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In March, SF Weekly reported on the quasi-sexual "splosher" parties becoming popular in San Francisco, in which participants wallow seminude in gobs of mud, cream, syrup, ketchup, soups, salads, cakes, and pies. Playfulness and lack of inhibition are more important than overt sexuality: in one couple's game the man is a waiter who repeatedly spills food orders on the woman's head and lap, causing her to squeal with delight.

In the past two months scholars at Japan's Okayama University and National Cancer Center announced that beer fed to rats inhibited cancer of the liver, prostate, colon, and rectum by as much as 50 percent. Professor Sakae Arimoto said that beer controls heterocyclic amines and that, unlike other cancer-inhibiting foods such as spinach and broccoli, is effective in small amounts.

Democracy in Action

Among those running for sheriff in Kentucky counties are three sheriffs who were forced from office after being convicted of crimes: Roger Benton of Morgan County was convicted of accepting a bribe, Douglas Brandenburg of Lee County was convicted of obstructing justice, and Ray Clemons of Breathitt County was convicted of failing to report drug activity.

In February, 910 people with criminal charges against them ran for the legislature of Uttar Pradesh, India, and 122 were elected, including one candidate accused of being a contract killer.

Cultural Diversity

According to a December 2001 story in the Irish Times, Japanese city dwellers patronize such establishments as cabaret clubs, which permit touching of the waitresses; fetish clubs in which men can grope women on a stage set like the inside of a train car; and couples' coffee shops, where women select men for free, anonymous sex in a back room.

That same month the Mainichi Daily News reported on mania shops that sell the used panties of TV actresses. One clerk said that the panties were assigned "a three-month use-by date" and that panties worn by the actress Hanako sold well at a price of 6,000 yen ($47.22).

Also in December, a businessman in Jalan Beserah, Malaysia, told reporters he'd recently dismissed his maid because a hidden camera had caught her boiling her underwear in the soup she served him. According to the businessman, a witch doctor in her hometown had told her that the soup would increase her employer's appreciation of her.

Lisa Thompson, an Australian medical student addressing a government conference in March, reported that many parents in Papua New Guinea name their children after celebrities. "My favorite was Elton Travolta," said Thompson, though she also met an Olivia Newton-John and a Bill Clinton.

In February the Washington Post reported on Native Deen, a rap group formed by three local Muslim men. They use only drums, believing wind and string instruments to be offensive, and in keeping with the principles of Islam, they don't expect their audience members to dance.

People Different From Us

In March a Brooklyn housing judge threatened a 71-year-old retired Chinese immigrant with eviction from his federally subsidized apartment if he didn't get rid of half of his belongings. Fei Xu had so many items crammed into 500 square feet--computers, typewriters, appliances, 7 fans, 13 clocks, 15 folding chairs, 17 suitcases--that he could walk from one side to the other only by means of a path 14 inches wide. Said Xu, "[I] thought this was a free country."

The Rights of Milk

In February the managing director of the Milk Producers Organization in South Africa demanded that the country's Advertising Standards Authority condemn a beer ad that "discriminates against milk" by implying that it's "dull and boring." In the ad, three demure milk drinkers at a cricket match become envious of rowdy beer drinkers and eventually join them.

Our Civilization in Decline

In March a well-known Toronto panhandler, "the shaky lady," denied a press report that she takes in hundreds of dollars a day. The denial was issued through her attorney, employed by a prestigious Bay Street firm.

In the Last Month

Two Japanese tourists in Bethlehem, laden with cameras and guidebooks and oblivious to the Israeli-Palestinian standoff, wandered within yards of the Church of the Nativity before journalists urged them to back away....In Bolton, England, a thief came across a malnourished dog during a home burglary and reported the owner for animal abuse....And researchers said they had found a massive ant colony, consisting of many nests, that stretched a thousand miles, from Spain to Italy.

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

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