Big-time traffickers who smuggle illegal immigrants into the U.S. from Mexico rely on GPS devices to evade the Border Patrol, but starting in June, border-jumpers who travel on their own can have protection, too. Three University of California, San Diego faculty members have designed inexpensive cell phones with special software to locate water, churches and medical facilities in the treacherous Southwest desert (while avoiding law enforcement) and will give the devices to Mexican charities. The phones, which will also feature “welcome to the U.S.” poetry, are expected to save the lives of many of the hundreds who die each year on their dangerous journeys, but illegal-immigration protesters are demanding that the academics be arrested for assisting in crimes.
PUTS NAGGING IN PERSPECTIVE
A man identified in China’s Chongqing Evening News in November as Mr. Zhang, 32, admitted he is competitive with his wife and “never wants to lose an argument,” but inevitably his contentiousness leaves him with “bruises and scars all over” because Mrs. Zhang is a kung fu master. After negotiations led by Mrs. Zhang’s parents, she agreed by contract to limit any beatings to no more than once a week, with a parent-administered penalty for exceeding that.
American Jonathan Littell was awarded the 2009 “Bad Sex in Fiction” award by Britain’s prestigious Literary Review, having written passages like these in his novel The Kindly Ones: “I [climaxed] suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg.” Later: A woman’s genitalia resembles “a Gorgon’s head…a motionless Cyclops whose single eye never blinks. If only I could still get hard, I thought, I could use my [organ] like a stake hardened in the fire, and blind this Polyphemus who made me Nobody. But my [organ] remained inert, I seemed turned to stone.”
The Kirklees (West Yorkshire, England) Environmental Health department cited farmer Ronald Norcliffe, 65, in 2008 for inadequate lighting in his barn, which inspectors said failed to meet the “psychological needs” of his one cow and her calf. In his formal appeal, heard in October 2009, Norcliffe noted (unsuccessfully) that he has had a clean record as a farmer for 30 years and that, in fact, he still lives without electricity in his own house. After his defeat, Norcliffe’s lawyer sighed, “I still have no idea how much lighting is appropriate for a cow.”
WHEN THEY SAY ‘TRIAL OF THE CENTURY,’ THEY MEAN IT
In December, a court in Istanbul, Turkey, found 39 people guilty of trying to overthrow the government after a trial that lasted, on and off, for 28 years. More than 1,000 defendants had been rounded up after challenging a 1980 military coup. The original trial lasted 10 years, but the case languished in an appeals court for 13 years while judges awaited 100 folders of evidence that had somehow gone missing. The 39 were given life sentences, but were immediately released based on time already served. The European Union has urged that Turkey upgrade its judicial system as a pre-condition for membership.
IF ONLY SHE HAD A RICH RELATIVE
In November, Oprah Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, and the luxury fashion store Valentina Inc. announced a settlement of the latter’s lawsuit over Lee’s $155,547 outstanding tab. On a previous tab of $174,285 in 2002, Lee had agreed to make periodic repayments, but the store apparently allowed her to open another account, and as the new balance swelled, Lee sued, claiming the store should not have re-extended credit to her. – MauiTime, Chuck Shepherd