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2006 ends, oddly This year had its darker moments, but some included a touch of the bizarre

Let's face it: Any year in which an odd little man falsely confesses to murdering a child beauty queen is going to have its share of strange moments. 2006 didn't disappoint. Here are some of the events that mark a memorable year:

The vice president of the United States shot a hunting buddy. It was an accident, but it happened in Texas.

In even stranger places, Muslims rioted by the thousands because the pope quoted a Medieval text that said Islam was violent. This was after Muslims rioted by the thousands because they didn't like cartoons in a Danish newspaper.

Saddam Hussein, who murdered by the thousands, was sentenced to hang and then asked Iraqis if they all couldn't just get along.

O.J. Simpson issued a squinty confession detailing how he would have done it -- wink, wink, nudge, nudge -- if he had really killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. But the chicken-hearted mea culpa never occurred. It was supposed to appear in a book and cheesy television interview, but public revulsion caused even Rupert Murdoch to blanch. Simpson, who was paid handsomely for his lack of conviction, said he just wanted the money. Who'd have thought?

Stories about sex were befuddling. Then-Rep. Mark Foley lit an electronic match that immolated his career and the Republican Party's fading hopes to keep control of Congress.

Then, in late October, New Jersey's Supreme Court cheered the sagging spirits of cultural conservatives by endorsing what they hate: equal rights for same-sex couples. They thought it would energize their voters and save the election, but hardly a week later, a prominent evangelical leader and anti-gay crusader was found to have been keeping company with a homosexual prostitute. Checkmate.

Meanwhile in South Africa, the nation that redefined the meaning of bigotry, same-sex marriage was legalized. As the mathematician said to the model: Go figure.

Which one doesn't belong: A freak snowstorm shears branches off thousands of trees in Western New York; the State Legislature passes a budget on time; and political incumbents almost universally win re-election. All happened, but while two of them are startling enough to make a strong man weep, one is as predictable as gerrymandered political districts. Any guesses?

People died, and some of the passings seemed almost biblical in their judgments. Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic expired while he was on trial for war crimes. Former Enron bilker-in-chief Kenneth Lay died only a few weeks after a jury convicted him of 10 counts of fraud, conspiracy and lying to banks. The lives he ruined weren't improved a whit.

Other notables who had left the spotlight: Montreal Canadiens' great Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion; former British leader John Profumo, who gave England one of its best sex scandals; actor Don Knotts, who gave life to Barney Fife, possibly the greatest confection in the history of American television; and 1998 New York gubernatorial candidate Al Lewis, better known as Grandpa Munster.

More: Mickey Spillane, Red Buttons, June Allyson, Syd Barrett, Aaron Spelling, Louis Rukeyser, John Kenneth Galbraith, Caspar Weinberger, Dennis Weaver, Curt Gowdy, Peter Benchley, Betty Friedan, Coretta Scott King, Shelley Winters, the great Lou Rawls, the great James Brown, Gerald Ford.

And Sister Karen Klimczak.

2007 awaits, but first, one final opinion for 2006: It's not worth overindulging tonight. Celebrate wisely. Be safe. You'll feel better about it next year.

And that, as rising-star political satirist Stephen Colbert would say, is the truthiness.