Sunday, February 28, 2016

Stupid Stuff from the Headlines

"Military Intelligence": The head of U.S. Navy intelligence has for more than two years been prohibited from accessing classified information. Vice Admiral Ted Branch came under investigation in 2013 in a corruption scandal involving a foreign defense contractor and various Navy personnel and might have been suspended from all duties -- except that, given the political gridlock in Washington, no consensus candidate has emerged. No charges have been filed against Branch, but before he enters any room at the Pentagon, classified material must be stowed away.

Overexcited police departments occasionally feel the need to safeguard towns by zealous enforcement of anti-gambling laws. In November, police in Altamonte Springs, Florida, raided the Escondido Community Clubhouse, formally shutting down the retirement village's games of bingo, bunko, penny poker and -- most controversially -- the weekly sessions of the culturally venerated mahjong. Although none of the games is illegal under state law, advertising for-money games is, and the notices in the Heritage Florida Jewish News were such attention-getters that the pots for the games often grew to exceed the $10 legal maximum. (Given mahjong's sociological significance, news of the bust was even reported in Jerusalem's Times of Israel.)

Perspective: On the heels of a similar program in Richmond, California, Washington, D.C.'s D.C. Council authorized funding in January to pay stipends to notorious criminals if they stop committing crimes. Police would identify up to 50 residents likely to violently offend again in 2016 and offer them periodic cash payments plus special training and educational benefits -- as long as they stay out of trouble. Officials in Richmond (once overwhelmed by gun deaths) say their program, commenced almost 10 years ago, has produced a 76 percent drop in gun-related crime.

Reports of the prominence of animal urine in various cultures' health regimens have surfaced periodically in News of the Weird, and in December, in Al Qunfudhah, Saudi Arabia, a shop selling camel urine (with a long history of alleged medicinal qualities) was closed by authorities after they found 70 camel-urine bottles actually filled with shopkeeper-urine.

In January 15-year-old Anthony Ruelas, trying to rescue a classmate gasping from an asthma attack, became the latest casualty in public schools' relentless insistence on "zero tolerance" of any deviation from rules. Gateway Middle School in Killeen, Texas, suspended Ruelas for two days for what others called his "heroic" assistance in gathering the girl in his arms and taking her to the nurse's office -- while the teacher, following "procedure," waited passively for a nurse to email instructions. (Ruelas had defied the teacher, declaring, "(F-word) that -- we ain't got time to wait for no email from the nurse.")

Live Long and Prosper...

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