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Prison freedom:
Alberta (Canada) judge Shelagh Creagh ruled in October that prison inmate Shane Arthur Wilson could not be punished for carrying around a homemade plastic knife since Wilson said the knife was only for defending himself against prison gangs. This, and a similar decision currently being appealed by another Alberta judge have predictably outraged prison guards across Canada. And a November Washington Post dispatch from Mexico reports that escaping from prison is not a crime in that country (nor is running away from police or lying about guilt) because, as one Supreme Court justice put it, Mexico respects the individual's "basic desire for freedom."

Hairy situation:
Police in Mansfield Township and Hackettstown, N.J., charged Emmanuel Nieves, 23, with aggravated assault Nov. 13 after he allegedly slashed the face of his friend Erik Saporito, 21, as the two men fought after arguing over which one had more hair on his buttocks.

Latest mature government officials:
Sumpter Township, Mich., Supervisor Elmer Parraghi, 74, and Finance Director Dwayne Seals, 35, habitually, viciously feuding about business issues, recently obtained judicial restraining orders against each other, even though both work in a four-office building. And in September during the annual, vituperative Miami-Dade County (Fla.) budget hearing, Commissioner Natacha Seijas snapped at Chairwoman Gwen Margolis for interrupting her: "You're going to leave here in a body bag if you keep this up." And in June (according to telephone records obtained by the Tulsa World newspaper), Oklahoma State Rep. Chad Stites angrily told a Tulsa official whose department was badgering him about code violations on Stites' property that he would "neuter you sons of a (sic) bitches."

He's skatin' now:
In September, Robert Rozenhart, now 56, won his 7-year-old lawsuit against Skier's Sportshop (Edmonton, Alberta) for injuries suffered on his maiden attempt to inline skate, which came after a Skier's employee tried unsuccessfully to tell Rozenhart not to venture out until the store's instructor arrived to help him. Rozenhart skated away anyway, and was on a downward incline when he first realized he did not know how to stop.

A hands-on job:
Conscientious workers at the ARO Campulung auto plant in Romania offered in October to help pay off the company's debts by selling their sperm to a fertility clinic in the city of Timisoara, at the equivalent of (U.S.) $50 a session. Said the plant's union leader, "We have found (a solution) that even the best economists have never thought of." (However, to pay the equivalent (U.S.) $20 million debt in full would require 400,000 sessions, or 400 sessions for each of the 1,000 males at the plant.)

Latest politically correct thinking:
In October, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child told Great Britain it should repeal its parental-right-to-spank law because spanking violates an international corporal-punishment treaty (which the U.S. has declined to honor, as well). In September, the North Tyneside (England) Council advised a local business group not to hold the annual children's Christmas caroling contest this year because it would be a bad experience for the kids who did not win. In October, Mayor Shelton Richardson of North Randall, Ohio, charging racism, proposed to make it illegal for any gas station to make customers pay before pumping (despite a marked recent increase in customer "drive-offs").

Our civilization in decline:
Officials at Somerville (N.J.) High School warned students in October to stop trying to get high by choking each other into unconsciousness. (With the so-called "California Knockout," a student holds his breath for 10 seconds to get light-headed, after which a pal squeezes his neck to put him out.) And University of Pennsylvania researchers found that the average price of a black-market human kidney in India has dropped (despite insufficient supply) from the equivalent of (U.S.) $1,603 to $975, suggesting that wealthier, kidney-needing people have learned how to put the squeeze on impoverished donors.

2002 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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