Taking hold of the imagination

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A group of athletes and administrators of the traditional Turkish sport of oil wrestling (grappling contests made more interesting by heavy applications of olive oil) protested to the government in April when they discovered that an organization of gay men was planning an ogling expedition to a major tournament to be held in July near the city of Edirne. (According to a Reuters news service reporter, "Putting a hand down the opponent's trousers to get a better grip is a common tactic.")

Sibling robbery

The chief justice of oil-rich Brunei ruled in March that Prince Jefri, the 46-year-old brother of the Sultan of Brunei, was entitled to an allowance of about $300,000 a month while awaiting trial on the Sultan's charges that Jefri misspent $15 billion while in charge of the country's investments. A preliminary audit showed that playboy Jefri had bought himself $2.7 billion worth of toys over the course of 10 years, including 17 airplanes, 2,000 cars and a huge yacht that he named "Tits" (and whose two dinghies he named "Nipple 1" and "Nipple 2" ).

Silent signals

In November, Chicago's TV Channel 7 lost sound for 25 minutes on the final night of the crucial ratings "sweeps" week when cleaning-service personnel plugged a floor buffer into the station's master control outlet, overpowering an audio circuit and driving away 40 percent of the prime-time audience.

Political football

After the Ivory Coast's soccer team was eliminated from the African Nations Cup in January, the country's military ruler, Gen. Robert Guei, had the team arrested and put in a military prison for two days. Addressing the players, Guei said, "I asked that you be taken there so you reflect awhile. Next time `if you play badly` you will stay there for military service ... until a sense of civic pride gets into your heads."

Tips for tarts

In January, a city-funded community organization in Philadelphia published a pamphlet of health-and-safety tips for prostitutes. Among its recommendations: always getting on top, negotiating price before getting into a car and getting the money in advance. Also in January, a member of the Canadian Parliament released a list of recent pamphlets directly funded by the government, including "How to Communicate With the Dead," "How to Stimulate the G-spot" and "How to Understand and Enjoy an Orgasm."

Smoke signals

Despite many anti-smoking programs sponsored by the U.S. government, a Senate subcommittee found last year that the Department of Housing and Urban Development had spent $4.2 million since 1996 to help American Indians build discount cigarette stores as part of the federal community block-grant program. (In April 2000, legislation was introduced in the Senate to end the practice.)

No legal leg to stand on

After four hearings in three years, a New York state administrative law judge ruled in January that Brooklynite Krystyna Maliszewska, 51, was not eligible for worker compensation because she had not provided the proper "medical evidence" that her leg had been amputated (even though voluminous hospital records were in her file). Maliszewska attended each hearing and could have displayed her artificial leg and the stump that ends at her right knee, but was never even asked to speak. (After a February New York Daily News story, the state quickly reopened the case.)

Leftover affection

Wynema Faye Shumate, 65, was arrested in Ladson, S.C., in March on two charges of mishandling a dead body. The case came to light when a 27-year-old Englishman flew to America to marry Shumate after a hot Internet romance but discovered that she was not the 30-something woman she had portrayed online. According to police, when the man asked Shumate if she had other surprises, she told him about the carved-up body in her freezer. It was the remains of her male former housemate, who Shumate said had died the year before of natural causes. Shumate was cleared of causing the death, but according to the Englishman, the wedding is off.

Feline and dandy

A judge in Fairfax County, Va., told U.S. Navy program analyst Kristin Kierig in November that she could keep the 104 cats that share her Annandale, Va., townhouse because the home is apparently clean and the cats are well groomed and in good health. Kierig produced medical records for the cats, showed that she cleans their 101 litter boxes twice a day while keeping their 15 water bowls and 20 food bowls stocked, and said she can recognize each cat by name. She did confess, however, that her house might have an "odor."

The beatin' path

In March, Benjamin Thomas Douglas, 34, was sentenced to 180 days in jail for the latest in what police call a series of public-masturbation incidents perpetrated in the middle of department stores in Dallas and its suburbs of Plano and Mesquite. And the month before that, Philadelphia police were hunting a man in his early 20s who had masturbated at area fast-food outlets over a four-month period; in each case, according to the police reports, the man reached a climax quickly and then left without his order.

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