Japan and Korea seem to be the birthplaces in the quest for youthful and beautiful skin, with the latest "elixir" (as usual, based on traditional, centuries-old beliefs) being snail mucus — applied by specially bred snails that slither across customers' faces. The Clinical Salon in central Tokyo sells the 60-minute Celebrity Escargot Course session for the equivalent of $250 and even persuaded a London Daily Telegraph reporter to try one.
First Amendment blues
In the public libraries of Seattle, patrons are not allowed to eat or sleep (or even appear to be sleeping), be shirtless or barefoot or have bad body odor or talk too loudly — because other patrons might be disturbed. However, as the Post-Intelligencer reported in September, librarians do permit patrons to watch hard-core pornography on public computers, without apparent restriction, no matter who is walking by.
The unkindest cut
Iran's INSA news service reported in January that officials in Shiraz had acquired a finger-amputation machine to perhaps streamline the gruesome punishment often meted out to convicted thieves. (A masked enforcer turns a guillotine-like wheel to slice off the finger in the manner of a rotary saw.) Middle East commentators believe the government will step up its amputation of fingers, even for adultery.
Measles, despite being highly contagious, was virtually eradicated in the United States until a small number of skeptics, using now-discredited "research," tied childhood vaccinations with the rise of autism, and now the disease is returning. About half the members of the Eagle Mountain International Church near Dallas have declined to vaccinate their children, and as of late August, at least 20 church members have experienced the disease. The head pastor told National Public Radio, cryptically, "The [medical] facts are facts, but then we know the truth. That always overcomes facts."
In July, the Czech Republic approved Lukas Novy's official government ID photo even though he was wearing a colander on his head. Novy said his religion required it as he is a "Pastafarian" — a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (a prank religion pointing out that all deities' power and wisdom comes from followers' faith rather than from tangible proof of their existence).