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An Alabama prison official in Montgomery reported in February what he called the first documented case of a prisoner's hiding a serviceable gun inside his rectum. Prisoner Wayne Phillips was charged with housing a loaded .22-caliber revolver and the key to a pair of handcuffs, both wrapped in plastic and revealed during routine X rays of prisoners' intestinal tracts.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Michael Cesar, 48, the self-described "Pope of Pot," was arrested in New York in November for allegedly running a marijuana delivery service that employed 12 bicyclists and had an 800 number (800-WANT-POT). According to a colleague, Cesar ran the "Church of the Realized Fantasy": people could stop by his Greenwich Village loft during the day to smoke dope, seek the pope's blessing, and have sex.

Officials in Moundsville, West Virginia, ordered a $13,000 feasibility study in November to determine whether the 124-year-old state penitentiary (due to close next year) could be turned into an outlet mall.

The Collins Funeral Home in Jackson, Mississippi, expanded its services in November to include weddings. Said owner Mary Collins, "We want to be part of more than just the final event in a person's life." Roger Ahlgrim, owner of a funeral home in Palatine, Illinois, recently installed a nine-hole miniature-golf course in the basement of his parlor, along with shuffleboard, Ping-Pong, bumper pool, video games, and a haunted house exhibit with a toy guillotine, spider webs, tombstones, and caskets. The basement gets booked for birthday parties and civic groups but is closed during wakes.

Ruben Lezcano of Mexico City offers the "poor man's nose job": for about $9, customers buy tiny plastic hooks (in three sizes) to be inserted into their nostrils, causing down-turned noses to turn upward. Lezcano says even sneezing won't dislodge them.

Management at a Brazilian mining company (Campanhia Vale do Rio Doce) began showing erotic films at the mine in December to entice striking workers to report to work. The union was reportedly forced to stage its own erotic film fest to keep workers out of the mines.

San Francisco jeweler Sidney Mobell is asking $25,000 for his latest novelty: milk chocolate sardines encased in a 14-karat solid gold sardine can inlaid with 55 diamonds and containing a gold toothpick.

Evidence produced at the Camden, New Jersey, kidnapping trial of James A. Howard, 39, in November revealed that he had done substantial library research on the crime, calculating the average prison sentence to be seven years and fixing at $500,000 the amount that would justify his risk in taking the teenage son of an Atlantic City businessman.

In December, the U.S. Post Office in San Diego offered its seventh annual Christmas tour for $25 per person. The first 200 patrons who reserved seats could watch their Christmas mail being processed and eat a buffet lunch.

Financially strapped California officials turned down a bid by an unidentified San Luis Obispo businessman who offered to help raise money for the Department of Corrections by installing "900" phone lines in the cells of the state's most famous criminals so people could talk to them at per-minute rates (1-900-DIAL-SIR[HAN], 1-900-DIAL-MAN[SON]).

Mother of All Weirdness

A United Nations translation error in a February speech by Iraq's ambassador, who intended to say his nation's enemies were "people of small stature," had him calling them "pygmies," prompting a protest by the ambassador from Zaire and earning a rare Iraqi apology.

During the ground war, captured Iraqi soldiers said any of them caught by superiors wearing a white T-shirt would be executed because the shirts could so easily be used as surrender flags. Some Iraqi soldiers carried bleach with them to make their dark shirts white.

Casualties of war: 32-year-old John E. Taylor of Saint Louis was sent to intensive care with stab wounds inflicted by his brother because he opposed the gulf war. Mohammad Hanif was hacked to death with a cleaver by his father, 50-year-old Siraj Mia, near Chittagong, Bangladesh, in January because he expressed the view that Saddam Hussein's chances of winning the war didn't look good.

Fashion designer Andre Van Pier unveiled his spring collection of "war fashions" in New York in February, including a fluorescent camouflage dress and coat and an olive camouflage pantsuit (price $1,200). Bulletproofing was optional.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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