News of the Weird
* Nonlethal war tactics suggested by an Air Force research team in the 1990s were made public in December by the military watchdog organization Sunshine Project and included a recommendation to expose enemy troops to powerful aphrodisiacs in order to distract them into lustful hookups with each other (irrespective of gender). (The Pentagon said the idea was dropped almost immediately, but the Sunshine Project said it was discussed as recently as 2001.) Other ideas: giving the enemy severe halitosis (so they could be detected positions with rats or wasps, and creating waves of fecal gas.
* Scenes of the Surreal:
(1) In a December demonstration against the opening of a McDonald's in the Mediterranean town of Sete, France, about 500 protesters, using a homemade catapult, bombarded the restaurant with fresh catches of the area's renowned delicacy, octopus.
(2) NASA announced in October it was retiring the KC-135 plane it had long been using to train astronauts for weightlessness in flight; an official told reporters that the air crews had kept track of the amount of astronaut vomit cleaned up over the years and that the total was at least 285 gallons.
* The Classic Middle Name (all new): Charged with murder recently: Jessie Wayne Walker (Greensboro, N.C., December); Michael Wayne Carter (Indianapolis, Ind., October); Matthew Wayne Ferman (Waverly, Ohio, October); Keith Wayne Graham (Merced, Calif., August); Justin Wayne Smith (Bay City, Tex., December). Suspected of murder when he committed suicide: Brian Wayne Pennington (Klamath Falls, Ore., December). Convicted of murder: Billy Wayne Cope (York, S.C., September)
* A 21-yr-old man was hospitalized in intensive care in Murdoch, Australia (near Perth), in December following a barroom stunt in which he put on a helmet connected to a beer jug, with a hose that ran between the jug and a pump powered by an electric drill. The idea was to facilitate drinking a large quantity of beer without the laborious tasks of lifting a glass and swallowing, but the flow was so powerful that he had to be rushed to the hospital with a 10 cm tear in his stomach.
* Grown-Ups: Charles Bonney, 67, and Victor Harris, 36, were detained by police in Godfrey, Ill., in December after squaring off in their vehicles (Chevrolet Camaro and Acura Integra) and repeatedly ramming each other in the street and then in the parking lot of C&W Auto Glass, because of their ongoing feud over a woman. Eventually, only Bonney faced criminal charges.
* Latest from the Class-Action Lawyers' Money Tree:
(1) The six lawyers who helped 83 Wal-Mart workers win about $2,500 each (for being improperly denied overtime pay) asked the Portland, Ore., judge in December for fees totaling $2.57 million, about 12 times the clients' total winnings (citing the difficult work, Wal-Mart's contentiousness, and the case's implications beyond their 83 clients).
(2) And when phone company customers won $25 refunds in a September class-action settlement with Ameritech in Madison County, Ill., lawyers got $1.9 million in legal fees; a local watchdog group said (based on experience) only about 10 percent of eligible customers would bother to apply for refunds, meaning that lawyers' fees would ultimately account for about 60 percent of the amount Ameritech pays out.
* Thinning the Herd: A 70-year-old woman was fatally struck by two cars as she, wielding a knife, chased her husband into the street during an argument (Springfield Township, Pa., November). And a 43-year-old passenger was fatally injured, after he, sitting in the back seat, began beating up the driver, causing him to lose control and smash into a tree. (The driver survived.) (Newport News, Va., November) And a 54-year-old man was killed after a road rage duel with another driver when he got out of his car, lunged after the other car while it was moving, missed, and hit his head (Jacksonville, Fla., August).