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Lead Story

Getting a dog admitted to a day care service has gotten nearly as difficult as getting a child into an elite preschool, according to a May Wall Street Journal report. Urban Tails, in Houston, requires a four-page "dog personality profile" and an evaluative "peer session" with other dogs; Dog Day Afternoons Country Day Prep, in Boston, requires two letters of reference from trainers, a seven-page application, and a daylong "interview." After a wheaten terrier named Ghillie was turned down by one service, its owner acknowledged to the reporter that her dog was "not gifted."

The Continuing Crisis

The London Times reported in June on the controversy surrounding a new device intended to combat the extraordinarily high incidence of rape in South Africa: an intravaginal sheath, worn like a tampon, that in the event of rape enfolds the penis and attaches to it with microscopic hooks. According to its inventor, Sonette Ehlers, the rapist will be unable to remove the device without seeking medical help, increasing the likelihood of arrest. Some critics, including antirape activists, have demanded its ban, calling it "vengeful" and "disgusting" and charging, among other things, that it may lead to greater violence against rape victims. Ehlers, however, suggested that "this device should become part of every woman's daily routine, just like brushing her teeth."

Finer Points of the Law

James Andrew Crawford, 35, was arrested in May in Perris, California, after having camped for two weeks in a theater line waiting for Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith to open. A Riverside County deputy sheriff said that Crawford, who in 1998 pleaded guilty to ten counts of lewd conduct with a minor, was in violation of a state law requiring sex offenders to register with police within five days of taking up residence in a new location.

In June a jury in Jersey City, New Jersey, rejected a charge of murder and instead convicted 43-year-old Marc Ferrara of aggravated manslaughter for beating his girlfriend to death with a hammer in 1982. In accordance with a 1993 state supreme court ruling, the jury was not informed beforehand that because the manslaughter law in effect in 1982 carried a five-year statute of limitations (it's since been changed, but not retroactively), this verdict meant Ferrara would walk free.

Signs of the Times

According to a June New York Times story, dentists in the south and midwest and in prisons are seeing increasing numbers of patients with "meth mouth," a condition common to users of methamphetamine in which previously healthy teeth rapidly "turn a grayish-brown, twist and begin to fall out, and take on a peculiar texture less like that of hard enamel and more like that of a piece of ripened fruit." And in March Scott Stewart of Carthage, Tennessee, was sentenced to eight years in prison for running a home meth lab; Stewart maintained that he was making "safe" meth for his own consumption because he was concerned about the chemicals other suppliers were putting in their product.

Cultural Diversity

A June dispatch from Guiyang, China, in the Toronto Globe and Mail reports that two-thirds of Chinese men smoke, including 60 percent of male doctors. Among male smokers, 90 percent believe that smoking either has no effect on their health or is good for them, thanks in part to a long-running PR effort by the state-controlled tobacco monopoly, which sells 1.3 trillion cigarettes a year--nearly a third of total cigarette sales worldwide. According to the monopoly's Web site, smoking helps combat loneliness and depression, improves brain function, and prevents ulcers.

In order not to offend visiting dignitaries, official literature for the British navy's June reenactment of the Battle of Trafalgar--at which Lord Nelson defeated a French and Spanish fleet in 1805--made reference to neither the name of the battle nor the names of the countries involved, saying only that a "red" force would engage a "blue" one.

Government in Action

In April WIS TV reported that South Carolina's house judiciary committee had in the same week approved a bill to upgrade cockfighting from a misdemeanor to a felony but killed another bill to increase penalties for domestic violence. Explaining why the second measure was unnecessary, Representative John Graham Altman of Charleston told reporters, "The woman ought not to be around the man. I mean, you women want it one way and not another. Women want to punish the men, and I do not understand why women continue to go back around men who abuse them." (Following the report, house leaders said they would reintroduce a domestic violence bill.)

Jerry Adams, deputy finance commissioner of Tennessee, was stranded for 13 hours in an elevator in the state capitol in May; the emergency telephone line had been disconnected because the state hadn't paid the bill.

Creme de la Weird

Anthony Hudson, 43, a former city council candidate and host of a cable-access TV program in Akron, Ohio, was arrested during a disturbance outside his house in April; he was wrapped in foil, wearing an athletic supporter over his pants, and yelling that he was "the king of Egypt." And in May, code enforcement officials in Sacramento ordered the D'Souza family to take down the sheets of aluminum covering their house. The family said the sheet metal was there to stop unspecified neighbors from bombarding them with radio waves, which they claimed had caused them ailments including headaches and lupus.

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

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