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Trying to get the feline again 

The Japanese firm Matsushita announced in December that the Tokyo government would soon begin distributing to elderly people the company's new robotic cats (furry, life-size and, thanks to microchips, playful and talkative) to combat loneliness. Skin sensors cause the cat to purr when petted and to jump when startled. The cats are expected to sell for about $300.

Ballsy decisions

Edward L. Bodkin, 56, was arrested in February in Huntington, Ind., and charged with performing surgery without a license. Police said Bodkin removed the testicles of at least five consenting men and was ready to perform again when a patient got cold feet and handed over to police a videotape Bodkin had loaned him, of some of the surgeries. Allegedly, some of the testicles were in jars in Bodkin's apartment. As to the patients' motives, prosecutor John Branham said, "I can't sit here as a reasonable human being and give you an intelligent answer to that."

Ether parade

In January, the Toronto Sun published office photos of surgeon William G. Middleton's nurse, inexplicably straddling an unconscious female patient, who subsequently filed a complaint against the doctor. On the same day, in Tulsa, Okla., dentist Donald C. Johnson pleaded guilty to sexual molestation of young girls, behavior that came to light when lewd Polaroid photos of apparently anesthetized girls were discovered in Johnson's office. And in December, a Waynesboro, Va., woman filed a $350,000 lawsuit against physician Dale A. Stinespring for allegedly tricking her into posing topless for photographs under the guise of producing evidence in her car-crash lawsuit.



German retiree Jost-Burkhard Anderhub, 59, who spent several days in the Newport, Ky., jail last year before pleading guilty to a federal gun charge, was so impressed with the service that in October, he sent the jailer (elected official Greg Buckler) $200 as a tip. Wrote Anderhub, "The treatment by the officers was absolutely flawless."

H2 ho'

H2 ho'

Kenneth Adams, 37, was arrested in Peoria, Ill., in November and charged with soliciting an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute. The officer said Adams offered her a stolen shower head and a stolen water purifier if she would have sex with him.

Strong arming

In November, Japanese billiards player Junuske Inoue, 58, was suspended from competition for two years for testing positive for a muscle-building hormone. And in September, Torquay, England, lawn bowler Griff Sanders, 25, was banned from outdoor competition for 10 years for excessive obscene language. (Sanders reportedly considers himself "the John McEnroe of lawn bowling.")

Impulse buy

Impulse buy

In December in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Wendy Cashaback opened what she believed was Canada's first drive-through shop selling only sex toys and lingerie. Also in December, the New York company Joe Boxer placed 10 vending machines in the city to sell men's underwear in pop-top cans and said it hoped to roll out 100 more in 1999.

Wash and wear

In December in Overijse, Belgium, horticulturalist Luc Mertes introduced a line of skirts and dresses made of live grass, still growing as long as the material stays damp.

Wild fire

Wild fire

In January, three young men broke into a house in St. Paul, Minn., with a shotgun and beat a man who they say owed them money. They fired a shot over the man's head in order to scare him and then they left, but on the way out, the shotgun accidentally discharged again, hitting one of the three in the buttocks. All three were arrested when a police officer spotted the distinctly wounded man later on the street. Three days later, in Newark, N.J., Andre Gordon, 27, was arrested when, after pistol-whipping a 25-year-old man, his gun accidentally discharged, firing a bullet through his own arm and into his leg.

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