The Department Of Pointing Out The Obvious (DOPOTO), seeking respite from what feels like an unrelenting torrent of depressing news, has embarked on a study of the unusual. For example, in Nigeria, authorities have been cracking down on motorcyclists trying to evade their new mandatory helmet laws taking to wearing dried-out pumpkin shells on their heads. While this may be a drop in the bucket considering the many severe problems plaguing Nigeria, it is at least an interesting phenomenon and conjures up a pretty bizarre mental image. Missing in the story about pumpkin helmets is whether or not they have chin straps to hold them in place or if they simply cover the entire head and the cyclists peer out from Halloween-style carved eyes. Now that would be something to see, a whole bunch of bobbing pumpkin heads with demonic faces carved into them scooting around the streets of Lagos with the police in hot pursuit. The Department smells a new Olympic sport.

In King’s College in London, scientists are lamenting the fact that there is a shortage of human brains to study, complaining bitterly that not enough people are donating their brains to science. They sounded the low-brain-inventory-alarm when it was discovered they were down to just 20 human brains. DOPOTO researchers have linked this severe shortage to the worldwide economic crisis. It seems that in a short-sighted budget move, Kings College has laid off most of its hunched-back laboratory assistants, leaving only their senior man Igor to procure fresh specimens, and he’s getting pretty old and arthritic for those 3 A.M. graveyard raids.

DOPOTO is pleased to announce that the state of Mississippi, long lagging behind the other 49 states in many standard-of-living, infrastructure and educational requirements, has grabbed the #1 position in at least one prominent category. Mississippi can now claim the honor of having the most teen pregnancies per capita in the land! The announcement has prompted producers of The Maury Povich show to explore the possibility of relocating production facilities to the Magnolia State. State legislators are feverishly working on a new state motto as well, with the current favorite being “Mississippi: hard to spell, but our girls are easy!”¬†

Back to Nigeria, where it seems they have another unusual problem. The nation of Somalia has filed a class-action civil lawsuit in World Court, suing Nigeria for horning in on their piracy trade and seeking a substantial damages awards rumored to be in the tens of hundreds of dollars. Somalian pirates have hired attorneys to plead their case that piracy is their nation’s main source of income and that the oil-producing country of Nigeria has an unfair trade advantage since their pirates all wear terrifying pumpkin shell helmets while in Somalia all their pumpkins have been eaten by their starving population. Unused to such complex claims, the World Court in a surprise ruling has referred the matter to the jurisdiction of Judge Judy, decaring her findings final and binding. Word in legal circles is that Judge Judy is leaning towards Nigeria since her studies of Errol Flynn and Johnny Depp movies indicate that Hollywood invented piracy and therefore Somalia has no claim. Award to the defendant!

The Department Of Pointing Out The Obvious has long been puzzled by China, seemingly many nations rolled into one; the ancient repository of timeless wisdom and scholarship side by side with the booming underwear maker for Wal-Mart, Bronze Age peasants, high-tech computer manufacturers and the pummelers of Tibetan monks, all governed by a regime that still claims to be Communist while reaping the rewards of unbridled Capitalism. And in keeping with its new Great Leap Forward into the 21st century, China has popular bloggers on the internet. Their most popular blogger? That would be one Mao Xinyu, the grandson of the Great Helmsman himself, Chairman Mao. His site is a reflection of the high regard in which Mao is still held, in spite of the fact that he was personally responsible for tens of millions of his own countrymen’s deaths and his economic policies that kept China backward and dirt poor while he was in charge. Somehow in death this Hitler-esque monster gets to be a cuddly grandfather figure now that his country has repudiated and reversed all of his policies and in doing so has become educated and prosperous. To which DOPOTO says: Go figure.

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