Cultural Diversity 

The Rental Society: Among the services available by the clock in Japan (according to a January BBC dispatch) are (1) quality time with a pet (about $10 an hour at the Ja La La Cafe in Toyko, usually with dogs or cats but with rabbits, ferrets and beetles available); (2) no-sex quality time with a college coed (flattering conversation by the hour at the Campus Cafe, less expensive than the geisha-type houses); (3) and actors from the I Want To Cheer Up agency in Tokyo, to portray "relatives" for weddings and funerals when actual family members cannot attend, or to portray fathers to help single women with their parenting duties, or to portray husbands to help women practice for the routine of married life (except for sex).

In January, a federal judge dismissed the last lawsuit standing in the way of a new Indian casino for California's Amador County, where the federally recognized Me-Wuk tribe of the Buena Vista Rancheria has its 67-acre reservation. The tribe consists of Rhonda Morningstar Pope and her five children, none of whom lives on the tribal land.

Parental Responsibility: A father took his 20-year-old son to an Islamic court in Bauchi, Nigeria, in October, demanding that he be jailed for idleness, which he said has shamed the family. (The court immediately sentenced the son to 30 lashes and six months in prison.)

In December, a court in Seoul, South Korea, fined the parents of a teenage rapist the equivalent of about $60,000 for their negligence in raising the boy badly. (The 18-year-old himself is serving a 10-year sentence for the crime.)

Twenty million Chinese have their residences in caves, but that is often not a bad deal, according to a December McClatchy Newspapers dispatch from Miaogou Village. In addition to the obvious advantages (e.g., no mortgage), some caves have been in the family for generations and have electrical wiring, plumbing and cable television, and some are part of communities of connected caves. Researchers said that earthen insulation keeps the inside temperature from dropping below about 55 degrees Fahrenheit even in the dead of winter. [McClatchy Newspapers, 12-16-08]

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