THE POWER OF PRECEDENT
Department of Veterans Affairs employee Elizabeth Rivera Rivera, 39, was fired after her arrest (followed by a February guilty plea) for armed robbery, but when she was sentenced only to probation, an arbitrator ordered the VA to rehire her–and give her back pay she “earned” while sitting in jail awaiting trial. (She had been the driver for a man arrested for a street robbery in San Juan, Puerto Rico.) Rivera’s union had demanded the reinstatement without salary penalty–for “fairness”–because the same Puerto Rico VA office had earlier hired a convicted sex offender, and the office’s hospital director, recently charged with DUI and drug possession, avoided VA discipline because of technicalities about the traffic stop.
Ms. Ashton Barton, 33, charged with shoplifting a vibrating sex toy from a CVS pharmacy in Largo, Florida, in February, tried for police sympathy by explaining that she was in a troubled marriage. “My husband doesn’t want to touch me anymore,” and “I would rather do this than be unfaithful.” And neighbors of a loudly frisky couple in a Stockholm, Sweden, apartment building were so frustrated by the noise that they reached out to the country’s health minister, Gabriel Wikstrom–who took the side of the randy couple (according to a translation by Stockholm’s The Local): “Sounds nice for them, I think. Good for their well-being and thus public health as well.”
BREAKTHROUGHS IN SCIENCE
German researchers, publishing in March, revealed that female burying beetles uniquely discourage their mates from pestering them for sex after birth–thus explaining how the male of this species is observed actually helping with child care. The females apparently release a chemical “anti-aphrodisiac” to the father’s antennae. Said the lead researcher (a woman), “They are a very modern family.” Said another biology professor (also female), “Burying beetles are supercool.”
GREAT MOMENTS IN EVOLUTION
Science magazine called the “butthole” “one of the finest innovations in the past 540 million years of animal evolution”–in that, until it developed, animals’ only channel of waste removal was through the same opening used for food intake. However, the recent discovery, announced at a March conference by a University of Miami biologist, that gelatinous sea creatures called comb jellies can excrete via other pores, was labeled by the magazine as “stunn[ing].”
THE WAR ON SCIENCE
In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that measles had been eliminated in the United States, but by 2014 Americans had resurrected it (677 reported cases), and researchers from Emory University and Johns Hopkins set out to learn how–and recently found the dominant reason to be the purposeful decision by some Americans to refuse or delay widely available vaccinations (especially for their children). The researchers found similar, but less-strong conclusions about whooping cough.
An 86-year-old woman died in February in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, when she tripped and got her medical alert necklace caught on her walker, strangling herself. (2) A 25-year-old off-duty New York City police officer was killed on a highway near Elizabeth, New Jersey, in March. According to the police report, the officer had rear-ended another car and had gotten out to “discuss” the matter, then suddenly pulled his service revolver and threatened the driver using road rage-type language. As the officer backed up while pointing the gun, a passing driver accidentally, fatally struck him.
FINER POINTS OF THE LAW
Joe Vandusen said he has had no contact whatsoever with his estranged wife for “16 or 17 years” and that both moved long ago to other relationships (Joe currently living with a woman, raising both his two children and her two, as well). Nonetheless, Vandusen’s “real” wife recently gave birth, from another father, and, without claiming Vandusen as the father, filed in February for child support from him. In the Vandusens’ home state of Iowa (like the law in many states), he must pay, irrespective of any DNA test (unless he gets an expensive court order to “de-establish paternity.”
Ervin Brinker, 68, pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud as CEO of the Summit Pointe health care provider in Michigan and was sentenced in January to 32 months in prison. He had embezzled $510,000 in “mental health” payments and apparently spent it all on a Florida fortune teller. And two of the three candidates for the Republican nomination for county property appraiser in Erwin, Tennessee, in November died before the election, leaving Rocky McInturff the only survivor. However, he is ineligible for the nomination because he lost badly on election day by one of the two dead candidates.
LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS
Albuquerque police encountered Leonard Lopez, 26, inside a Chevy Cobalt car (that was not his) just after midnight on March 30 after neighbors reported a man screaming inside, flashing the car’s headlights. A panicked Lopez was upside down, with his feet on the dashboard and his head and shoulders wedged under the steering wheel, hands and arms tucked inside his sweatshirt. He was charged with burglary, and police guessed he was probably going through opiate withdrawal.