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Lead Story

Among the new or prospective products at the American International Toy Fair in New York City last month were a gun that shoots boogers (the “Snot Shot”), a doll that releases a puff of rotten-egg stink when squeezed, and an action figure modeled after a cartoon wrestler named “the Gut Busting Flea,” who wins bouts by farting on his opponents. (The toy warns, “I’m gonna blow!”) Inventor Tim Englert of Saint Petersburg, Florida, was also at the fair to push his patented “Water Wheels” system–four thumb-controlled squirt guns that mount on a bicycle, powered by a pump hooked to the front wheel and fed by tanks hung from the frame. (Nothing at the fair topped the strangeness of “Kaba-Kick,” a game discontinued by Japan’s Takara Toys in 1992 but immortalized on the Web: children play Russian roulette with a pink toy gun shaped like a hippo, which kicks the loser in the head.)

Bright Ideas

In January the Albuquerque Journal reported on the efforts of local emergency room physician Sam Slishman to find a facility for his Endorphin Power Company, which he says will be a rehab center for drug-addicted and alcoholic homeless people that partly offsets its expenses by enlisting patients’ help with the electric bill: as part of their therapy they’ll exercise on stationary bikes, treadmills, and weight machines that are hooked to generators. Endorphin Power, Slishman says, will be the city’s “inspirational flagship for social rehabilitation and renewable energy use.”

Dental Follies

In October in Orland Park, Illinois, dentist Mohamedraza Huss Bhimani, 52, who according to police had fondled at least three female patients, was arrested in his office halfway through an appointment–he’d drilled out a woman’s cavity, and she had to rush to another dentist to get it filled. And in January in Oak Lawn, Illinois, dentist Leon Gombis, 64, faced misdemeanor battery charges after he held a patient down and tore a permanent cap out of her mouth with pliers, mistakenly believing she still owed him money from a previous bill.

Compelling Explanations

In January in Dover, Delaware, 46-year-old Jacqueline Chester, an air force captain and pediatric nurse, was scheduled to face court martial for having tested positive for cocaine; her lawyer claimed that her ex-husband would testify that he’d occasionally rubbed cocaine on the tip of his penis to prolong his sexual pleasure, and that Chester must have absorbed it through her vaginal membranes. (In February she changed her story, pleading guilty, and was sentenced to six months in jail and dismissal from the military.)

Joseph Hubbert, 34, explained to Minneapolis police on Christmas morning that he was stuck in the chimney of Uncle Edward’s Mystery Bookstore because he’d accidentally dropped his keys into it and had to crawl down to get them. He was arrested on burglary charges.

In January the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council dismissed the complaint of a radio listener in Calgary, Alberta, ruling that a song by a cappella group Da Vinci’s Notebook wasn’t obscene because its subject was self-esteem, not sex. The lyrics to “Enormous Penis” include “I’ve got the cure for all my blues / I take a look at my enormous penis / And my troubles start a-meltin’ away” and “I gotta sing and a-dance / When I glance in my pants.”

Author Irwin Schiff, persona non grata at the IRS thanks to his long-standing campaign to convince the public that no valid law mandates the payment of income tax, told a Las Vegas court in January that he suffers from delusions (for instance, that he’s the only person qualified to interpret federal tax law) in an attempt to block a judgment against him for $2.5 million in back taxes, fraud penalties, and interest. His psychiatrist claimed Schiff has been paranoid for decades, ever since he suffered heavy losses in a tax shelter that turned out to be a Ponzi scheme. (Schiff’s girlfriend, on the other hand, e-mailed his supporters saying the insanity defense was a ruse.)

Least Competent Criminals

In Tarpon Springs, Florida, 41-year-old William Ray Hunter was arrested and charged with defrauding at least 19 northerners who’d paid him a total of $33,330 in advance to rent his mobile home for the winter, starting January 1. Hunter made no effort to move out by the time the tenants started arriving on December 30. “I don’t think he thought too much about what would happen when everybody showed up,” said a local sheriff’s sergeant. “Most people have a plan. [Hunter] had the first part, but he didn’t have the second part.”

More Things to Worry About

For roughly 48 straight hours in February, anyone tuning in to 106.7 FM in central Pennsylvania heard “Pop Goes the Weasel” over and over again as the station switched formats from country to “power pop.” In December in Pikeville, Tennessee, corrections officials discovered a partial methamphetamine lab (Coleman fuel, tubing, foil, coffee filters, and a jar of “red liquid”) hidden in air vents in the county jail. And in February a father in Pacifica, California, filed his fourth claim against the school district (this one for $380,000) because teachers and administrators haven’t protected his 12-year-old son from taunts, gay epithets, and an alleged death threat; the boy is an internationally acclaimed competitive ballroom dancer.

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