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Oklahoma's Pryor Daily Times reported recently that autopsies would be conducted on a minnow and a flea that died when the city used them to test the quality of discharge from its waste-treatment plant. The tests are required by the state and federal governments to ascertain whether the minnow and the flea died from natural causes or from contact with the discharge. The paper also reported that the procedures could cost the city between $100,000 and $200,000.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

In October San Francisco industrial chemist Merlyn Starley obtained a patent for "suspenders" that hold a condom in place so it won't slip off during use. The device consists of two plastic clips and a special adhesive that attaches to the wearer's legs.

In January New York Newsday reported that a "thriving" gun-rental business was operating in a Brooklyn housing project. According to police, the market price was $20 a night for a nine-millimeter gun, but it increased to $100 if the gun was used to shoot someone.

The Toronto Globe and Mail reported in January that a California company will soon introduce a hand-held device that uses satellites to pinpoint its user's longitudinal and latitudinal location anywhere on earth to within ten yards.

Danville, Virginia, inventor David Bivens, who has developed large irrigated brushes for washing cars and trucks (such as those found in commercial car washes), told the Chicago Tribune in November that he had developed a similar brush for washing people. A person stands next to the brush and rubs against it as it makes 90 to 120 revolutions per minute, flicking off dirt and dead skin.

The official China Daily newspaper reported in December that consumers were buying "millions" of Western-style Christmas cards--even though many Chinese do not understand what the holiday messages mean. According to the paper, "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Season's Greetings are becoming household words in China."

A New Jersey environmental group, Clean Ocean Action, told the Associated Press in January that it had manufactured and sold more than 300 fishing lures made of plastic tampon applicators that its members had found while cleaning up beaches. The group paints the "tampoons" various colors, adds hooks, and markets them for $6 each.

Philip Middleton of Chantilly, Virginia, and his partner Richard Wooton are preparing to market the Walk-Me-Not, a commode for dogs. The dog walks up stairs at the side of the bathroom toilet and steps onto a platform over the bowl before squatting down. And an inventor in southern California recently began selling the Puppy Didy diaper for dogs.

In November Houston judge Jim Barkley, 51, quietly closed his part-time business. For several weeks, according to courthouse employees, Barkley had been operating a haberdashery in his office, selling golf wear with monogramming services offered by his wife. Barkley denied a conflict of interest, saying, "The attorneys can buy the stuff, but there's no obligation."

Celebrities

In December a court in Gallatin, Tennessee, ordered Thomas James Fry of Jensen Beach, Florida, to stop harassing singer Conway Twitty. Fry, 24, claims that Twitty, 58, is his son.

Model Cindy Crawford told a group of feminists at a Princeton University conference in January how she felt about her appearance: "I don't ever wake up looking like Cindy Crawford. Believe me, I don't want to look at my naked body in a three-way mirror any more than you do."

In January opera singer Luciano Pavarotti was accused by the author of a 1972 art book of copying her artwork and offering it for sale under his name. One painting, which Pavarotti told an interviewer made him cry when he painted it, was allegedly so faithfully copied that it included the original artist's errors.

The Weirdo-American Community

An elementary school teacher and three other men were arrested on a fairway at a North Little Rock, Arkansas, golf course one afternoon in March for standing in a circle masturbating. They did not stop when an undercover police officer first approached them nor when he returned with his partner to make the arrest.

Uh-Oh

Police in El Cerrito, California, have been seeking Aaron Levall Harris on suspicion of assault since two gunmen fled a crime scene in January. At the scene was an artificial eyeball with Harris's name on it, which police say might have fallen out during the escape. And in February in Jerusalem a 50-year-old man, resisting arrest but finally cornered by police, took out his artificial eye and threw it at them.

The Diminishing Value of LIfe

Michael Wrightman, 30, pleaded guilty in Toronto in February to beating David Marlatt to death in a fight over who had the longer criminal record.

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

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