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Neo-Nazi redemption stories
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A recent surge of neo-Nazism in several countries -- including, improbably, Israel, and Mongolia (where some dark-skinned natives are rabidly anti-Chinese) -- has generally been denounced, but Corinna Burt credited it with rescuing her from a life of acting in pornographic videos. According to a hate-group watchdog, the Portland, Ore., woman is "the most prominent National Socialist Movement organizer in the Pacific Northwest." In an August interview with, the white-supremacist Burt (a mother of two and a professional embalmer who is also into bodybuilding) said she terminated her porn career (as "Cori Lou," doing mostly bondage and "torture" films) because, "If we (Caucasians) consider ourselves a master race then we have to act like a master race, not degenerates."

Government in Action

• Though volunteers got the project started in May, Ventnor City, N.J., continued through the summer to seek financial donations to finish the new restrooms that provide relief for those visiting the town's Atlantic shore. Said Commissioner Stephen Weintrob, "How would someone like to have a toilet named after themselves, or a urinal or sink?"

• A Treasury Department inspector general reported in June that, out of 2.6 million applicants for federal mortgage relief, 14,000 "home buyers" wrongly received tax credits and that in fact, 1,300 of them were living in prison at the time of filing, including 241 serving life sentences. Sixty-seven of the 14,000 received tax credits for the same house, and 87 more potentially fraudulent tax-credit applications were filed by Internal Revenue Service employees.

• Things That Shouldn't Get Backlogged: (1) California requires that if a sex offender's GPS tagging device signals that he's in a prohibited area, parole agents must immediately respond, but that law was easier to pass than to implement. As of June, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune investigation, the state had fallen about 31,000 responses behind. (2) A July Illinois law requires that all hospital "rape kits" on victims be tested for blood and DNA (in that finding a rapist, and certainly convicting him, without such evidence is often hopelessly difficult). Until now, 80 percent of the rape kits taken in the state had sat, untested. (As TV police dramas emphasize, many rape victims are reluctant to submit to the indignity of swabbing and photographing so soon after being violated and comply only because detectives assure them of the rape kit's importance.)

• It is common knowledge that American corporations avoid taxes by running U.S. profits through offshore "tax havens" like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, but a May Bloomberg Business Week investigation traced the specific steps that the pharmaceutical company Forest Labs takes to short the U.S. Treasury. Although Forest's anti-depressant Lexapro is sold only in the U.S., the company's patent is held by an Irish subsidiary (and since 2005, shared with a Bermuda subsidiary in a tax-code hocus-pocus that insiders call the "Double Irish"), which allows the vast majority of the $2 billion Forest earns a year on Lexapro to be taxed at Ireland's low rate (and at Bermuda's rate of zero). Bloomberg estimates that the U.S. Treasury loses at least $60 billion annually by corporations' "transfer pricing" -- enough to pay for the entire Department of Homeland Security for a year.

Great Art!

• Time magazine reported in August that among the entrants in this year's "Detroit Hair Wars" (showcasing 34 stylists working with 300 models) were The Hummer (stylist: "Little Willie"), in which a mass of extensions is shaped to resemble the vehicle, including four large tires -- with "metal" wheels and front grid added -- sitting upon the styled hair of model Sharv Bailey; and Beautiful Butterfly (stylist: Niecy Hayes), featuring extensions thinned, teased and stretched into four artistic "wings" arising from the styled hair of model Taja Hiu. Both stylings appear to be at least 2 feet long, dwarfing the models' heads, and take at least 10 hours to prepare.

• Featured at London's Royal College of Art in June was Hiromi Ozaki's "Menstruation Machine" -- a wearable contraption that enables men to experience the two primary symptoms of the "curse." It periodically generates abdominal pain, and its reservoir permits liquid ("blood") to be stored and released over several days' time.

Police Report

• In July, Manuel "Lefty" Hernandez, 28, was charged in Springfield, Mass., with snatching a man's wallet (which he probably did with his left hand, which is his only hand). (If he had had a weapon, police could have charged him with a felony, but it was only a misdemeanor because Hernandez was unarmed.)

• A frightening August headline in The Union (Grass Valley, Calif.): "S.W.A.T. Team Requested for Violent Midgets." In fact, they were steroid-using, bodybuilder midgets, headed by an apparently particularly dangerous "lead female."

Least Competent Police

In March, four NYPD officers, acting on department intelligence, went to the home of Walter and Rose Martin in Brooklyn, N.Y., looking for a suspect, and broke a window as they worked their way inside. The Martins, retired and in their 80s, were clean, and a police spokesman later admitted that officers had wrongly visited or raided the Martins' home more than 50 times since 2002 because of a stubborn computer glitch. When the software was originally installed, an operator tested it by mindlessly typing in a random address, but that happened to be the Martins' house, and thus the visits and raids began. The Martins say they have been assured several times that the problem had been corrected, but evidently their address has wormed its way too deep into the system.

Least Competent Criminals

Recurring Themes: Eugene Palmer, 40, wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun, was arrested in Brunswick, Ga., in March as he tried to rush into a SunTrust bank during business hours but became frustrated by the locked doors -- in that it was a drive-thru-only branch. (2) Danny Spencer, 31, and a partner were arrested in Bridgeport, Conn., in December as they called attention to themselves by driving through the city dragging a half-ton safe they could not crack open at the Madison Auto store they had just burglarized. (3) Ethan Ayers, 18, and a partner were arrested in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in March after an alleged mugging. Police found them easily, as their transportation that night was a relative's van advertising in large lettering, "Big Earl's Gold Mine," a Des Moines strip club.

Thank Goodness for Researchers

(1) After surveying 374 waitresses, professor Michael Lynn, who teaches marketing and tourism at Cornell University, concluded that customers left larger tips to those with certain physical characteristics such as being slender, being blond or having big breasts. Lynn told the Cornell Daily Sun in May that his study was important in helping potential waitresses gauge their "prospects in the industry." (2) Perhaps more usefully, University of Central Lancashire (England) researchers writing in a recent Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that women achieve orgasm more often during foreplay than intercourse but that they more frequently emit orgasm-signaling "vocalizations" just before, or simultaneously with, male ejaculation.

A News of the Weird Classic (May 1996)

In May (1996), Minneapolis artist Judy Olausen's hardcover photographic essay "Mother" went on sale, featuring her 70-year-old mom as a series of passive, subordinate characters. Included were her mother kneeling on all fours with a pane of glass on her back ("Mother as Coffee Table"), lying alongside a highway ("Mother as Road Kill"), and sprawled at an entrance ("Mother as Doormat"). Said Olausen, "My brothers think I'm torturing my mother," but actually, "I'm immortalizing her."