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According to several news reports, the latest drug craze in some U.S. cities is methcathinone, or "cat," which is manufactured with various industrial chemicals, including battery acid and Drano--thus requiring police to treat all the manufacturing and sales sites they raid as toxic-waste dumps. Symptoms of use include sweating, quivering, shaking, and long periods of stupor and paranoid hallucinations. An additional symptom, said Wausau, Wisconsin, sheriff's deputy Tom Kujawa, is that "the people who use it stink."


Cairo governor Omar Abdel-Akher announced in August that the centuries-old tradition of throwing virgins (and in recent years, statues representing virgins) into the Nile to hold back the floods would have to end soon because of concern that the river is becoming too polluted.

In August in Khandrawali, India, a villager tricked a couple who had eloped six months earlier into returning to the village and, in front of a public gathering, beheaded them with a sickle.

In a report earlier this year the New York Times described a New Year's Eve ritual that takes place on a mountain near Ashikaga, 50 miles north of Tokyo. Participants in the festival walk in darkness to a temple while expressing themselves vocally in ways not usually permitted by their polite society. They scream obscenities and indecencies, aimed at politicians or supervisors ("My teacher is an idiot!," "Give me a raise!"). Women are also permitted this rare opportunity to use abusive language.

Missouri's Independence Examiner reported in April that for the last 169 years residents of the Tennessee towns of Peters Hollow and Rome Hollow have been engaged in an Eastertime feud over which town produces the harder boiled eggs. The contestants sit in a circle and tap each other's eggs together, little end first, then big end. The last person with an uncracked egg is declared the winner for his town.

In July the interior minister of Sudan called to a halt the week-long fighting between the Awlad Umran and Ziod clans, which flared up when a bride's brother took offense at not being consulted over his sister's impending marriage to a man in the other clan. At least 108 people were killed and 50 were wounded.

Last fall Sean Fowler, 22, of Chilliwack, British Columbia, enlisted in the U.S. Army because he had been turned down by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, whose quota system precluded applications from white males for the next four to five years.

The Associated Press reported in April on the recent popularity of hiring nude dancers to entertain mourners at funerals in Taiwan. Though the practice is illegal, police so far have not made any arrests for fear of offending the dead.

Japan's labor department ruled in March against Yuji Iguchi, who had filed a claim for compensation, arguing that her husband's recent death at age 43 was due to his having worked 360 straight days at his job in a supermarket just before he died. The agency said the work record did not qualify as excessive.

The New York Times reported in April that about 900,000 baby girls each year are unaccounted for in China. The government says parents simply hide the girls from inspectors so they can reserve their ration of children for boys. According to experts cited by the Times, the increasing use of ultrasound equipment leads some parents to abort girls in order to try to produce the more prized boys.

The Weirdo-American Community

David Allison Smoak, 22, was arrested in May in Raleigh, North Carolina, and charged with breaking into a store called Night Dreams and taking two $40 life-size inflatable dolls and a $15 vibrator. Smoak allegedly broke into the store next door before realizing it wasn't Night Dreams. Once inside Night Dreams he walked past a computer and more expensive merchandise to get to the dolls. He was arrested in his apartment just after he had inflated "John" and "Kitty."

Least Competent Person

Albert Leroy Rozier was captured in Yazoo City, Mississippi, in August after he and a colleague broke out of the county jail by overpowering a guard and stealing a gun. He was arrested a day after the escape, when he stopped by the local unemployment office to pick up a check he had been expecting.

I Don't Think So

The manager of parking-lot attendants for the D.C.-area Metrorail transit system told employees in a May memo that they would have to start bringing containers to work so that they would not have to take rest-room breaks during the day. The manager was fired in June.

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

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