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Hungry for a frank explanation 

On July 4 at Coney Island in New York, Japan's Kazutoyo "The Rabbitt" Arai (who weighs 101 pounds) beat defending champ Steve Keiner (400 pounds) in an international hot-dog-eating championship sponsored annually by Nathan's restaurants. Arai gobbled up 25 dogs in 12 minutes, to Keiner's 16. Slim Japanese eaters have frequently won the contest, a history Keiner described as "one of God's mysteries." But another bulbous former U.S. champ, Ed Krachie (who ate 15 dogs this year), once postulated the "Belt of Fat" theory: that surrounding fat limits stomach expansion.

Once more, with feeling

According to a June New York Times report, researcher Peter Cochrane of British Telecommunications continues to develop the "Soul Catcher," a brain-implanted microchip he believes will one day be capable of recording all of a person's chemical reactions in all senses, thus capturing "a lifetime's worth of experience and feeling." And doctors at a Veterans Administration hospital believe they have retrained a patient whose ability to communicate was shut down by a brain-stem trauma; after an implant, he can order a cursor around merely by concentrating on where he wants it to go.

Eight legs ‘more than enough'

Queens College (New York City) professor Harvey Baker told The New York Times in May that he had devised a dynamic new method for helping people overcome their fear of tarantulas, even in severe cases. However, he fell far short of the 100 volunteers he needed to demonstrate the method, because few sufferers of extreme arachnophobia would participate in his study.

Keep it in the family

In April, the New Hampshire legislature voted to correct its law for penalizing the sexual abuse of children. Adults convicted of aggravated sexual assault on a child can receive up to 20 years in prison, but until the new bill actually becomes law, molesting one's own child still draws a maximum of only seven years.

On the same page

In May, the Maricopa County (Ariz.) District Library announced that it had received a 15,000-book donation from a drive sponsored by the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain. Maricopa County's gift consisted of 1,000 pasta cookbooks, 200 copies of a guide to Windows95 software and 11,796 copies of the children's book "What Would Happen If" ... .

Vicious cycle

In June, a housewife in Somerset, England, held an appliance repairer hostage in her home for three hours until the company agreed to replace the faulty washing machine it had sold her and been unable to fix. In April near Milan, Italy, about 30 voters showed up at the polls wearing only underwear, in a curious protest against excessive airport noise. And in May, an unidentified man burst into a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., armed with jagged-edged soda bottles; he threatened to kill himself if someone didn't stop Pepsi from selling sodas to countries in Eastern Europe.

And a side order of slaw, please

In February, Patrick Lee Harned, 17, who is jailed in Astoria, Ore., on charges that he killed a 7-year-old girl at the command of the voices in his head, turned to convicted serial killer Keith "Happy Face" Jesperson (serving a life term at the Oregon State Penitentiary) for advice on prison life, girls and defense strategy. Wrote Harned: "I just want to get my time done and do good and get married and have a kid and have a better life and walk on the beach with my wife, kid, family, and have a better life with help, Amen. What can I do?"

Working for tips

Pittsburgh anti-circumcision activist Ron Miller, 58, was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in April as encouraging foreskin-restoration in order to enhance penile sensitivity. "`The pleasure` you're going to get back is so different, don't expect your brain to understand it," he told a gathering of men. Miller also admonished the listeners not to delay, as he had: "I'm pissed off about the 40 years of wasted sex I had," he said.

Double Jeopardy confused him, too

In June, Dwayne Nolan arranged to meet his lawyer at a Detroit police station, where they would fill out the paperwork that was necessary to get Nolan's car back after it was impounded in an alleged drug deal. As Nolan awaited the lawyer's arrival, officers realized that Nolan was the same man currently wanted locally for murder. Said Sgt. Joe O'Leary later: "I've never seen anybody actually walk into a station on another matter, obviously knowing he's wanted on a murder warrant." To make things official, an officer asked the lawyer to identify a photo taken from the warrant, which he did (according to the police), and Nolan was arrested.

Parting shots

In Ocean City, Md., a 23-year-old man died from a friend's punch to the chest; the man had begged to be hit in order to relieve his hiccups. A vicious heat wave in Turkey was credited with saving a life when a suicidal woman swooned before she could leap from a mountainside, and was instead rescued. And in Phoenix, an America West pilot who was riding as a passenger on one of the airline's flights went out of control, screaming, throwing things and yelling, "Get away from me," until he was restrained by the crew. The hysterical America West employee had piloted one of his own flights the day before.

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