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Tough times for Nike: The winner of November's New York City Marathon, John Kagawe, said he might have broken the record for time except that his Nike shoes kept coming untied. And two weeks earlier the company cooperated with authorities in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in the arrest of five employees at a Nike-contracted factory; the five manufactured 51 rubber dildos on the premises and then allegedly tried to extort about $30,000 from Nike in exchange for not revealing that embarrassing information.

Can't possibly be true: In December John Caballero, 42, who had just been awarded $30 million in punitive damages by a jury in Corpus Christi, Texas, for injuries he suffered in an oil well explosion, voluntarily gave up every penny of it when the company agreed to institute a safety plan to protect future workers. However, Caballero will retain several million dollars in actual damages for treatment of broken vertebrae, a crushed foot and ankle, a dislocated hip, vision and hearing loss, and scars on his scalp.)

Late one evening in December, Miami resident Edna Benson heard someone knocking on her door and grabbed her Taurus 85 handgun to see who it was. Her visitor was Mayor Xavier Suarez, who Benson said "looked mad, really, really mad" and was clutching the four-page letter she had written criticizing him for firing the police chief. After she shouted at him, Suarez finally walked away. Suarez later said he tries to call everyone who writes him but he didn't have Benson's phone number.

In November in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Kenneth J. Nowicki, 34, was formally charged with disorderly conduct following his arrest in August. According to the police complaint, Nowicki targeted three kids he'd seen in a park and left them candy, a cup, and typewritten instructions asking them to spit into the cup after consuming the candy. He told police he is preoccupied with saliva and uses it for sexual gratification.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

In October the Hotel Nagoya Castle in Japan began offering "suggested" rates allowing customers to pay whatever they think the rooms are worth, provided it is at least 38 percent of the suggested rate. In trial runs, the hotel found that on average customers paid only 10 percent less than the rates, an amount that management expected to make up with higher volume.

The Rocky Mountain News disclosed in June that the Denver company DDx Inc. reported brisk sales of its HeatWatch system, which alerts ranchers when one cow attempts to mount another. Such behavior is a good indication that one or both cows are in heat and so at the optimum time for artificial insemination.

In Hackensack, New Jersey, in September, pharmaceutical chemist Puzant Torigian introduced a "safe" cigarette, made of enzyme-treated lettuce leaves. The cigarettes, called Bravo, which are sold mainly in health-food stores at about $3.50 a pack, briefly appeared on the market 28 years ago, but they failed to sell.

In October the German news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur reported the introduction of a "letter bomb" toy in stores in the Philippines, the advertising for which urges kids to "have fun and become a terrorist." Instructions on the toy, which resembles an airmail envelope, say to write the target's name on it, clap on it heavily to make it expand, and then present it to the victim within seven seconds so it will "explode" in his hand.

A July New York Post article described the rapidly expanding retail market for bullet-resistant clothing, including leather jackets, sneakers, mink coats, and bras, as well as denim jeans made with 25 percent Kevlar, which the manufacturer believes will sell mainly because of their unique appearance. And the Village Voice reported in November that a New York City security-device store sells an ordinary-looking chair with electric plates on the seat and on a shelf extending from an arm; it can detect when someone is hiding a metal object in his rectum or mouth.

Too Much Time on Their Hands

In June Netherlands native Imre Somogyi, author of the book Reading Toes: Your Feet as Reflections of Your Personality, told an audience at the BookExpo America convention in Chicago that he was the world's first toe reader. Somogyi told one woman that the inward turn of her right small toe indicated she was likely "to turn away from the subject," according to a Reuters news report. Somogyi said 70 percent of his clients are women: "Women are very open. Men hide their toes."

The State University of New York at New Paltz hosted two controversial, sex-related academic conferences this past fall. The first included tips on sadomasochism and the use of sex toys; the second, on women's bodies in art, featured as an exhibit a female graduate student dressed in a body suit and suspended from a ceiling being hosed down with water by two men while a woman lying underneath her wearing only a G-string had hot wax dripped onto her body.

Unclear on the Concept

In November the Dayton Daily News reported that a vandal operating in local libraries still has not been caught after two years of incidents. The vandal targets books that, as he once wrote, are "an affront to public decency [and that] corrupt young children," such as those on homosexuality or the United Nations, and smears them with human feces.

In a trial in Providence, Rhode Island, a woman who claimed to have been raped by retired Roman Catholic Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn in 1965 when she was 18 testified in June that she initially did not believe Dunn's advances to be sexual. She said Dunn had asked her to remove her blouse, which she did, that he had spread talcum powder over her breasts, and that the two of them then drank a bottle of wine, but she said, "I did not consider that sexual in any way." Dunn was acquitted of that rape, but was found guilty the next week of raping another woman and called by the judge "a sexual predator." Nevertheless, in August the judge granted him a new trial in that case.

In Sharnbrook, England, Emma Webster, 15, revealed in August that she was pregnant, due in January, and that the father was Sean Stewart, age 11, whom she had thought was at least 15 when she met him in school. Said Emma to London's Daily Mail, "I think he will be a good father. He may only be 11, but he is quite mature and responsible for his age."

Thinning the Herd

A 38-year-old man passed away in Jenkins Township, Pennsylvania, in November, a couple of hours after going to the home of a friend to see his snakes. According to the friend, the man had playfully reached into a cobra's tank, picked up the snake, and was bitten. Refusing a ride to the hospital, the man said, "I'm a man, I can handle it," and instead went to a bar, where he had three drinks and bragged to patrons that he had just been bitten by a cobra. An hour later he was dead.

One morning in November, two best friends, ages 27 and 41, residents of Whitney, Texas, drove their pickups directly at each other in a friendly game of chicken, as was their habit when they encountered each other on the empty farm road. That morning they collided at about 60 miles an hour. The younger man was saved by his seat belt; the older man wasn't wearing his and died at the scene.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepard, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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

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