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Earlier this month the Banff Centre for Continuing Education in Alberta, Canada, admitted that it had issued a grant to Mexican performance artist Israel Mora, whose exhibit "Level 7" consisted of seven glass vials into which he had masturbated, hoping to "examine the concepts of privacy and intimacy within contemporary society." The center's president subsequently apologized for housing the exhibit at the center.

Two professors recently resigned from West Virginia University to protest its Sydney Banks Institute for Innate Health, an organization devoted to anxiety reduction and named after a welder whose epiphany "catapulted him from a routine life of stress and insecurity into a state of deep peace, hopefulness, security and clarity." According to one professor, a speaker at a recent Banks conference in Seattle presented photographs of "ice crystals formed in the presence of positive thoughts and...in the presence of negative thoughts," noting that the negative ones "weren't as pretty" and remarking, "I'm not a scientist myself, but this looks like evidence to me."

Metaphorically Misspeaking

According to an attorney for several students at Benicia High School in California, when principal Robert Palous suspended the students for toilet-papering the school last month, he described their prank as the school's own World Trade Center attack....That same month, after a judge in Frederick, Maryland, ordered the release of a prostitute's address book to the Frederick News-Post, outgoing mayor Jim Grimes said, "I absolutely feel that the same thing that happened at the World Trade Center has hit me. I was terrorized [by the News-Post]."...And a month earlier the Associated Press reported that the Miami house where Elian Gonzalez stayed was treated as a shrine by some; one visitor said of Elian's return to Cuba, "To us, it was almost equivalent to the Twin Towers day."

Government in Action

Last month the Los Angeles Times reported that since 1998 the Immigration and Naturalization Service has issued five million "smart cards" to permanent residents. The cards contain all the personal information needed to improve security against terrorism, but the INS has no machines that can read them. Its fingerprint system has yet to be connected to the FBI's, and its electronic database to track foreign students, created after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, now covers only 21 colleges.

Authorities in Queensland, Australia, frustrated that local bureaucrats were taking their time processing applications for legal brothels, decided in October to appoint an independent official who could get more brothels up and running.

According to a September dispatch from the Associated Press, more than 60 percent of federal farm subsidies last year went to just 10 percent of the farmers, among them David Rockefeller, Ted Turner, Sam Donaldson, and Scottie Pippen. Asked one farmer, "Why are we giving millions of dollars to millionaires?"

People With Issues

In September 17-year-old Shahul Hameed Kuthubudeen of Shanghai was convicted of molestation for repeatedly extending his hand to young Chinese girls, kissing the backs of their hands, and refusing to let go. As part of a lenient sentence his family enrolled him in a mission school in India, but before leaving town Kuthubudeen was arrested again for kissing the hand of a 16-year-old girl in an elevator.

Recurring Themes

Last month the decayed body of a man who apparently died three years ago at age 46 was found in his condominium in Warminster, Pennsylvania. Among those who failed to seriously investigate his whereabouts or the odor emanating from his unit were the postal carrier, the postal service supervisor, at least one neighbor, village officials who towed the man's car for expired registration, the president of the condo association, the condo management agent, the police (who received many calls), and a sheriff's deputy delivering a foreclosure notice, which he merely tacked on the door.

Least Competent Criminals

Police in Fulton County, Georgia, say 36-year-old Derrick Van would have successfully completed his burglary of a private home last month if he hadn't dropped some coins on the floor. When he reached down to collect them, he locked eyes with the home owner, who was hiding under a bed; feeling threatened, the home owner fired his .357 Magnum and badly wounded Van.

In the Last Month

A court in Orebro, Sweden, ordered a certified sperm donor to assume parental rights because the lesbian couple he assisted have split up....A court in Stockholm found four teenagers guilty of high treason for throwing a cake at King Carl Gustaf and fined each of them about $370....Police in San Diego chased down and arrested a 42-year-old man suspected of shoplifting six packages of corn removers from a Wal-Mart, an easy collar because the corns on his feet prevented him from running very fast....And on Amelia Island, Florida, 44-year-old judge Joyce Julian was arrested at 2 AM at the conference center of a resort after she appeared intoxicated and nude from the waist down, verbally challenged security officers, and fled.

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

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