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by Chuck Shepherd

• Ingrid Paulicivic filed a lawsuit in September against Laguna Beach, Calif. gynecologist Red Alinsod over leg burns she bafflingly acquired during her 2009 hysterectomy — a procedure that was topped off by the doctor’s nearly gratuitous name-”branding” of her uterus with his electrocautery tool. Dr. Alinsod explained that he carved “Ingrid” in inch-high letters on the organ only after he had removed it and that such labeling helps in the event a woman requests the return of the uterus as a souvenir. He called the branding just a “friendly gesture” and said he did not know how the burns on Paulicivic’s leg occurred.

Cultural Diversity

• BBC News reported in August that government officials in southern Sudan had unveiled a $10 billion plan that would rebuild the area’s major cities (heavily damaged during the ongoing civil war) “in the shapes of animals and fruit.” New blueprints for one state capital, Juba, show its boundaries in the shape of a rhinoceros, and for another capital, Wau, a giraffe, and for the town of Yambio, the outline of a pineapple. (Such municipal planning might appear quixotic, especially in view of Sudan’s wartime chaos, but investors can hardly ignore a country that sits on rich oil deposits.)

• Spousal violence continues to plague India, especially in lower-income areas of Uttar Pradesh state, but four years ago, Ms. Sampat Pal Devi, then 36, formed a vigilante group of females to fight back and has made notable progress, according to a July report on Slate. com. Members of Pal’s group (“gulabis” — literally, “gangs for justice”) travel in numbers, wearing “hot pink” saris and carrying bamboo sticks, and try to reason with abusive husbands to improve their behavior. Originally, Pal imagined a temporary team, in place until women acquired greater electoral power, but the experience in Uttar Pradesh has been disheartening in that, often, the women elected as officials have been just as corruptible and male-centered as the men they replaced.

• US and NATO forces in southern Afghanistan have reported feelings of revulsion at the number and ostentatiousness of local Pashtun men who publicly flaunt the 9- to 15-year-old boys that they’ve acquired as lovers. The boys dress (and use makeup) like girls, dance, hold the men’s hands, and show off in front of others of their age. According to an August San Francisco Chronicle dispatch from Kandahar, locals explain the practice as partly regional tradition and partly a response to Islamic and tribal customs that make young females off-limits to men until marriage (Local saying: “Women are for children; boys are for pleasure”). (The more fundamentalist Pashtun also point out that boys are “cleaner,” in that they never menstruate.)

• A 1997 election law in Brazil makes it illegal to “degrade or ridicule” political candidates or their parties, making that country’s election season not nearly as lively as the US’s. However, in August, one week after a protest in Rio de Janeiro by Brazilian comedians, the vice president of the Supreme Court acquiesced and suspended the law as unconstitutional.

Questionable Judgments

• Marketing professionals not ready for prime time: Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, feeling under-respected academically, commissioned an in-state firm to create a directmail campaign highlighting the many benefits of a Drake education. The pitch to potential students, which was rolled out in September in brochures and on Drake’s website, is called the “Drake Advantage” and is graphically represented (curiously, for an academic institution) as “D .”

• Creative sentencing: (1) Convicted Pennsylvania embezzler Lanette Sansoni pleaded guilty in August and agreed to reimburse the victim the remaining $200,000 of the $475,000 she had stolen. Judge Joseph Smyth then sentenced Sansoni to house arrest — for 21 years.

She can remain out of jail as long as she works and contributes at least $750 a month for restitution. (2) Samuel McMaster Jr. pleaded guilty to securities fraud in August in Albuquerque but struck a deal with prosecutors to enable restitution to his two dozen victims. McMaster fancies himself an expert at poker, and the judge agreed to withhold sentencing for six months to let McMaster prove he could earn at least $7,500 a month for his victims at Las Vegas poker tables.

Bright Ideas

• In September, the Treviso, Italy adult doll maker Diego Bortolin (who specializes in lifelike, precisely detailed, fully flexible, anatomically correct models of humans) told reporters that he had completed a special order for a 50-year-old businessman whom he would not name but who paid Bortolin the equivalent of $18,000 (compared to his normal price of about $5,000) to go beyond his generic “young woman” — to create a replica of the very girlfriend who had just recently dumped him.

The extra expenses were “because we had to replicate everything, right down to the shape of her nails and teeth” — plus, the man wanted his substitute girlfriend to have bigger breasts.

• Sixteen condom dispensers were installed at the San Francisco County jail in San Bruno, Calif. in September, paid for by community grants, to assist in the county’s safe-sex program. (Of course, jailhouse sex remains illegal.)

Civilization in Decline

• The overprivileged, in training: The first day of school, according to Mia Lin, 16, of Framingham, Mass., “is like a movie premiere.” That’s when she and some of her well-off friends get the opportunity to give fellow students the benefit of their informed summer fashion decisions as they jockey for position in the school’s social order. Lin told the Boston Globe that her “style” is “urban” and shoe-oriented. “I have about 90 pairs. I wear whole outfits just to accent my shoes,” including black, red and gold Supra Chad Muska Skytops, which give her, she said, “a swagger boost.” “Every year is an opportunity to redefine your style.”

The Pervo-American Community

• DNA showcases: (1) Michael Edwards Jr., 28, was arrested in July after an incident at a Giant food store in Gaithersburg, Md. in which he followed a customer to her car and sprayed her from a bottle whose liquid was part semen. (2) Michael Lallana, 31, was arrested in Santa Ana, Calif. in August and charged on two separate instances of “discharging” his semen into a female co-worker’s water bottle. (3) William Black, 28, was arrested at a Sarasota, Fla. Wal- Mart in September after he grabbed a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue off the magazine rack, retreated to another aisle, and masturbated, leaving semen on the floor. (Black said he had been overcome looking at all the “hot girls” among Wal-Mart shoppers.)

A News of the Weird Classic (April 2004)

• At a special Friday evening session of the New Mexico House of Representatives in February (2004) (on health insurance taxation), Democratic leaders needed Rep. Bengie Regensberg to cast an emergency vote and sent state police to retrieve him at the Santa Fe motel where he was headquartered during the session. Troopers managed to bring him to the capitol, but reported having had to subdue and handcuff the naked, combative and “likely intoxicated” Regensberg.

‘© 2010 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate

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