One for the Road
Cliche Come to Life: The Kerry, Ireland, county council voted in January to let some people drive drunk. The councillors reasoned that in the county's isolated regions, some seniors live alone and need the camaraderie of the pub, but fear a DUI arrest on the way home. The councillors thus empowered police to issue DUI permits to those targeted drivers. Besides, reasoned the councillors, the area is so sparsely populated that such drivers never encounter anyone else on the road at night. (The councillors' beneficence might also have been influenced, reported BBC News, by the fact that "several" of the five voting "yea" own pubs.)
Can't Possibly Be True
-- Spare the Waterboard, Spoil the Child: William Province, 42, was arrested in Jefferson County, Mont., in December and charged with waterboarding four boys, two of whom were his own sons, at his home in December. (Also in January, Kirill Bartashevitch, 52, was charged with making "terroristic" threats to his high-school-age daughter after he allegedly pointed his new AK-47 at her because her report card showed 2 B's instead of all A's. He said he had recently purchased the gun because he feared that President Obama intended to ban them.)
-- Emma Whittington, of Hutchinson, Kan., rushed her daughter to the ER in December when the girl, 7 months old, developed a golf-ball-sized lump on her neck. Two days later, at a hospital in Wichita, a doctor gently pulled a feather out of the lump and hypothesized that it had been in the midst of emerging from her throat. Doctors said the girl probably swallowed the feather accidentally, that it got stuck in throat tissue, and that her body was trying to eject it through the skin.
-- As if 9/11 and the resultant air travel restrictions had never happened, travelers for some reason continue to keep Transportation Security Administration agents busy at passengers' carry-on bag searches. From a TSA weekly summary of confiscations in January: 33 handguns, eight stun guns and a serrated wire garrote. Among highlights from 2012: a live 40mm grenade, a live blasting cap, "seal bombs" and six pounds of black power (with detonation cords and a timing fuse).
-- A man with admittedly limited English skills went to a courthouse in Springfield, Mass., in December to address a traffic ticket, but somehow wound up on a jury trying Donald Campbell on two counts of assault. Officials said the man simply got in the wrong line and followed jurors into a room while the real sixth juror had mistakenly gone to another room. The jury, including the accidental juror, found Campbell guilty, but he was awarded a new trial when the mistake was discovered.
The Redneck Chronicles (Tennessee Edition)
(1) Timothy Crabtree, 45, of Rogersville, was arrested in October and charged with stabbing his son, Brandon, 21, in an argument over who would get the last beer in the house. (2) Tricia Moody, 26, was charged with DUI in Knoxville in January after a 10-minute police chase. The officer's report noted that Moody was still holding a cup of beer and apparently had not spilled any during the chase. (3) Jerry Poe, 62, was charged in a road-rage incident in Clinton on Black Friday after firing his handgun at a driver in front of him "to scare her into moving" faster, he said. (Poe said he had started at midnight at one Wal-Mart, waited in line unsuccessfully for five hours for a sale-priced stereo, and was on his way to another Wal-Mart.
Sounds Like a Joke
Twin brothers Aric Hale and Sean Hale, 28, were both arrested on New Year's Eve in Manchester, Conn., after fighting each other at a hotel and later at a residence. Police said a 27-year-old woman was openly dating the two men, and that Sean thought it was his turn and asked Aric for privacy. Aric begged to differ about whose turn it was.
Unclear on the Concept
-- Voted in December as vice presidents of the U.N. Human Rights Council for 2013 were the nations of Mauritania and the Maldives, both of which permit the death penalty for renouncing Islam. In Mauritania, a person so charged has three days to repent for a lesser sentence. (An August 2012 dispatch in London's The Guardian reported widespread acceptance of slavery conditions in Mauritania, affecting as many as 800,000 of the 3.5 million population. Said one abolitionist leader, "Today we have the slavery (that) American plantation owners dreamed of (in that the slaves) believe their condition is necessary to get to paradise.")
-- Non-medical employees of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have been campaigning for union representation, suggesting that their current wages leave many workers dangerously close to poverty. Though raises have not materialized, UPMC (according to a November Pittsburgh City Paper report) has now shown sympathy for its employees' sad plight. In a November UPMC newsletter, it announced that it was setting up "UPMC Cares" food banks. Employees (presumably the better-paid ones) are urged to "donate nonperishable food items to stock employee food pantries that will be established on both (UPMC campuse)." One astonished worker's response: "I started to cry."
-- In December, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed, through a public records check, that the appointed Collector of Revenue for St. Louis County has failed since 2008 to pay personal property taxes. Stacy Bailey and her husband owe taxes on three cars and in fact filed for bankruptcy in 2011. Bailey's boss, Director of Revenue Eugene Leung, told the Dispatch that he had checked Bailey's real-estate tax status but not personal property taxes. Nonetheless, he said, "Knowing what I know now, she's still the most qualified person for the job," among the 155 applicants.
First-World Problems: Before "cellulite" appeared in popular culture around 1972, almost no one believed the condition especially remarkable, wrote London's The Guardian in December. Similarly, the new concern about "wobbly" arms -- flesh dangling loosely when a woman's arm is raised horizontally -- seems entirely made-up. However, Marks & Spencer and other upscale British retailers now sell "arm corsets" to fashionably hold the skin tighter for sleeveless tops. Wrote the Guardian columnist, "I wish I didn't know that my arms weren't meant to wobble. I'd be happier."
People Different From Us
Julie Griffiths, 43, of Newcastle-Under-Lyme, England, received her first Anti-Social Behavior Order in 1999 for too loudly berating her husband, Norman (who one neighbor told the Daily Telegraph is "the sweetest man you could ever meet"). After many complaints (from neighbors, never from Norman), Griffiths was fined the equivalent of about $700 in 2010 and vowed to be quieter. The complaints hardly slowed, and in July 2012, environmental-health officials installed monitoring equipment next door and caught Griffiths venting at Norman 47 times in three months. However, the Stoke-on-Trent Magistrates Court merely issued a new, five-year ASBO.
(1) Recently, a 67-year-old woman set out to drive to a train station in Brussels, Belgium, 38 miles from her home to pick up a friend, but her GPS was broken, and she wound up three countries away, in Zagreb, Croatia, before she sought help. Drivers older than her have been similarly lost, but not to the extent of crossing five borders and passing road signs in three languages while traveling 900 miles. (She said only that she was "distracted.") (2) In January, a 68-year-old Florida man got out of a van to open a garage door so that his friend could back in, but he left the van door open, and the driver's dog leaped excitedly into the vehicle and landed on the gas pedal. The man was fatally crushed against the garage door.
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