*An ancient fear of penis-shrinking sorcery periodically surfaces in Ghana, the latest instance in December. Mobs beat seven men to death in Accra and injured others in Tema, all because of rumors that the men had the power to make others' disappear by a mere touch. Police said the rumors were spread by criminals so that crowds of hysterical men would gather, making it easier for pickpockets to lift wallets.
*Japanese researchers at Tokyo University and Tsukuba University said they will begin testing a project to surgically implant microprocessors and electrode sets, and eventually microcameras, into American cockroaches for a variety of possible missions, including espionage surveillance and searching for victims in earthquake rubble.
Seeds of Our Destruction
*The New York Times reported in January that the Taliban movement in Afghanistan is presiding over such a bankrupt economy that men (women are forbidden to work at all) are raiding cemeteries for human bones, which are then sold to dealers in Pakistan as animal bones for making cooking oil, soap, chicken feed, and buttons. Skulls must first be broken up to preserve the ruse that only animal bones are involved.
*Recent inappropriate nudity: In September dozens of schoolteachers from the Indian state of Bihar stripped in front of Parliament to protest low wages. And the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, in a memo published by the Washington Post in October, reported the emergence of a Liberian leader known as "General 'Butt Naked,'" from his propensity for fighting naked, which he "probably believes terrorizes the enemy and brings good luck." And Meaux, France, high school philosophy teacher Bernard Defrance was suspended in January for removing an article of clothing every time a student stumped him with a riddle.
*Role model gains: In October Marcia Fann, age 37, won the prestigious Bass'n Gal Classic Star XX bass-fishing tournament in Athens, Texas. Fann cheerfully disclosed that she used to be a man; she was surgically changed sometime in the Eighties.
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*A July Wall Street Journal story repeated that the city jail (capacity 134) in the Seattle suburb of Kent does a brisk business charging petty criminals from around the state $64 a day to serve their sentences of up to 40 days in comfortable environs. Reservations are recommended, and the policy is cash only.
Bottom of the Gene Pool
*In October in Massapequa Park, New York, four men, ages nineteen to twenty-one, trying to follow a recipe in The Underground Steroid Handbook, failed to wait patiently until the acidic, Drano-like concoction had reached a safe pH level. The four were hospitalized with bad internal burns; the brew also burned rescuing police officers when the men vomited on them.
*In November in Santa Maria, Texas, Luis Martinez, Jr., age 25, was stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle by his uncle, allegedly to punish Martinez for not sharing his bag of Fritos. In October a twenty-year-old man was hospitalized in Guthrie, Oklahoma, after encouraging his friend, Jason Heck, to kill a millipede with a .22-caliber rifle; after two ricochets, Heck's bullet hit the man just above the right eye, fracturing his skull. *Phillip Johnson, age 32, was hospitalized in Prestonburg, Kentucky, in December with a gunshot wound just above his left nipple, which he inflicted on himself because, as he told paramedics, he wanted to see what it felt like. When the paramedics arrived, said the sheriff, they found him "screaming about the pain, over and over."
-- By Chuck Shepherd