The Department of Energy announced in May, after reviewing records from the 1950s, that some inspectors at a uranium processing plant near Cincinnati used to measure the substance's metallic strength by sprinkling some on their tongues to see if it tasted right. The inspectors feared that if they did not submit high-enough-grade samples, the government would regard their uranium as useless and shut down the plant.
In April, Malaysian skydivers guided the national car, a Proton Wira, on a parachute to a landing at the North Pole, where the engine started right away. Prime Minister Mahathir Mahamad said the drop "bolsters our spirits," but critics said it was a stunt by the government to get people's minds off the dismal economy.
In a May report, The New York Times revealed that the town of Aspen, Colo., apparently desperate for people other than millionaires to live there, offers public-housing assistance even to those whose income is as much as $115,000 a year.
Robert A. Milefski, 58, who was driving a car that killed a woman in 1996, avoided a DUI charge that day by smearing excrement all over himself before the Breathalyzer test. (He was immediately hospitalized for psychiatric observation; the records surrounding his tests were not released until April 1998.) And in Lincoln, Neb., in March, James B. Johnson, 34, about to be breath-tested at the police station on suspicion of DUI, avoided the test when he emerged from the men's room with blue foam oozing from his mouth as a result of sucking on the sanitizer disc in the urinal. Johnson was charged with DUI anyway, based on a blood test.
Urine the money
Scientific American magazine reported in March that a team of researchers at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab is making great strides in manufacturing human growth hormone (HGH) by harvesting it in the urine of rats. Apparently, "uroplakin" genes, which are ideal for growing other genes, are produced only in bladders, and in fact the bladder may be the only place genes for HGH can be placed without causing the rat to grow very large. Previously, some mammals' milk has been used for harvesting, but urine is much more plentiful.
Having a ball
Researchers at the University of Wales, Cardiff told The Times of London in February that, using the right sexual scent, they had induced a male crab to attempt to mate not only with a female crab but with a stone and a tennis ball. Researchers said also that crabs have well-developed vision but still approached the bogus targets with great vigor.
According to a doctor's experience reported in the December 1997 journal Biological Therapies in Psychiatry, a 35-year-old female patient receiving a traditional anti-depressant was switched to bupropion, supposedly just as effective but without the traditional drug's side effect of inhibiting orgasm. "Within one week, her ability to achieve orgasm and her enjoyment of sex had returned to normal," the doctor wrote. "After six weeks, however, she experienced (spontaneously, without physical stimulation) a three-hour orgasm while shopping."
Cut to the quick
Tim Ekelman, 33, was hospitalized in Hamilton, Ontario, in March with a collapsed lung, a sliced throat and voice-box damage after he attempted to swallow a friend's 40-inch-long sword. (A professional sword swallower interviewed by the Hamilton Spectator said he would never stick a sword down his throat without first dulling the edges.) Said Ekelman's girlfriend, "I love him with all my heart, but what a jerk."
New York Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn ruled in May that calling a woman a bitch is not necessarily defamatory. The term, Cahn wrote, is "too imprecise and open to speculation" to allow the plaintiff to win her slander lawsuit. But in January, a court in Cologne, Germany, imposed a four-month license suspension and an 1,800-mark fine on a 22-year-old man because, during a traffic altercation, he had insulted a 36-year-old female driver by yelling, "Typical woman!"
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