Lead Story

In March at the Dorchester Hotel in London, Awards World magazine hosted the inaugural Awards Awards, handing out prizes to members of the British awards-presentation industry. (As spokesperson Barbara Buchanan explained, “Everybody likes to win an award.”) The industry staged an estimated 18,000 ceremonies last year, from humble affairs like Rescue Cat of the Year to glamorous blowouts like the Baftas. The Awards Awards were widely judged a success, but this year’s program has been disqualified from consideration at next year’s gala–that is, the Awards Awards can’t win an Awards Award.

Yogis in the News

In February a national nonprofit organization of yoga instructors and enthusiasts filed a lawsuit in San Francisco against celebrity yogi Bikram Choudhury (creator of the trendy Bikram style), challenging his right to trademark yoga positions and harass independent studios with threats of exorbitant fines. They claim yoga is a 5,000-year-old tradition and can’t be owned; he counters that he’s copyrighted only his special sequence of positions, not the positions themselves. “I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each,” Choudhury said in a 2002 interview for Business 2.0 magazine. “Nobody fucks with me.”

Finer Points of Privacy Law

In January in Silver Spring, Maryland, a woman was billed $17,000 by Washington Hospital Center for care rendered to a person it would not name. She was afraid the patient was her husband–he’d been missing for more than two weeks–but the hospital, citing federal privacy rules, forced her to wait another day for the information. (The patient had indeed been her husband, who’d died in the hospital after being struck by a hit-and-run driver.) No one could adequately explain why the bill had reached the man’s family, but the police had been unable to find them to deliver news of the accident.

In January in Nashville, Tennessee, public schools stopped posting honor rolls, in order to comply with state privacy laws that bar schools from releasing academic information about a student without parental consent. “Not on the honor roll” counts as academic information, as does “on the honor roll”–so every single student’s parents would have to give permission before such a list could be made public.

Can’t Possibly Be True

In March a court in Ansbach, Germany, rebuffed a 43-year-old unemployed man who insisted that, because his social services benefits weren’t enough to fly his wife back from her native Thailand and the government had declined to buy her a ticket, he was therefore entitled to state money to provide for his sexual gratification in her absence: he wanted money for four visits to a brothel and eight pornographic videos each month, plus condoms and a masturbation appliance.

In February social workers found a feral family of six living in a corrugated-metal shed on a large farm near Theunissen, South Africa, where they’d been left almost completely alone for more than 20 years. Only the father spoke a recognizable language; the four children (ages 14 to 26) communicated with gestures and grunts and had never met anyone outside the family–they simply ran into the hills whenever the rare visitor approached. One boy walked on all fours, like a monkey or frog; another had never slept indoors. The father insisted that the kids had been normal till age ten, and guessed that their present condition was his ancestors’ way of punishing him for his failure to perform the traditional sacrifice of a sheep to celebrate each child’s birth.

The January issue of the Indian Journal of Chest Diseases and Allied Sciences described the case of a 27-year-old woman with an unshakable cough, which had resisted antibiotics and other drug treatments for six months; videobronchoscopy revealed a condom lodged in the upper lobe of her right lung. (Afterward she admitted that she’d accidentally inhaled it during fellatio.)

In December in Youngsville, Louisiana, a teacher at Ernest Gallet Elementary scolded seven-year-old Marcus McLaurin for using a “bad word” and sent him to a behavior clinic after she overheard him explaining that his mother is “gay” (which he defined as “when a girl likes another girl”). Marcus’s mother is, in fact, a lesbian.

Least Competent Criminals

In December in Chesapeake, Virginia, a man attempted to rob a BB&T bank by passing a holdup note to a teller, but the teller read it, said “I can’t accept this,” and politely passed it back. The frustrated robber pushed the note through a second time, whereupon the teller wadded it up and tossed it back at him. He picked it up and walked out.

In February the attempted robbery of a liquor store in Greenville, South Carolina, was aborted when the thief told the clerk to empty the register and she simply ran out of the store; he’d been pointing his bare index finger at her, simulating a gun.

In the Last Month

A Catholic catechism instructor was awarded more than $950,000 from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for injuries she suffered when a priest allegedly punched her during a discussion of teaching techniques. And the San Jose Mercury News reported that teachers at many California schools are offering extra credit to students who bring in certain classroom supplies–facial tissue, paper towels, dry-erase markers–that have been dropped from shrinking school budgets.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.