University of Toronto professor Steve Mann, 39, has for 20 years worn computer components on his body for ongoing research and even calls himself a cyborg, and carries enough documentation that he had never (even after Sept. 11) caused problems with airport security. (He wears computerized glasses and headgear and an electronic body suit; is constantly connected to the Internet; can see behind him; and can "feel" items across a room.) However, on Feb. 18, officials at St. John's, Newfoundland, airport would not let him board for two days while searching and testing him and making background checks. When they OK'd him on Feb. 20, about $50,000 worth of his equipment had been broken, and he was bleeding from having his chest electrodes removed. Two weeks later, Mann filed a lawsuit against Air Canada and Canada's transportation authority.
As a longstanding part of his lecture on "assault and battery," University of Virginia torts professor Kenneth Abraham said he gently taps the shoulder of a student at random in his class to illustrate the principle that even negligible unwanted contact can be costly if the victim is uniquely vulnerable in ways that no one could have expected. Indeed, Abraham did not know that a student he tapped recently, Marta Sanchez, had been raped a while back and that the tap apparently triggered fear and stress. In March, Sanchez filed a $35,000 lawsuit against Abraham, claiming that the tap constituted assault and battery.
A 2002 Oregon law makes owners of partly electric cars pay $15 more to register them than owners of gas-guzzlers pay to register theirs, in order to replace the gasoline taxes the environment-conscious motorists are saving by driving fuel-efficient cars.
Last Christmas season, to demonstrate "fertilization" of the earth, the Copia art emporium in Napa, Calif., exhibited 35 squatting, butt-baring figurines by Spanish artist Antoni Miralda (including nuns, angels, Santa Claus and the pope). A Copia spokesperson said placing such defecating statuettes in Nativity scenes is a traditional activity in the Catalonia region of Spain.
In March, the cat belonging to avant-garde British artist Tracey Emin ran away, prompting Emin to create fliers to nail up around the neighborhood asking for help finding it. When neighbors realized that the missing cat was Emin's, her posters began disappearing and were being offered on the street for as much as about $800. A spokesperson for East London's White Cube gallery, who is sometimes in the position of defending Emin from critics who deny that her work qualifies as "art" (Emin's most famous piece was a messy bed), told reporters that the poster was not art, even though the public might regard it as art.
Postage and handling
The U.S. Postal Service revealed in March that 10 men had been convicted as part of an Internet group that exchanged videos of themselves administering beatings to children (often their own). One man wanted to join the club but lacked an authentic video and so made one of himself administering corporal punishment to a small mannequin. Among the group: a middle-school teacher, a former Boy Scout leader and a former Sunday school teacher.
Carol Urness, a recently retired University of Minnesota librarian, opened a used-book store in February in St. Anthony, Minn., consisting of about 1,000 books from her own collection, but told a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter that often she refuses to sell a book on the shelf because she can't stand to part with it. "The first day, a woman walked in and bought three books," she said, "and I about had a stroke." "This bookstore is hard to find," she added, "and once you get here, it's almost impossible to buy anything."
All worked up
A nursing home in Miami complained that the unionizing vote by its workers last month should be overturned since someone put a series of voodoo signs around the workplace, thus frightening the home's large Haitian-American work force.
This spells trouble
The letter in which Texas gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez thanked the Texas State Teachers Association for its endorsement contained run-on sentences, a dangling modifier, a subject-verb disagreement, and the word "Ã?gonernor."
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