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A short cut to fame



Las Vegas body modifier Nathan McKay, 24, complained in November about the difficulty of getting proper medical care: further surgery to prevent his already surgically forked tongue from fusing back together and removal of all teeth (and replacement with platinum implants). Said McKay, who also has 1-inch-stretched holes in his earlobes (for holding ebony disks): "I want my tongue split ... as far back as possible, to the uvula, so I have two separate strands in my mouth." The original surgeon was a family friend, but he has balked at the follow-up. Said McKay, "I'm not trying to turn myself into anything except someone to remember."

Where the streets have no blame

In arguments to a federal appeals court, convicted drug dealer Jorge M. Lopeztegui claimed he was not guilty by reason of entrapment, which he said Wisconsin drug agents committed by not arresting him despite having enough evidence to do so, with the result being that he therefore felt free to commit more crimes. (Lopeztegui's appeal was rejected in October.)

Make the world go away

London's The Independent reported from Tokyo in December on the prolonged, even "epic" sulk (a state of funk called hikikomori) that afflicts a million young professionals, who simply withdraw from their careers and hole up nearly 24 hours a day in their apartments (or rooms in the family home) for months at a time, emerging only to gather food before retreating back inside for TV or other solitary pastimes. Many psychiatrists call it merely an extreme reaction to parents who have pressured their sons to succeed.

Child custody

Girls, ages 10 and 5, were harnessed together daily in a motel room while stepfather was at work (Des Moines, Iowa, September). Girl, 7, kept in a clothes dryer daily for weeks by foster mother (Ottawa, Ontario, September). Boys, 2 and 6, put into tumbling clothes dryers as punishment by mother's boyfriend and mother, respectively (Chicago, October; Niles, Mich., November). Boys, age 17 and 12, chained to bedpost by father, who, citing Proverbs, said he feared they "will grow up and kill their parents" (Riverside, Calif., October). Girl, 16, chained up by father for fear of promiscuity (Corpus Christi, Texas, October). Boys, 5 and 7, kept in trunk of car while mother was at work (San Jose, Calif., November).

The road to excess

According to an October report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the city's leading traffic-ticket scofflaw is Thomas Wehrer (250 tickets outstanding, totaling $16,375), who is angry at the city's having changed its rules for collection. Previously, tickets were filed by vehicle so Wehrer would drive junk cars and abandon them with impunity. Recently, the city began filing tickets by owner, making it worthwhile to pursue Wehrer, who claims that's unfair, in that by having continued to register Wehrer's junkers, the city "enabled" his ticket-accumulation habit. (Wehrer also argues that he's a good citizen: Whenever he parks illegally beside a fire hydrant, he leaves the windows down so firefighters could run their hoses through the car.)

Open and shut-eye case

In October, a federal appeals court refused to grant a new trial to Texas death-row inmate Calvin Burdine despite evidence that Burdine's lawyer slept during portions of his trial. The court said it was unable to determine exactly when the lawyer slept and thus that he might have slept only during unimportant parts.

Judgment day

Diane Tuzzolino told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter in November that Cook County Judge James T. Ryan, swearing in as witnesses her daughters, ages 8 and 12, in a fee dispute with an animal hospital, told the girls, "If you lie [on the witness stand], you will go to hell." Judge Ryan said he was simply carrying out state law, which requires judges to make sure children know the consequences of lying.

Roped into it

A Texas judicial discipline panel issued a public reprimand in April to a former judge, Robert Hollman, who heard child-support actions in Odessa until he resigned early in 2000 following a female employee's sexual-harassment complaint. According to the panel, Hollman played an almost-daily, nonconsensual "bondage game" with the woman in which he bound her hands and ankles together and gagged her and then timed her as to how quickly she could escape.

The seen of the crime

In The Bar, Norwegian television's version of "Survivor," 10 participants live and work together for 10 weeks, tracked by video cameras 24 hours a day on the Internet (with highlights shown each evening on television). In October, a 44-year-old man was arrested after he happened to choose, of all apartments to burglarize, the participants' home, while all were at work. As the man moved around the apartment gathering valuables, he was shown on 17 video cameras, and show staff rushed to the apartment and captured him after catching a glimpse on the Internet.

High expectations

The San Francisco Ballet School denied illegally discriminating against an 8-year-old applicant when it rejected her because it guessed she wouldn't become a tall enough adult to be a first-class ballerina. And a Japanese rail line scheduled some female-only cars during December to head off an expected epidemic of passenger-groping by holiday-reveling men.

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