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According to an October Wall Street Journal article, the number of belly button reconstructions in Japan went up 375 percent last year, in part because many Japanese have come to believe, as author Hogen Fukunaga puts it, "The navel is the core of everything about the person." Said a Tokyo hospital president, "People want navels that aren't assertive." The perfect navel, surmised the Journal reporter, is "vertical, very narrow, and absolutely symmetrical." The navel is a popular theme in Japanese culture; for instance, a favorite insult among children is "Your mother has an outie."

Questionable Judgments

Earlier this year Michael Eugene Price was granted retrials in two armed robbery cases after an Oklahoma appeals court ruled that trial judges had erred in telling juries that defendants are "presumed not guilty" instead of "presumed innocent." Price had been serving 32 and 35 years, respectively. He was retried, found guilty in both cases, and sentenced to 60 years for the first and 65 for the second.

In September police in Meadville, Pennsylvania, announced that the summer drought was responsible for their success in finding marijuana farmers. A police spokesperson said most vegetation was brown because of the drought, but marijuana plants stayed green because the owners took such good care of them.

A San Diego couple, both 35, suffered only minor injuries in September when their car went off an interstate at 75 miles per hour. Police said the couple were nude when help arrived on the scene and that they'd been having sex in the front seat before the driver lost control. And in San Antonio five days earlier, motorcyclist Liem Ngo, 38, was killed when he collided with another cyclist. According to police, the accident was probably caused when the other cyclist's passenger, a 38-year-old woman, bared her breasts for Ngo, distracting him.

In July a 25-year-old sixth-grade science teacher in Muroran, Japan, slashed one of her wrists in an attempt to scare her rowdy students into being quiet. She had to be rushed to the hospital.

When a band called On the Edge played at the largest prison in Maryland in August, three female band members engaged in risky behavior. According to a corrections officer, they were "straddling the stage poles" and lying down on the stage "in every provocative position and imitating sex acts." The women "were yelling suggestive things to the inmates, who were responding in a sexual frenzy, climbing the fences."

In August hotel owner Robert W. Vermillion, 52, died in Williamsburg, Virginia, from smoke inhalation. He'd rushed into his flame-filled garage trying to save his Porsche but was overcome before he could drive it out. And in August six people on a farm near Nazlat Imara, Egypt, drowned after diving one at a time into a well, trying to rescue a chicken that had fallen in. The chicken survived.

In September police in Gadsden, Alabama, were able to arrest suspected bank robbers Bobby Joe Dedeaux and Anitra Freeman after the two stopped at a nearby strip mall for a haircut and a little shopping during their getaway.

A 43-year-old man was hospitalized in Edmonton, Alberta, in July after falling out of the upper deck at a Canadian Football League game. He was attempting to grab a toy football thrown into the stands, but he went over the rail and landed on a pregnant woman, who wasn't seriously hurt.

In August Rozlan Othman, 25, was sentenced to three months in prison in Singapore for assaulting a police officer. However, he persuaded Judge Yong Pung How that to be a better citizen and to get his life together, he needed a longer sentence. How then gave him 12 months.

Cliches Come to Life

A March Gallup survey recently found that 80 percent of men considered themselves above-average drivers.

Poland's leading "playwright of the absurd," Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, was buried in Soviet territory when he committed suicide in 1939. In 1988 his casket was sent to his beloved Polish mountains for reburial. In May 1995 a special commission celebrating Witkiewicz's work somehow discovered that Witkiewicz's casket contained the body of a woman.

The Weirdo-American Community

A 64-year-old man in Dade City, Florida, who was accused in March of fathering at least one, and perhaps all nine, of his 44-year-old sister's children, recently had his trial postponed until early 1996. The man, identified only as William, warned authorities that prosecuting him so soon will doom society. He says he needs six months to finish up his work on "the prism" (a wooden table with a hole in the middle, where William stands). The prism, he promises, will enable him to harness all the world's energy to control the weather, end the fighting in Bosnia, and make the state's child welfare office obsolete. William says the prism is "the only way humanity will get out of limbo."

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

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