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A provision in Switzerland’s constitution recognizes the “dignity” of “animals, plants and other organisms,” and a federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Gene Technology declared in an April report that vegetation has “inherent worth” and that humans cannot exercise “absolute ownership” over it but must treat it morally, measured case-by-case. For example, the committee said a farmer’s mowing his field is acceptable, but not the arbitrary severing of a wildflower’s bloom. The committee would permit genetic engineering, since plants would still retain the “autonomy” to reproduce on their own.

Can’t Possibly Be True

After officials in Batu, a tourist town in East Java in Indonesia, asked its massage parlors to make clear to customers that they are not houses of prostitution, one parlor owner created uniform pants for his women with a padlockable zipper, and “locks in” each masseuse in front of the client at the beginning of a session. Other parlor owners have followed along. A local women’s group representative complained that it is the customers, not the women, who need restraining.

In April the Swiss watchmaker Romain Jerome (which last year created a watch made from remnants of the Titanic) introduced the “Day&Night” watch, which unfortunately does not provide a reading of the hour or the minute. Though it retails for about $300,000, it tells only whether it is “day” or “night” (using a complex measurement of the Earth’s gravity). CEO Yvan Arpa said studies show that two-thirds of rich people “don’t (use) their watch to tell what time it is” anyway. Anyone can buy a watch that tells time, he told a Reuters reporter, but only a “truly discerning customer” can buy one that doesn’t.

Progressive Mullahs: The Iranian government, treating addicts as people who need help rather than as criminals, agreed in April to install vending machines offering inexpensive syringes (at about 5 cents each) in five city welfare shelters in order to keep addicts from sharing needles and spreading AIDS and hepatitis. Iran blames its festering drug problem on its common border with opium-producing Afghanistan.

Women Certainly Are Different From Men: Sara Tucholsky, all 5-foot-2 of her, marshaled her strength for her first-ever fence-clearing home run in April, which would have given her Western Oregon University softball team the lead against favored Central Washington, except that she tore a ligament rounding first base. Since she was unable to move, by rule she (actually, a pinch-runner) would have had to remain at first base instead of circling the bases, but two Central Washington players picked Tucholsky up and carried her around the bases to allow her to get credit for the home run. “You deserve it,” one opponent said. “You hit it over the fence.” Kindness hurt; Central Washington lost, 4-2, and was eliminated from the playoffs.


In April, according to police in Fort Pierce, Fla., Amity Joy Doss, 24, grabbed a young McDonald’s employee by her shirt to emphasize her dissatisfaction with service and demanded to the manager that she be fired. A call was made to police, and Doss wandered outside, climbed a tree, hung upside down by bended knee for a while, then lay down on the hood of her car before re-entering the restaurant and asking if the girl had been fired yet. She was arrested on several charges.

A 2007 decision of New York City’s Civil Service Commission reinstated a police officer even though NYPD has ruled him unfit for duty, in large part because he admitted to a “fear of dead people,” which the department had thought would make his job difficult. (However, in March 2008, a New York City judge overturned the commission ruling.)

Angelique Vandeberg, 28, was arrested in May in Sheboygan, Wis., and charged with felony child abuse after her 8-year-old daughter reported that Vandeberg had intentionally shot her in the leg with a BB gun, leaving her unable to walk without difficulty, in order to win a $1 bet with her boyfriend. (Police said alcohol was involved.)

It’s Good to Be a British Prisoner (continued)

(1) A high-ranking official in Britain’s prison guards union said in a radio interview in April that the jails are so understaffed and poorly managed that in one (Everthorpe Prison, East Yorkshire), drug dealers actually put up ladders at night and come over the walls in order to sell drugs, and inmates routinely comment that drugs are easier to get inside than on the street. (2) The British government in January acknowledged that inmates in 2007 had been awarded the equivalent of over $250,000 in education “maintenance” grants, intended to provide such expenses as room and board for recipients of education loans. (The ministers said they would soon close that loophole.)

Fetishes on Parade

(1) CNN TV personality Richard Quest was arrested in New York City’s Central Park after curfew in April, with drugs in his pocket and a rope around his neck tied to his genitals, according to a New York Post report (which had no explanation of the purpose of the rope). (2) Firefighters responding to a burning house in Crystal Lake, Ill., in April were told by three people fleeing that another man was in the basement, chained by the neck to a post. When rescued, the man denied that anything was wrong. Said the deputy police chief, “We’re not really sure what everyone’s relationship in this is,” and consequently no one was charged.

Least Competent Criminals

Poor Ride-Management Plans: (1) Two teenagers were arrested in March and charged with highway shooting sprees near Waynesboro and Charlottesville, Va., that shut down Interstate 64 for six hours. Surveillance video suggested the perps got away in a 1974 AMC Gremlin, and the only one in the area belongs to the 19-year-old. (2) Three men were arrested in New Orleans in February and charged with possession of almost two pounds of marijuana after police were called to a car on fire, which they said started when the men stashed their dope under the hood, and it overheated.

Recurring Themes: (1) Mr. Cash Burch, 24, was arrested in Waterloo, Iowa, in April after he broke into a truck and tried to start it but apparently ran down the battery doing so, which triggered a theft-prevention device that locked the doors, trapping him inside, where he was waiting when police arrived. (2) Justin MacGilfrey, 19, was arrested in February for the attempted robbery of a Circle K convenience store in Daytona Beach, Fla. The clerk had chased him from the store when he realized that MacGilfrey’s only “weapon” was a pretend gun he made using his finger and thumb.

The Aristocrats!

(1) San Diego City Council candidate John Hartley said he would stay in the race despite his March arrest and no-contest plea, which came after two women said they saw him, parked in front of their house one evening, masturbating into a cup. (He said it had been a long day of campaigning and that, as he later wrote in a mailing, he “had to take a leak.”) (2) Officials at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, Philippines, apologized in April on behalf of at least six doctors and other personnel for laughing raucously during surgery and making a party video (that was later uploaded to YouTube) of the operating-room removal of a perfume canister from the anus of a male patient.