadvertently spotted by the victim's sister during a school field trip to the mortuary (treatment the family considered extremely disrespectful). The case calls to mind that of Arkansas rapist Wayne Dumond, who had been castrated by vigilantes in 1984 and whose genitals the local sheriff had recovered and kept in a jar on a shelf in his office as a symbol of "justice." Dumond subsequently (in 1988) won $110,000 in a "disrespect" lawsuit against the sheriff.

 

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