Anal retentive 


West German criminologist Christian Pfeiffer, writing in the weekly Die Zeit in July, blamed East Germans' proclivities for postwar Nazism and thuggery (they are four times more likely to engage in those activities than West Germans) on too-rigorous potty training. After World War II, the East German government issued manuals on toilet-training for kindergarteners, requiring virtually synchronized movements that stripped the kids of their individuality and reinforced government control.

Bringing back the sweat shop

In October (according to a report in the Seattle newsweekly The Stranger), Washington state's Department of Labor and Industries began an investigation of Seattle's Internet pornography giant Clublove. The investigation will focus on, among other things, Clublove's workers'-break policy (less than the state-required one hour per eight-hour shift for its live nude models) and allegations that female performers must share an unsterilizable plastic dildo equipped with a micro-camera.

No great shakes

In September, Pinellas County, Fla., officials unveiled what they hope will be a cutting-edge traffic safety program that will serve as a model for reducing pedestrian deaths and calming drivers' road rage. The program asks pedestrians to continuously extend their right hands (as if shaking hands) and smile while proceeding through an intersection, the better to get the attention of drivers. Said a worker in Clearwater, Fla., when the program was explained by a St. Petersburg Times reporter: "Nobody is going to walk across the street with their arm out. I'm not going to do it. Are you?"

Grounds for a lawsuit

In September, Muriel Milne's case against the Westhill Golf Club came to trial in Aberdeen, Scotland. Milne is suing the club for maintaining a badly designed course, an opinion she came to in 1994, after a ball she hit struck a 2-inch-high rock and bounced back, hitting her in the eye and causing severe damage. (The trial is recessed until November.)

A high from on high

According to police who arrested Fairfax (Va.) High School math teacher Fred Benevento, 47, in April during a drug sting, Benevento said that the 13 plastic bags of crack cocaine found in his car "came flying through his open window" and that he "was just looking at them when the police officers arrived."

Going through the motions

In May, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 5-to-4 to reject Brad Stone's "automaton" defense, in which he said that he was able to stab his wife 47 times only because he was in a robotic state that had been brought on by the trauma of being called a failure in the bedroom. And in June, an Atlanta jury rejected Christopher Stobbart's claim that he had acted in self-defense when he shot his boss in the head 14 times, then walked to another room, reloaded and shot him 10 more times.

Little to chauffeur it

In separate incidents that transpired during the same week in September, Debra Rodriguez, 41, of Ames, Iowa, and Kristin R. Smebak, 34, of Superior, Wis., both of whom had been drinking, forced their young kids to drive their cars home so the mothers would avoid DUI tickets if they were stopped. Rodriguez's inexperienced 11-year-old daughter caused their vehicle to roll over, injuring both women, but Smebak's similarly green 8-year-old son made it safely over the bridge connecting Duluth, Minn., to Superior before being spotted by a patrolman, who arrested Smebak.

Leery of the theory

In July, Yugoslavia's ecology minister said that the uncomfortably warm and rainy spring and summer weather the region was experiencing was caused by NATO aggression during the recent war. And in May, a mother in St. Cloud, Fla., told police that the reason she let her teen-age daughters smoke marijuana was so that they wouldn't become alcoholics like their father. And Yuji Nishizawa, who hijacked an All Nippon Airways Boeing 747 in July and killed the pilot before being captured, told police that his main motivation had been to see how a real plane flew after all the flight-simulation video games he had played.

Might as well jump

Jimmy Haakansson, in court in Stockholm, Sweden, on a theft charge, broke a foot leaping through a courthouse window before being recaptured. In September, Haakansson filed a lawsuit against the police for failing to prevent his foolishness. One week earlier, in Roseville, Mich., Cassidy L. VanHorn filed a lawsuit against homeowner Diana Folbigg, whose house he had broken into in July 1997. According to the lawsuit, Folbigg lured VanHorn back to the house the next day saying all was forgiven, but when VanHorn arrived, several of Folbigg's friends beat him up.

One for the road

According to an August Cox News Service report, official state records revealed that 21 people were fatally run over last year while lying in the middle of North Carolina roads. (Most of the incidents happened around midnight, during the summer and to very intoxicated men.) A few days later, the British Health Education Authority announced that 43 people had been killed in 1998 while frying up chips late at night. (The vast majority of victims were also intoxicated.)


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