Lead Stories

Last December, New Scientist magazine reported on Swiss inventor Paolo Rais, who has solved the problem of being seated next to a boring person at a dinner party: his 12-to-24-seat dining table is equipped with chairs and wooden trays that move at a rate of three inches per minute; no dinner guest spends more than 10 minutes next to any one person. The models range from about $29,000 to about $44,000.

According to an October 2001 report from the Associated Press, 14-year-old Christina Santhouse of Bristol, Pennsylvania, lives a normal life except for the partial paralysis of her left arm and leg caused by the removal of half her brain six years ago. The surgery was performed as a treatment for Rasmussen’s encephalitis, which had caused her up to 100 brief seizures a day. Santhouse is a straight-A student.

Weird Science

According to University of Nebraska geologist John Shroder, an expert on Afghanistan quoted in the Times of London last December, the Pentagon has a remote-gas-detection device so finely tuned that it can distinguish between ethnic groups based on the faint aromas of the foods they eat.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The hottest arcade game in Japan recently has been Boong-Ga Boong-Ga, in which a player jabs an oversize finger up the clothed derriere of eight targets (“ex-boyfriend,” “gold digger,” “con man”); the more aggressive the jab, the more pained the expression on the target’s face. Consumers in Japan are said to be more comfortable with the anal theme than those in the U.S.

Last November the Braehead Shopping Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, announced that during the holiday season it would offer male escorts to female shoppers if their own mates rejected the shopping experience. “The Shopping Boyfriend,” it promised, “is the ultimate retail therapist: enthusiastic, attentive, admiring and complimentary.” He would “even say her bum looks small.”

Last November and December, China Youth Daily and other Chinese newspapers reported that employers in Shanghai and the northern city of Anshan actively seek workers with type-O blood. One employment interviewer allegedly said that type-B people “lack independent thought, discretion and ability”; another in Shanghai said people with types A and AB are reserved and temperamental. An Anshan employer said he got the idea to screen for blood type while studying in Japan, where, he said, the practice is common.

People Different From Us

Convicted on 58 counts of robbery and related charges, Dwight Pichette was serving 14 concurrent life terms in Victoria, British Columbia, last May. Since being imprisoned, he’d published three books and written a fourth that won a prepublication arts award, and the prison granted him a supervised leave to attend a philosophy discussion. During the leave Pichette escaped from his escort and attempted two bank robberies before being caught; he’s since been sentenced to two more life terms.


In 1995, Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo cult launched a sarin gas attack in a Tokyo subway that killed 12 people and injured 5,000. Now 21 of the cult’s members have changed its name to Aleph and declared it a benign religious organization; last November the group started a computer business to earn money to compensate victims of the attack, and so far it’s raised about $2.5 million.

Last December in Butler County, Pennsylvania, transsexual Tammy Lynn Felbaum was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the February 2001 death of her sixth husband, James Felbaum, from complications after his castration. At first Tammy claimed that James had castrated himself; later she admitted that she’d castrated him but only at his specific written request.

Thinning the Herd

Last July in Berkeley, California, a 38-year-old man under the influence of alcohol drowned after a 50-year-old man offered to give him his car if the younger man could outswim him in San Francisco Bay….That same month a 45-year-old man drowned off Cabo San Lucas, at the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico, while trying to surf the ten-foot waves caused by Hurricane Juliette….And in November a 48-year-old man in Laval, Quebec, while passing a car in his pickup truck, swerved to the right to nudge the car for traveling too slow, lost control of his vehicle, and smashed into a light pole.

In the Last Month

According to a suit filed in Columbia, South Carolina, a Wal-Mart manager, informed that an employee had allegedly fondled a ten-year-old girl in the store, offered the girl’s mother a $25 gift certificate to forget the whole thing….In Lorain, Ohio, a 49-year-old man arrested for driving under the influence registered a record-challenging blood-alcohol level of .532….After kicking his 16th field goal of the season, Arizona Cardinals placekicker Bill Gramatica leaped into the air and ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament as he landed, putting his career in jeopardy….Joseph Thomas Johnson, a towing company employee, was arrested for taking a joyride in rapper Missy Elliott’s $330,000 Lamborghini, during which he hit a stop sign and crashed, causing $160,000 in damage.

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