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Joe blow no-show

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Even with a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez is having trouble attracting pancreatic-cancer patients for his Columbia University study (only 25 of 90 slots filled), perhaps because the treatment's most prominent component is twice-a-day coffee enemas. A Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center doctor called the regimen "ludicrous," but Gonzalez said the caffeine stimulates nerves in the bowel, helping the liver with detoxification, according to an October Wired magazine report. His initial pilot program reported significant benefits of the treatment but was regarded with skepticism in that it included only 11 patients.

Class ax

According to an October dispatch in Toronto's Globe and Mail, the for-profit school administration company Edison Schools Inc., reportedly low on cash but with 20 particularly troublesome Philadelphia high schools to manage, tried to cut some corners in September by sending back newly ordered textbooks, computers, lab supplies and musical instruments; moving its Philadelphia executives out of their downtown offices and into vacant school-system rooms to save on rent; and suggesting to the school board that students could acquire valuable experience if they were assigned various work projects (for free) for Edison. The latter two ideas were thwarted by the school board, but the students were still making do with old books and equipment.

Taking names

Scheduled to marry in December in Flint, Mich.: Ms. Laura Kah and Mr. Scott Boom. Although she plans be just plain Laura Boom.

And in May, the prosecutor in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., charged four men with stealing tires: Edgar Spencer, his son Edgar Spencer, Jr., the older man's brother Edgar W. Spencer, and his son, Edgar W. Spencer, Jr.

In an August story on California's shrinking hippie population, the Santa Cruz Sentinel interviewed among others (legal names) Mr. Climbing Sun, Mr. Shalom Dreampeace Compost and Mr. Chip (no last name). Other recent residents such as Darting Hummingbird Over a Waterfall, Moonbeam Moonbeam and "XXXXXXXX X" were not available.

A job well-done

In October, the State Department awarded a $15,000 "outstanding performance" bonus to the head of the office that permitted 13 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers to enter the country via expedited U.S. visas. Mary Ryan, who retired in September after a 36-year tenure (reportedly eased out after she defended her "visa express" program even after Sept. 11), received the award specifically for the 12-month period beginning April 2001. The express program, which was spearheaded by the U.S. Consul General in Riyadh, Thomas Furey (who also got a bonus), allowed Saudi nationals to apply over the Internet without ever being seen by a U.S. official.

Ice cream

A judge in Omaha, Neb., ruled in October that a confession made by former teacher Mike Florea, 35, was admissible in his sex-abuse trial; he had told police that he would pay boys $20 to $25 if they would ejaculate into small containers, which Florea then stored in his freezer.

Medicine head

Several doctors of the government-funded British National Health Service plan to start prescribing personal vibrators for female sexual dysfunction, according to a September report in The Observer. A sex boutique operator welcomed the development, describing the previous devices "used for dilating vaginas" as "frightening" and crosses between "toilet brushes and medieval torture implements."

Pop for damages

Deanna Robinson and her insurance company filed a lawsuit in Atlanta in August against Kellogg's, alleging that the poor design of Pop Tarts is the reason one burst into flames in her toaster two years ago, igniting a house fire that did more than $10,000 in damage. Kellogg's has defended Pop Tarts' flammability before, in New Jersey and Ohio lawsuits and against newspaper columnist Dave Barry, who wrote of his experience of inducing 30-inch-high flames from Pop Tarts in his own toaster.

Chile dogs

Sculptor-painter Antonio Becerra's government-funded "Oils on Dogs" exhibition opened in Santiago, Chile, in August, consisting of the artist's paintings (e.g., Pope John Paul and a cross, blue and orange butterflies) on the embalmed cadavers of a dozen roadkill dogs Becerra had found on the city's streets. Becerra called the work a reflection of society's violence and cruelty, but animal rights activists were appalled at his lack of respect for the dogs.

Carved in foam

Retired graphics designer J. Jules Vitali has created more than 1,000 pieces of small art in his preferred medium, Styrofoam cups, according to an October Boston Globe profile. He took up his craft with a carry-out coffee cup and a Craftsman knife 20 years ago, inspired, he said, by boredom. A display of his "Styrogami," with pieces priced at up to $800, is housed at the Freeport Public Library in Maine.


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