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Genetic modification art, cult queens and more 

LEAD STORY: In April at a New York City gallery, the Australian performance artist Stelarc starred in a video of his surgery in which an ear is implanted into his left forearm (right now, just a prosthesis, but to which stem cells will be added), which will house an Internet-accessed, Bluetooth-capable microphone. "Post-evolutionary strategies" are required, Stelarc told the New York Times, because the current state of the body is obsolete. Other exhibits at the Corpus Extremus (LIFE+) exhibit included a genetically modified goat that produces super-strong spider's silk. In an earlier project, Stelarc wired half his muscles to computers in Paris, Helsinki and Amsterdam, to understand a semi-controllable "split-body experience." Stelarc's self-appraisal: "[I'm] never in [my] comfort zone."
            
THINGS PEOPLE BELIEVE: Baltimore prosecutors were stuck in their case against cult leader "Queen Antoinette," 40, whom they had charged in the starvation death of a young boy who was being punished for failing to say "Amen" at meal time. They would need the cooperation of the boy's mother, cult member Ria Ramkissoon, 22, but she was refusing to flip on the Queen, whom she believed would eventually resurrect her son from the dead. Finally in March, the judge announced a breakthrough: Ramkissoon would cooperate, but prosecutors would promise in writing to drop all charges if the Queen eventually brings the boy back.
            
CAN'T POSSIBLY BE TRUE: "You use the toilet every day. Imagine if you could start pouring a little gasoline into the toilet bowl and get 50 cents a gallon [as a tax credit from IRS] every time you flushed." According to a hedge fund analyst (quoted by the Nation magazine for an April story), that's the way Congress' 2005 legislation to encourage "alternative" fuels has been exploited by the paper industry. Company representatives have until now been proud that the paper industry supplied most of its own fuel, as a by-product of making paper, but when it discovered the tax credit, it reworked its factories to accept a mixture of the incumbent by-product and ordinary diesel fuel, thus creating an "alternative" fuel and earning the credit, which, for example, was worth $71.6 million to International Paper Co. in March and is not scheduled to expire until December.
    Italian researchers revealed in March that at least one method of increasing penis size actually works (but that it would take a highly motivated man to take advantage of it). Writing in the British Journal of Urology, a team from the University of Turin had volunteers attach weights of from 1.3 to 2.6 pounds for six hours a day for a six-month period and found that their flaccid-state lengths increased by an average of almost 1 inch.
    Retired rogue New York City police detectives Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, who were convicted in 2006 of assisting the Mafia for many years (including with assassinations), were sentenced to life in prison plus 80 to 100 additional years. Because the men retired from the force before they had been charged with crimes, however, they are entitled by law to their lifetime pensions of $5,313 a month and $3,896 a month, respectively.
    Army Sgt. Erik Roberts, 25, was injured in Baghdad in 2006 by a roadside bomb, and his leg required 12 surgeries before supposedly healing, but last year a life-threatening infection was discovered in the leg. Roberts underwent a 13th surgery that was covered by his private health insurance, but a costly, rigorous antibiotics regimen was subject to a $3,000 co-pay, which Roberts asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to take care of, but the agency repeatedly refused, in that Roberts had gone outside the "system" to save his war-ravaged leg. Only when a CNN reporter called the matter to the attention of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio in March did the agency relent.
            
UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT: The website InformationAgePrayer.com offers, for people too busy to speak to God themselves, a daily service of invocations (using voice-synthesizing software) for Catholics, Protestants, Jews or Muslims. Starting each day "reciting" the Lord's Prayer (or the Islamic Fajr) is $3.95 a month. Hail Marys are 70 cents a day for 10. A Complete Rosary Package is $49.95 a month. Each prayer is voiced individually, according to a March report on LiveScience.com, with the subscriber's name on the screen, and for Muslim prayers, the computer's speakers point toward Mecca.
    A 2008 report on crime at U.S. colleges listed the University of California at Davis as having the fifth-worst rate in the country, and among the University of California system, Davis' rate of sexual assaults was higher than the other schools' rates combined. Nevertheless, in February, according to Sacramento's KTXL-TV/Channel 40, the school's Student Judicial Affairs organization boasted of the record, claiming that it demonstrates the "openness" of the campus, in that students feel "comfortable" enough to report sex crimes.
            
BRIGHT IDEAS: Coming Soon to Reality TV: The CMT cable channel has scheduled an August start-up for "Runnin' Wild ... From Ted Nugent," in which the rock singer, hunter and uninhibited gun advocate will spend five episodes training three novices on how to survive in the woods, and then, in the final episodes, Nugent and his 18-year-old son will go hunt them down, with the last one to avoid capture declared the winner.
            
PEOPLE WHO SHOULD HAVE LEFT WELL-ENOUGH ALONE: In April, sex offender Barry Whaley was under suspicion for failing to register his new address but made things much worse. Being questioned at a police station in Fairbanks, Alaska, he asked an officer to retrieve a laptop computer from his car so that it would not get stolen, and when the officer brought it to him, Whaley mentioned an "amazing" flight simulator program he had been using, which the officer asked to see. As Whaley powered up the computer, a video of child pornography appeared, and Whaley was arrested.  
    In April, police in Copley Township, Ohio, were called to a restaurant where Erik Salmons, 39, was allegedly intoxicated and annoying customers. Officers declined to arrest him but did insist that he call someone for a ride home, and Salmons complied. However, at home, Salmons decided that he was insulted at being thought of as intoxicated and so drove himself to the police station and demanded a breathalyzer test, which of course he failed, and he was arrested.
            
RECURRING THEMES: People Different From Us: 1) Howard Sheppard, 30, of Deltona, Fla., was sent to Florida Hospital DeLand in January after he found some bullets on the ground and experimented to see what would happen if he struck one with a metal punch. (He got shot in the arm.) 2) Eric Fortune, 19, was sent to the Ashtabula County (Ohio) Medical Center in March after nagging his brother into shooting him in the leg. According to a police report, Fortune had told the brother that he had always wondered what it was like to get shot. (It was so painful that he cried.)
            
A NEWS OF THE WEIRD CLASSIC (MARCH 2000): Recidivist unlicensed surgeon John Ronald Brown, 75, was convicted in 1999 in San Diego of causing the death of an 80-year-old man who had consented to have Brown amputate a healthy leg, thus bringing to the attention of many people the mental disorder of apotemnophilia, or body identity integrity disorder, which is a sexual or sexual-like gratification from the removal of a normal limb regarded as ugly or superfluous. Very few licensed doctors will perform the surgery, and Brown's license had been revoked 20 years earlier after botched transsexual operations, but he continued to attract patients who had no other option if they felt desperate to improve their look.
© 2009 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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