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Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008

A Real Slap in the Face

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A teacher at Yamata Elementary School in Yokohama, Japan, was disciplined in January following a report that she improperly punished her entire class because a few students would not come to order. Officials said she lined up all of her students and then proceeded to walk down the row, slapping each one in the face.

Cultural Diversity
When Japanese parents receive a gift in celebration of a newborn, they are customarily obligated to give a lesser present in return. The Yoshimiya rice shop in Fukuoka recently created the ideal return gift: small bags of rice of the exact weight of the baby, printed with its face and name, so that original gift-givers (relatives, friends) can experience cuddling “the baby.” Then, according to Yoshimiya’s owner, they can break open the bag and eat the rice—though he admitted that some people have a problem with that.

There is usually a well-stocked Red Cross tent when the January “corralejas” (amateur bullfights) take place in towns in the Colombian countryside, reported The New York Times in January. “This year was calm, no deaths yet,” said a newscaster in Sincelejo. Hundreds of wannabe matadors jump into makeshift rings— some sponsored by local merchants; some because they are inebriated, or sober and foolish; some gaudily dressed; and some in bunches (with one group even picnicking). “This is about the ecstasy of escaping death,” said one local.

Family Values
(1) Geraldine Magda, 44, was arrested in Austin, Minn., in January, following a nursing-home visit to hold the hand of her dying sister in her final hours. Magda was charged with stealing the wedding ring from her sister’s finger during the hand-holding. (2) A Chicago man traveled to Sheboygan, Wis., in December to finally meet the 18-year-old woman who was his biological daughter. But during the same visit, he was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting her while she was sleeping.

Least Competent Criminals
More Questionable Judgments: (1) According to the San Francisco Chronicle, David Holland, 46, gave a DNA sample last year to police in San Jose, Calif., to help resolve murder charges against his brother, but was then arrested for a previously unsolved 2001 rape when his DNA sample matched that left behind by the rapist. (2) Edward Debrow of San Antonio, Texas, appealed a 27-year sentence for a 1992 murder conviction, saying that the penalty was too harsh. After a Texas appeals court granted his challenge and ordered a re-sentencing in October, a judge sentenced him to 40 years in prison. [KSAT-TV (San Antonio), Oct. 24, 2007]

Recurring Themes
Awesome Capacities: When Jason Panchalk, 36, arrived at the Pima County (Arizona) jail in December, facing a charge of trafficking in stolen property, he came prepared. According to a jailer, Panchalk was carrying “some syringes, matches, lighter, heroin, marijuana and an assortment of pills,” all inside his rectum.

And in October, court officials in Cork, Ireland, who were suspicious of a defendant’s demeanor, had him medically examined. According to a report in the Irish Independent, doctors found a mobile phone, SIM card and charger, all wrapped in foil and coated with lubricant, inside his rectum.

Least Justifiable Homicides
David Thomson, 49, was convicted in Edinburgh, Scotland, of smothering his mom to death after she taunted him for his inept suicide attempt several weeks before (October). In Sydney, Australia, a man was charged with beating a neighbor to death because the neighbor was watering his lawn in violation of the city’s water restrictions (October). The boss of a factory in North Korea was executed by firing squad before 150,000 people in a South Pyongan province stadium after he was convicted of illegally making international telephone calls (November).

Latest Religious Messages
Lord Balaji was a popular Hindu god for locals in Hyderabad, India, believed to be responsible for prosperity in general. A few years ago, however, a priest noticed that many of his worshippers were complaining that valuable U.S. professional “H-1B” visas were harder to get. Overnight, Balaji was transformed from a purveyor of general prosperity to the “visa god,” specializing in lucky H- 1Bs, and the temple now draws 100,000 visitors a week. According to a Wall Street Journal report in December, one visitor said, “I’ve never heard of anyone who’s gone to the temple whose visa (application) got rejected”—even though typical advice from priest C.S. Gopala Krishna is simply to walk around the temple 11 times.

2008 Chuck Shepherd