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Riding shotgun 

According to police in Boca Raton, Fla., pedestrian Kenneth DeLeon was accidentally hit by a curb-jumping car in August, driven by Adam Blumhof, 22, and fell through the windshield, landing headfirst in the passenger seat. Blumhof drove on for about a mile, punching DeLeon and screaming at him to get out. He eventually stopped and rolled DeLeon out the passenger door, even though DeLeon had broken legs and a broken arm. (Blumhof pleaded no-contest in January.)

The Hunan show

In November, a Japanese TV show assigned a contestant (an aspiring comedian nicknamed Nasubi) to a small apartment equipped with little else besides a video camera, where he agreed to remain until he entered enough giveaway contests to win about $8,500 worth of prizes. A further catch was that he had to subsist only on his winnings (so that, although he won lots of rice as a prize, he had to use ingenuity to cook it in the sparsely equipped apartment). Furthermore, unknown to Nasubi, the video surveillance was not simply to record his ordeal but was broadcast live every Sunday night, even though he was usually nude in his apartment (in that he has not yet won any clothing).

Flame retardant

In November, South African inventor Charl Fourie introduced a $1,000, Batmobile-like flame-throwing apparatus for automobiles, designed so that drivers could thwart carjackers. A liquefied gas canister in the trunk of the car feeds tubes that run under the forward doors, and a spark ignites a flame that shoots out about seven feet. Such a device might not be legal in many countries but is in South Africa, which has one of the world's highest crime rates.


In September in Chicago, Lauryn K. Valentine, 21, was granted a legal name change by Cook County Judge Michael B. Getty. Valentine is now known as Carol Moseley-Braun, which is also the name of the Illinois U.S. senator who was defeated for re-election in November. Valentine said she wanted the new name as a tribute to Moseley-Braun, who once successfully encouraged Valentine to remain in school when she was considering dropping out. In December, the new Moseley-Braun filed official papers to run for city alderman, which provoked legal challenges from one opponent and the ex-senator. More to the story: Judge Getty temporarily changed his own name to a more Irish-sounding one to win election as a judge in 1988.

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Major bust

In November, police in Twin Valley, Minn., reported the latest in a five-year-long spree of thefts of expensive brassieres from the Schep's Clothing store. All of the bras taken were size 44-D.

Fuzzy theology

Over the last months of 1998, artist Amy Greving created a life-size Virgin and Child sculpture for Christmas display at the First Reformed Church in Grandville, Mich., using the medium of lint from clothes dryers. Parishioners supplied her the materials after Greving's husband accidentally tossed out two large bags of lint that she had been saving. The lint was treated with a liquid solution, wrapped around chicken wire and painted.

Muse from the front

A November Times of London report identified at least 50 fine artists in Iraq whose principal work is painting huge portraits (one is 30 feet high) of Saddam Hussein, which are in heavy demand by merchants and community leaders who display them around Baghdad to demonstrate their support for the nation's president. A leading painter, Muhammad Ali Karim, says that the work is not monotonous but challenging, in that there are so many facets of Saddam that can be captured, and that they work quickly because they are so inspired by such a great leader.

Long-distance charges

In December, police in Loud-on County, Va., acting on telephone records, finally caught up to the man they believe committed a string of burglaries dating back to 1996, arresting Michael Anthony Silver, 34. According to police, during one of the burglaries, Silver called a psychic hot line and ran up a $250 bill on the homeowner's phone, and for some reason gave his own name to the psychic.

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