Who would Jesus do?

Following a religious experience, Michael Braithwaite of the mountain village of Putney, Ky., recently converted his Love World shop (selling vibrators and other porn paraphernalia) to Mike's Place (selling Bibles and other Christian items).

However, according to a December report in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, a 31-year-old government lawyer has developed a side business that may bridge both of Braithwaite's lines: The lawyer manufactures and sells high-quality, silicone sex toys in the shapes of religious icons, such as Moses, Satan and a nun, at prices of $54 to $65 each. One sex-shop owner in San Francisco's freewheeling Castro district said he might stock the "Jackhammer Jesus" model, but that his Buddhist customers would be offended at the Buddha model.

Wonders of medicine

If it hadn't been for the metal detector at the Regina, Saskatchewan, airport, the woman might still wonder why her stomach pains, following June 2002 surgery, were persisting. When the detector relentlessly beeped but no metal could be found on her, she scheduled an X-ray and discovered that a 12-inch-long surgical retractor had been left inside. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January estimated that 1,500 items were left inside surgery patients in 2001.

Product placement

The Atlanta firm Brighthouse Institute for Thought Sciences regularly runs consumers through MRIs while they look at pictures of products so that researchers can see which parts of the brain are stimulated in order to learn consumers' subconscious thoughts about those products. A Brighthouse spokesman tried to say as little as possible about this "neuromarketing" technology -- and which companies pay the bills -- and told the Canadian public radio program "Marketplace," which reported on the Institute in December: "Right now [our clients] would rather not be exposed. We have been kind of running under the radar with a lot of the breakthrough technology."

Governing bodies

Margie Schoedinger of the Houston suburb of Missouri City, Texas, filed a lawsuit in December against George W. Bush for a lengthy series of alleged actions while he was governor, including "watching" her and "having sex" with her and her husband. The rambling and non sequitur-laden complaint, filed in Fort Bend County Court and reported on by the weekly Fort Bend Star, names the Sugar Land (Texas) Police Department as corroborating witnesses for many of the plaintiff's allegations (example: that "plaintiff had seven dates, which became seven lovers, had told no lies, committed no crimes, gotten two traffic tickets, and dated George W. Bush as a minor"), but a department spokesman said no one had any idea what Schoendinger was talking about.

Pastor of Muppets

Harold Camping, the host of a moderately prominent international Christian radio call-in show, recently told his listeners that Satan has taken over "all" churches and that people of faith should do their worshipping elsewhere. Apparently, pastors all over the United States are outraged, with some attributing drops in attendance and contributions to Camping, whose Oakland, Calif., organization reported donations of $12 million in 2000.

No cancer, no kidding

Two University of Virginia neurologists told a professional conference in December that an egg-sized brain tumor in the orbifrontal cortex region was likely the only explanation for why a 40-year-old, appropriately behaving man suddenly became a pedophile, frequently seeking pornography and making subtle advances to children. After surgery to remove the tumor, the inappropriate urges disappeared for months, but when the urges returned, doctors found that so had the tumor.

Hard job

In December, the British subsidiary of the German firm Condomi selected 10 men from among 10,000 college students across Great Britain to be condom testers, paying them a rate of about $170 per term to test for comfort and convenience, with unlimited supplies (of condoms, not partners). Newcastle University law student Dave Chapman, one of the 10, told a reporter in December that he thinks the assignment is "to get through as many as humanly possible."

Cop an attitude

Joseph Anthony Giannini, 53, who was well-known among neighbors and co-workers as a gung-ho, "war story"-telling retired Washington, D.C., police officer, died of a mysterious gunshot wound on Dec. 31 as he warmed up his truck. The Washington Post reported that Giannini had equipped his truck cab with squad car paraphernalia (siren, flashing lights, ticket books, etc.); held many police badges, ID cards and police-academy diplomas; and was a proud member of the local Fraternal Order of Police (which is restricted to officers and former officers). However, D.C. police had no record of Giannini's having served with them, and the Post reporter said "most" of the badges and diplomas "appeared to be falsified" In fact, Giannini was once arrested for impersonating a police officer.

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