The long and short of it

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Doctors in England are under criticism, according to a November report in Canada's National Post, for having performed a leg-stretching surgery on Emma Richards, 16, apparently only for the purpose of making her happier about her height. She had aspired to be a flight attendant (minimum height: 5-foot-3) but had stopped growing at 4-foot-9. Surgeons fractured her femurs and inserted pins to gradually separate the pieces so that bone material would grow internally to fuse the pieces back together. (In the 10 months since the operation, she has grown five inches but also has endured a bad infection and two unintentional fractures.)

A business proposition

The Netherlands legalized prostitution in October (before that, it was merely tolerated), but also began regulating it as any other business. Among the workplace safety regulations applied to brothels: a well-lighted premises, the banning of carpets (too hard to clean), and separate showers and changing rooms for males and females. Also, prostitutes, like other "professionals," are required to register for consumer-protection purposes with chambers of commerce, which routinely make such lists available to the public.

Becoming piss poor

In September, engineers reported that the mecca of Brazilian "futbol," Maracana stadium, is corroding in places because so many fans, unwilling to miss a few minutes' action by queuing up at the rest rooms, relieve themselves on the terraces. Also in a September international incident, Macedonian soldiers captured a very modest Albanian border officer who had wandered across the line; he said Macedonia-side trees provided better cover to answer nature's call than the sparse vegetation on his own side. Also in September, a 35-year-old man was convicted by a Nara, Japan, court for reaching into the next stall at a public rest room, which was occupied, maneuvering a wire and cup contraption, and scooping out freshly deposited urine, which he told the judge he needed for a skin condition.

Plain as the nose on your face

In September, the New York Times reported on a rhinoplasty fad among upscale Iranian women. Since Islam requires almost every part of women's bodies to be covered in public, getting a nose job has become virtually the only way in which Iran's conspicuous consumers can effectively avail themselves of plastic surgery. According to the Times, even the post-surgical bandages are seen as indicators of wealth.

And justice fur all

Wilton Rabon told reporters in Seattle in September that he had no intention of dropping his seven-year-long appeal (that would be 49 in canine years) to get his Lhasa apso dog back. The dog, named Word, was declared vicious and impounded on "death row" in May 1993, but the matter has been tied up in court since then, with Rabon visiting Word's pen yet unwilling to accept a compromise (exiling Word to faraway, wide-open spaces).

Time for extensions?

Rome hairdresser Vittorio Giunta has created a stir this year by defiantly keeping his salon open past the decades-old, mandated closing time of 7 p.m., which he does sometimes so customers can get haircuts during a full moon, which some believe is part of the same superstition that says crops grow faster during a full moon. According to a June New York Times report, the hours of operation of hairdressers and other artisans are rigidly controlled, which opponents say limits competition and proponents say allows the luxury of not having to work so hard.

Don't let the dog out

In October, Jerry Ekandjo, Namibia's home affairs minister, told police academy graduates in the capital city of Windhoek that constables must "eliminate [gays and lesbians] from the face of Namibia" and must also kill any "gay dog" that belonged to a gay or lesbian. (George Stephens Finley, 58, was convicted in June in Ocala, Fla., of killing his male poodle-Yorkie because he thought it was gay; it had become very playful with the other male family dog.)

Best thing since sliced bread

News of the Weird reported the January 2000 arrest of Samuel Feldman after a three-year, $8,000 spree of squeezing and smashing packages of bread and cookies in various Bucks County, Pa., supermarkets (and who was finally caught by a hidden camera). Feldman argued that he was simply a finicky shopper, but Judge David Heckler found him guilty in September and told him to get help for this urge to mutilate bakery products. At a November sentencing hearing, Heckler exploded when informed that Feldman was continuing to deny guilt. After consulting his lawyer, Feldman admitted he had "a problem" and promised his wife would monitor his supermarket visits.

Stolen glances

According to police in Pawtucket, R.I., Eugene Allen, 29, and his brother, Kenneth Bartelson, 35, were caught robbing an apartment's inhabitants in October. They were done in by Allen, who was assigned to be the lookout despite being legally blind; he failed to notice approaching police and then thought he was talking to his brother when he was actually talking to a neighbor.

Smooch negotiations

A 15-year-old girl in Skokie, Ill., pleaded guilty to assault for beating up her 18-year-old ex-boyfriend (blackening both eyes) because she was mad that he would not kiss her after their prom last May.

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