Killer fall fashions

In November in Tokyo, a passenger was killed in a car accident that occurred when the driver, Tomomi Okawa, 25, rammed a concrete pole; according to police, she lost control when she missed the brake pedal because of her trendy but clunky platform shoes. And in September, teacher Misayo Shimizu, 25, died several hours after fracturing her skull on a sidewalk after toppling over in her 5-inch-heel platform shoes.

Touch but don't look

Patrick Corp, 24, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in Grand Rapids, Mich., in November and will be recommended for a federal prison sentence. He had photographed his 17-year-old girlfriend with her permission. Although she is beyond the age of consent to have sex in Michigan, she is too young to be photographed while doing so. In Canada, photographer Gary Geisel, 56, is fighting the same battle; Canada's age of consent for sex is 14, but Manitoba and other provinces set the photograph age at 18.

Dancing in the sheets

In June, a federal judge struck down the no-public-dancing ordinance in the town of Pound in the mountains of southwest Virginia. (Previously, a dance permit could be issued only to someone who was "proper" and "of good moral character." ) Said one city council member, explaining the old ordinance, "There's bound to be trouble when you mix drinking, country music and dancing."

Fight to the finish

In recent mayoral voting, pro wrestlers Jerry "The King" Lawler finished third in Memphis, Tenn. (with 11 percent of the vote), and Outlaw Josey Wales IV finished third in Houston (with 10 percent). David W. Irons Jr. won a county council seat in Seattle, beating his sister Di, who had the support of their parents. Eugene Reppenhagen beat his ex-wife, Carol, for a seat on the Gloversville, N.Y., town council. And African-American Albert Jones finished third in the Louisiana governor's race, six weeks after ballot officials rejected his attempt to list himself as Albert "Super Nigger" Jones.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

The Cambodian government had to calm widespread fears in June that evil spirits surrounding the royal family had demanded the souls of long-haired women, thus setting off a surge of hair sacrifices around the royal palace aimed to pacify the demons. And in August, several women were injured leaping from speeding cars in Zimbabwe because they believed a rumor that some drivers were forcing women to breastfeed large frogs in order to attain prosperity.

Life time's up

The German Supreme Court ruled in August that the lifetime guarantee offered by U.S. clothing retailer Lands' End is illegal in that country because it is "economically unfeasible" and therefore is unfair competition, despite its validity in the United States, England and Japan. Previously, the Zippo lighter and Tupperware companies had to eliminate their lifetime guarantees in order to do business in Germany.

Virgin territory

The Los Angeles Times and New York Times reported in the summer on the renewed trend in rural South Africa of virginity testing, in which boys and girls as young as one year old are examined in an effort to identify child abuse and venereal diseases and to discourage premarital sex. Girls' hymens are checked, but the questionable tests for boys include pressing a soft spot on the knee (virgins' knees are hard), examining genital-area skin (virgins' is firm and tough) or urinating over a 3-foot-high barrier (nonvirgins' urine sprays). In some villages, the dowry of a nonvirgin bride is reduced from 11 cows to 10.

Untruth in advertising

Psychologist Michael Brooks, author of the book "Instant Rapport," was arrested in July for illegally commandeering a first-class seat on a Continental airliner and not budging. And Earl L. "Butch" Kimmerling, who fought to prevent his foster daughter, age 9, from being adopted by a gay couple, was arrested in Anderson, Ind., in May and charged with molesting the girl. And federal authorities filed a lawsuit in Lake Worth, Fla., in July against the wheelchair sales store Action Mobility for failure to have any parking spaces for the disabled.

Fire away

Two months after the Columbine High School massacre, a mock hostage practice, complete with much gunfire, at Alvin (Texas) High School sent 193 kids and their teachers scrambling under desks, terrified, until the word finally reached them that it was a training exercise and that only blanks were being fired. The only two school officials informed in advance thought the exercise would be more subdued and thus failed to tell anyone about it.

Window to the soul

In October, a 36-year-old woman was killed instantly walking along Wabash Avenue in downtown Chicago when hit by a pane of glass that had fallen from the 29th floor of a skyscraper owned by an insurance company. The next day, in the village of Tracadie Cross, Prince Edward Island, Canada, a driver lost control of a hearse and killed a 68-year-old pallbearer as he emerged from a funeral at a church.

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