Kevin Friloux, president of St. Charles Parish in Louisiana, gave himself a few pats on the back during a recent reelection campaign. He wrote several letters to newspapers in praise of himself but signed other people's names to them. One letter carried the signature of Friloux's uncle, who has since died. "I don't think there's really anything wrong with it…illegal or dishonest," says the modest candidate. And his uncle, he said, knew what he wanted to say but not how to say it.

Eat a bagel, go to prison? A federal inmate has been demoted back to prison from a halfway house because he ate a bagel. Well, it was a bagel with poppy seeds, and unfortunately for inmate Anthony Clarizio, that kind of seed skews drug-test results. Croissants are obviously a safer choice in the midst of a drug war.

Idle men in one region of the Indonesian island of Timor have to eat mud. The chief of the south-central Timor regency patrols local villages with buckets of mud, which he scoops out and rubs into the mouths of layabouts. If this sounds cruel, consider the ancien régime. Timorese kings used to punish lazy district chiefs by giving them 5 strokes of the whip. The district chiefs then gave 25 strokes to every village chief, who in turn punished lazy villagers with 625 strokes. We shudder to think what happened to dogs and children.

Two years per beer? That's about what it's costing a work-release inmate who smuggled eight cans of beer into prison on Christmas Eve. John E. Powell, who'd been serving a sentence at a Florida correctional facility for robbery and bad checks, would have been eligible for parole in January. But the judge added 15 years to his sentence as punishment for smuggling in those holiday spirits. Smuggle beer, smuggle a weapon—the penalty category is the same. And even harsher than the penalty for escape. "If he had just turned around and run away, he would have gotten a lower sentence," says his public defender.

Car-wash owner George Vargish thinks New Jersey civil rights officials are all wet. His troubles started when a male patron complained that his "Ladies Day" discount amounted to sex discrimination. The state agreed: a carwash is a public accommodation, so everyone has to pay full price. But Vargish isn't deterred. He plans to skirt the law by offering a 50-cent discount on certain days to anyone—male or female—who turns out in a skirt or a dress. Civil rights activists are studying their next move.

Ah, mañana! Those Mexican bureaucrats have it down pat. A recent study shows the average government employee spends only 196 days a year on the job. Not only do they get two vacations of 15 days each and 12 days of paid personal leave; they also benefit from 22 days of so-called bridge holidays—additional time off granted by the government to make long weekends of patriotic or religious holidays falling on a Thursday or Tuesday. These guys' services are obviously not essential. Why not send 'em all home? It might just be the best way to reverse Mexico's worst economic crisis in half a century.

What they won't ban next…In Sri Lanka, it's television commercials featuring children to promote products. Government officials say parents complained that they were too poor to buy the products demanded by their children after watching such ads. "An ad which shows a child asking his mother for an expensive milk brand prompts other children to ask their mothers for the same product," explains Minister of State Anandatissa De Alwis.