Lead Story

In November a jury in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, awarded $46,200 to 58-year-old Ken Slaby in his civil suit against his ex-girlfriend, 56-year-old Gail O’Toole, for an incident in 2000, some months after their breakup. O’Toole invited Slaby to her house; while he was asleep, she glued his penis to his abdomen, his scrotum to his leg, and the cheeks of his buttocks together. (She also put nail polish in his hair and used it to write profanities on his face.) Hospital personnel, unable to dissolve the glue, had to carefully peel the various body parts off one another. O’Toole claimed it was all part of consensual sex play, but Slaby testified that O’Toole told him she’d done it as a long-planned act of revenge.

Cultural Diversity

Prozac Nation: In October German media companies launched a $36 million ad campaign intended to rouse Germans from what’s perceived as a national malaise. In one TV spot celebrities tell the viewer: “Outdo yourself. Beat your wings and uproot trees. You are the wings. You are the tree. You are Germany.”

In September 23-year-old flamenco star Juan Manuel Fernandez Montoya–aka Farruquito–married a teenage girl in a televised ceremony in Seville, Spain, that included the Gypsy custom called the “test of the handkerchief,” in which the bride’s friends demonstrate her virginity by collecting three drops of blood from her hymen. The new Mrs. Farruquito passed the test: footage of the stained handkerchief was aired on all of Spain’s major TV networks.

A road-safety official in New Zealand acknowledged in October that a recently adopted program called Community Roadwatch permits police to issue a ticket for a traffic infraction witnessed only by another driver, provided there’s sufficient evidence and the witness is willing to testify in court. And last month Reuters reported on the greatly anticipated day each November when Finland’s government makes public every citizen’s tax records for the year before. Perhaps because it’s considered extremely vulgar in Finland to discuss how much you make, Finns are fascinated with one another’s taxes; newspapers publish extensive lists of celebrities’ data, and one company provides subscribers with other people’s tax information via text message.

People Different From Us

A September article in London’s Telegraph reported on David Grisenthwaite, an obsessive 77-year-old retired papermaker from Kirkcaldy, Scotland, who recently discovered that he’d earned a writing credit in a Royal Meteorological Society study on global warming. As part of a 1984 survey Grisenthwaite began keeping track of every time he mowed his lawn (31 times a year on average), but unlike all the other participants he never stopped. According to the new study, the resultant 20-year data set demonstrates that the local growing season for grass now lasts a month longer than it did in the mid-80s.

Least Effective Protest

At 7 AM on November 2, about 45 demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of Alliant Techsystems in Edina, Minnesota, for the 512th consecutive Wednesday to protest the company’s manufacture of military weapons that indiscriminately kill civilians: land mines, cluster bombs, etc. Alliant told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that it had stopped making those munitions before the protests began in 1996 (though it’s still the country’s leading maker of bullets), but protesters said that that wasn’t the point: “The fact that they have not manufactured them recently doesn’t matter. The company did years ago.”

Least Competent Criminals

Barbara King, 35, was arrested in Largo, Florida, in October on a warrant for forgery and prescription fraud; when police knocked on her door, King’s boyfriend told them she wasn’t home, but her four-year-old son announced, “Mommy’s in the closet, mommy’s in the closet.” Also in October, Christina Goodenow, 38, of White City, Oregon, was arrested for allegedly using a credit card that had belonged to her late mother-in-law; among her purchases with the card was a winning lottery ticket worth $1 million, but a conviction would mean she couldn’t collect.

In October martial arts instructor Andrew Jacobs, 42, was arrested in Vienna, Virginia, for assault, attempted abduction, and burglary. Jacobs allegedly entered the bedroom of twin ten-year-old girls late one night and attempted to tie them up, but according to police the twins, both blue belts, resisted–just the way Jacobs had taught them in class. Hearing the commotion, their parents ran into the room, and Jacobs fled.

Now That’s Road Rage

In a September incident in Salt Lake City, a woman (described as being in her early 20s) tried to pass a 25-year-old male motorist on an I-15 on-ramp, plowing into a row of traffic cones in the process, then rolled down her window and screamed at him. The man, according to a report in the Deseret Morning News, responded by making an “obscene hand gesture.” The woman pulled out a .357-caliber revolver and fired four times, shooting off the tip of the man’s right middle finger, and sped away. (She then made a U-turn on the highway, crashed into a concrete barrier, and abandoned the car, which turned out to have been stolen, in the middle of traffic.)

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.