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LEAD STORY: Nonlethal war tactics suggested by an Air Force research team in the 1990s were made public in December by the military watchdog organization Sunshine Project and included a recommendation to expose enemy troops to powerful aphrodisiacs in order to distract them into lustful hookups with each other (irrespective of gender). (The Pentagon said the idea was dropped almost immediately, but the Sunshine Project said it was discussed as recently as 2001.) Other ideas: giving the enemy severe halitosis (so they could be detected within a civilian population), overrunning enemy positions with rats or wasps, and creating waves of fecal gas.

Scenes of the Surreal: 1) In a December demonstration against the opening of a McDonald's in the Mediterranean town of Sete, France, about 500 protesters, using a homemade catapult, bombarded the restaurant with fresh catches of the area's renowned delicacy, octopus. 2) NASA announced in October it was retiring the KC-135 plane it had long been using to train astronauts for weightlessness in flight; an official told reporters that the air crews had kept track of the amount of astronaut vomit cleaned up over the years and that the total was at least 285 gallons.

The Classic Middle Name (all new): Charged with murder recently: Jessie Wayne Walker (Greensboro, N.C., December); Michael Wayne Carter (Indianapolis, October); Matthew Wayne Ferman (Waverly, Ohio, October); Keith Wayne Graham (Merced, Calif., August); Justin Wayne Smith (Bay City, Texas, December). Suspected of murder when he committed suicide: Brian Wayne Pennington (Klamath Falls, Ore., December). Convicted of murder: Billy Wayne Cope (York, S.C., September).

Least Competent People: A 21-year-old man was hospitalized in intensive care in Murdoch, Australia (near Perth), in December following a barroom stunt in which he put on a helmet connected to a beer jug, with a hose that ran between the jug and a pump powered by an electric drill. The idea was to facilitate drinking a large quantity of beer without the laborious tasks of lifting a glass and swallowing. But the flow was so powerful, he had to be rushed to the hospital with a 10-centimeter tear in his stomach.

Samuel Woodrow was convicted of burglary in Santa Fe, Texas, in December, one of four men who had broken into a home. The men had fled empty-handed, however, when they were scared away by overhearing a police call from the video game "Grand Theft Auto" ("We have you surrounded! This is the police!"), which the resident's three grandsons were playing in another room.

And in January, a 22-year-old man robbed a Chevron station in Vancouver, Wash., and eluded police in a high-speed getaway, but he then got lost and wound up back at the same Chevron station, and, apparently not recognizing where he was, asked for directions, allowing the clerk to notify police, who soon arrested him.

Grown-Ups: Amid a recent, stepped-up wave of parental violence in kids' sports contests (e.g., choking a basketball coach in Akron, Ohio; choking a hockey referee in Toronto), a woman was barred from the Greater Toronto Hockey League in December following an altercation between parents of the 11-year-olds who were playing. According to a witness, the woman lifted her top above her shoulders (in the style of guests on "The Jerry Springer Show") and "shook [her breasts, while wearing a bra] side to side," then yelled at other parents, "What the hell are you looking at? Have you never seen [breasts]?"

Ironies: On Dec. 20, a United Parcel Service driver was involved in a crash on an icy road near Keene, N.H., suffered a head injury, and was taken to Cheshire Medical Center, where tests were to be performed, except that the required machine for them was broken (though parts were on order). After checking the status of the order, hospital personnel discovered that the parts had been shipped and were in fact in the crashed UPS truck.

According to the British parents' organization Bullywatch, which issued blue wristbands to students to publicize the campaign against school bullying, any kid wearing the wristband was immediately targeted for attack by bullies (December).

© 2004 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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