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Ferruccio Pilenga recently turned out another class of graduates at his Italian Dog Rescue School, which he says is the only one in the world that trains canines (mostly Newfoundlands, with some Labradors) to jump out of helicopters into rough waters for rescues at sea. Pilenga told London’s Independent in August that it takes about three (human) years to teach them, and that they are of the most use in treacherous waters near rocks, where a rescue boat would be shredded, but his dogs, on long leashes, can fight through flailing arms and get the victim to hold on while the dog is dragged to the rescue vessel.

Compelling Explanations

(1) Stephen Peterson, 42, went back to court in Sydney, Australia, in August to challenge the “not guilty/insanity” decision against him nearly 10 years ago, claiming that he should have been allowed to call as defense witnesses certain “higher beings” who had ordered him to bash the victim. Those entities included the “sun god,” Spacedust, and the “plasma being,” Kadec. The court turned him down. (2) British physician Stuart Brown, 37, was sentenced in August only to a small fine after a conviction for brutally beating his wife. Brown had explained the fight by saying that a “red mist” had descended on the room, causing him to lose control.

Not Our Fault: Dennis and Betty Hager filed a lawsuit in Wilmington, N.C., in July against the school system for causing them emotional pain and suffering by not stopping the love affair between their 16-year-old daughter and the school’s married, 40-year-old track coach. However, the Hagers have already signed a form (to satisfy state law) to allow the daughter to marry the coach.

Helene de Gier filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the National Postcode Lottery of the Netherlands, claiming emotional distress from not winning, even though she never entered. That particular lottery picks a geographic postal code at random and awards prizes to all of its residents who have entered that lottery. Since so many of her neighbors were flaunting prizes, she felt particularly humiliated, she says. (Seven people on her street won the equivalent of about $18 million each, according to a June Associated Press dispatch.)

Latest Human Rights

“Zero Tolerance” Is Just for the Kids: (1) One Alabama teacher, already fired but awaiting trial on a charge of raping a student, has not only received his regular paychecks for nearly two years, and will continue to until the trial is over, but has also been awarded two routine raises, based on a 2004 state law boosting teachers’ rights (according to an August Associated Press review of records). (2) The largest school district in Montreal, Quebec, was ordered by an arbitrator to rehire a teacher whom it had fired in 2004 for illegally failing to disclose a conviction for killing his wife. The arbitrator ruled the firing improper, in that homicide is unrelated to the teacher’s classroom work.

It’s Good to Be a British Prisoner (cont.): Britain’s chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, included in a recent inspection report of facilities her advice that prison wardens try to improve respect for inmates by having guards address prisoners by their preferred names and knock on cell doors before entering. A guards’ association spokesman said the suggestion lacked even a “modicum” of sense.

Fine Points of the Law

Louisiana prosecutors want the death penalty in the first trial for accused serial killer Sean Gillis, but to get that for an individual murder, state law requires an “aggravating circumstance” beyond the murder, such as kidnapping or robbery. At an August hearing, a prosecutor said Gillis had actually “robbed” his first victim, in that he had absconded with one of her arms and part of a leg. Gillis’ lawyer argued that that was not “robbery,” in that those parts were merely “left over” from the homicide.

In Abbotsford, Wis., in August, Harvey Miller, 43, and Edwin Marzinske, 55, were both ticketed for DUI while driving the same car. Miller has no legs but was steering; Marzinske was operating the foot pedals. Hence, both men argued to police that neither of them was, by himself, “operating” the car.

Creme de la Weird

Fetishes on Parade: A 50-year-old man was detained by police in August after complaints at Disneyland near Paris. Witnesses said the man had sprinkled itching powder on young children so that he could video-record them scratching themselves. And in September, Norman Hutchins, 56, was again jailed after incidents at England’s Bradford Royal Infirmary, where he faked an illness to gain entrance so that he could steal equipment for his sexual gratification. Police records showed Hutchins as obsessed, since 1970, with oxygen masks, gowns and syringes, among other items.

Least Competent Criminals

According to the Internet security firm CardCops Inc., online credit-card hacking brokers appear to have stolen the identity of a “Herman Munster,” whose “personal data” appeared in chat rooms frequented by such thieves. CardCops told reporters in June that in all likelihood, an international hacker, preparing a list of accounts to sell to identity thieves, and unfamiliar with the 1960s TV show “The Munsters,” probably fell for a bogus MasterCard application under Herman’s name and TV address, 1313 Mocking Bird Lane.

No Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (83) The frustrated taxpayer who thinks he’s punishing the government if he makes his large payment in only small change, such as Cary Malchow, who paid off his property tax bill in Muncie, Ind., in August by making employees count $12,656.07 in coins and $1 bills. And (84) blood-alcohol testing machines that show, with alarming frequency, death-defying results of around .40 and higher, even though each instance is reported in the press (based on “medical texts”) as nearly lethal, such as cases two months apart this year in Washington, in which Deana Jarrett, 54, scored .47, and Rebecca Lingbloom, 45, registered .50. (Neither died or even became seriously ill.)