The Department of Agriculture reported recently that in four of America’s largest cities–New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Denver–nearly one home out of 100 keeps chickens either for a fresh egg supply or as pets, giving rise to chicken services such as Backyard Poultry magazine, MyPetChicken.com and Julie Baker’s Pampered Poultry store. Among the most popular products are strap-on cloth diapers for the occasions when owners bring their darlings indoors, i.e., cuddle their “lap chickens.” Also popular are “saddles” for roosters, to spare hens mating injuries–owing to roosters’ brutal horniness, sometimes costing hens most or all of their back feathers from a single encounter.
GOVERNMENT IN ACTION
“Consider all the ways we’re taxed,” wrote Maryland’s community paper Gazette in April–when we’re born, die, earn income, spend it, own property, sell it, attend entertainment venues, operate vehicles and pass wealth along after death, among others. Maryland has now added a tax on rain. To reduce stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, the Environmental Protection Agency assessed the state $14.8 billion, which the state will collect starting in July by taxing “impervious surfaces”–any land area in its 10 largest counties that cannot directly absorb rainwater, such as roofs, driveways, patios and sidewalks.
NOTHING IS REAL EXPENSIVE
The Washington Post reported in April that the federal government is due to spend $890,000 this year to safeguard… nothing. The amount is the total fees for maintaining more than 13,000 short-term bank accounts the government owns but which have no money in them and never again will. Closing the accounts is easier said than done, according to the watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste, because the accounts each housed separate government grants, and Congress has required that, before the accounts are closed, the grants must be formally audited–something bureaucrats are rarely motivated to do, at least within the 180 days set by law (though there is no penalty for missing the deadline).
GOOD WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT
It’s good to be the county administrator of Alameda County, Calif. (on San Francisco Bay, south of Oakland). The San Francisco Chronicle revealed in March that somehow, Susan Muranishi negotiated a contract that pays her $301,000 a year, plus “equity pay” of $24,000 a year so that she makes at least 10 percent more than the next highest paid official, plus “longevity” pay of $54,000 a year, plus a car allowance–and that she will be paid that total amount per year as her pension for life (in addition to a private pension of $46,000 a year that the county purchased for her).
CONGRESS SAVES PARTY BALLOONS!
Congress established a National Helium Reserve in 1925 in the era of “zeppelin” balloons, but most consider it no longer useful (most, that is, ranging from President Ronald Reagan to the Democratic congressman who in 1996 called it one program that, if we cannot undo it, “we cannot undo anything”). The House of Representatives recently voted 394-1 to continue funding it because of “fears” of a shortage that might affect MRI machines and, of course, party balloons.
The Jewish Museum in Berlin is currently staging what has become popularly known as the “Jew in the Box” exhibit to teach visitors about Judaism–simply featuring one knowledgeable Jewish person who sits in a chair in a glass box for two hours a day and answers questions from the curious. Both supporters (“We Germans have many insecurities when it comes to Jews”) and critics (“Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water (and) turn up the heat?”) are plentiful.
The weather in Hong Kong on April 25 wreaked havoc on American artist Paul McCarthy’s outdoor, 50-foot-tall piece of “inflatable art” in the West Kowloon Cultural District. “Complex Pile” (a model of an arrangement of excrement) got punctured, which mostly pleased McCarthy’s critics since his recent work, reported the South China Morning Post, has often centered around bodily functions.
The biggest news out of Newtown, Conn., recently–not involving the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School–came when local environmental officials announced on April 29 that they were investigating the finding of “200 to 300 one-gallon plastic jugs” filled with urine in a home “in a state of disrepair.” No charges were filed against the homeowner, but officials sought to assure neighbors and users of the property that no health hazard was present. The average person, reported the Connecticut Post, produces about six cups of urine a day.
STRANGE OLD WORLD
Mr. Datta Phuge perhaps overly personifies India’s national obsession with the beauty of gold. For special occasions, he outfits his “knuckles, neck and wrists” with golden “signet rings, chunky bracelets and a medallion,” wrote BBC News in April after Phuge had also purchased a crinkly gold tailored shirt made for him for about $250,000. The 7-pound shirt has a velvet lining to keep it from irritating his skin, and he must, of course, always travel with a bodyguard.