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Crash course in fashion 

A December Wall Street Journal report described the problems of auto manufacturers forced to crash-test their cars using mannequins not only of government-dictated sizes and weight but wearing clothing prescribed in minute detail by regulation. Included are requirements that the dummies wear shoes of a precise weight and a black-leather style, that "adults" wear matched sets of cotton shirts and form-fitting shorts, that a "child" must wear "thermal knit, waffle-weave polyester and cotton underwear or equivalent," with size 7M sneakers, with "rubber toe caps, uppers of Dacron and cotton or nylon and a total mass of .453 kg." Only recently did the government drop its requirement that all adult clothes be of the color "tea rose" and that all shoes be gray suede.

Time insensitive

According to Kenya's largest newspaper, the Daily Nation, the government in October formed a committee to study potential problems with the country's computers' regarding the Jan. 1, 2000, date change. The report and recommendations were ordered published within 18 months, which would be April 18, 2000.

Chemical defendant

Since 1996, accused murderer Eric Brown has been rendered incompetent, by paranoid schizophrenia, to stand trial, but officials at Bridgewater State Hospital in Massachusetts said recently that he had made enough progress while on medication that a trial can be scheduled. However, in December, Brown demanded to be taken off medication so he can return to his prior psychotic state in order to demonstrate that he is insane and thus a better candidate to be found not guilty. His psychiatrist is opposed, citing medical ethics prohibiting him from making Brown's illness worse.

Jesus engraves

A December Newhouse News Service dispatch reported on the new fascination with tattooing among some younger evangelical Christians, who decorate themselves contrary to the teachings of the book of Leviticus, which in the last millennium was cited as the basis of calling tattooing "a form of deviltry." (On the other hand, supporters point out, the books of Exodus and Revelation describe holy symbols on the bodies of believers.) A religious female graduate student in California, interviewed for the article, said that among her tattoos was an angel, on her butt.

Win-win litigation

In 1997, four years after being convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl, inmate Graylon Bell won $200,000 from a jury against the Indiana Department of Correction for being raped by his cellmate at a Plainfield, Ind., youth facility. In December 1998, Bell and the girl's family reached a settlement in her lawsuit to get part of the money. (Only $31,500 remained, after lawyers' fees, of which she will receive $26,500.)

Cause for alarm

An inadvertent glitch in the recent earthquake-proof construction at Barnstable (Mass.) High School: The building is so solidly soundproof that students could not hear ordinary fire alarms, and for the first month of this school year (until the problem was fixed), the school board was forced to hire firefighters on overtime to stand guard in the building to alert everyone in case of fire, at a total cost of about $1,000 a day.

By the book

By the book

According to a December New York Times report, residents of the unincorporated community called Brooksville, Ala., are gathering signatures to create an official town based on the Bible and the Ten Commandments, bringing together church and state, which are supposedly constitutionally separate. Sinners would be welcome but expected to observe public behavior codes and might have to attend church services to have their votes counted because many of the town's decisions would be made there. In contrast, El Paso (Texas) County officials in November got a court order decertifying the town of Buford, calling it a sham set up to protect virtually its only "residents": a dozen adult bookstores and strip clubs that have, in the 36 years of Buford's existence, been exempt from county regulation.

Problem licked

At the start of a September meeting of the Republican Party in Lawrence, Kan., when attendees realized there was no U.S. flag to which they could offer the traditional pledge of allegiance, the chairman solved the dilemma by unfurling a roll of 32-cent flag stamps at the front of the room.

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