A country-and-western radio station in Benson, Arizona (near Tucson), owned by Paul Lotsof, has periodically run “public service announcements” about one of Lotsof’s pet peeves: the harsh sentences usually given to mere “collectors” of child pornography. Many, he believes, are non-dangerous, daydreaming hermits–but often imprisoned for long stretches. Thus, his PSAs publicize tips for avoiding the police, such as saving child porn only on an external computer drive (and hiding the drive securely). Despite recent community outrage (causing Lotsof to retire the announcements), he remains defiant that, since he personally avoids child porn, he is merely exercising a free-speech right.
CAN’T POSSIBLY BE TRUE
The inexplicable ease with which foreign hackers attack U.S. computers and security systems is finally grabbing the attention of officials. In a March Washington Post report, a technology expert from Britain’s King’s College London told a reporter of his astonishment to realize that the “security chips” on Congressional staff members’ identification badges are fake: The badge “doesn’t actually have a proper chip,” he said. “It has a picture of a chip.” Apparently, he added, “It’s (there) only to prevent chip envy.”
Suzette Welton has been in prison in Alaska for 17 years based almost solely on now-debunked forensic evidence, but the state’s lack of a clemency process means she cannot challenge her life sentence unless she proves “complete” innocence. Evidence that the fire that killed her son was “arson” was based not on science but on widely believed (but wrong) folklore on how intentional fires burn differently than accidental ones. (The bogus arson “trademarks” are similar to those used to convict Texan Cameron Todd Willingham, who suffered an even worse fate than Welton’s: Willingham was executed for his “arson” in 2004.)
ALL HAIL ASPARAGUS!
Reverence for the lineage of asparagus continues in epic yearly Anglican church festivities in Worcester, England, where in April celebrants obtained a special blessing for the vegetable by local priests as a costumed asparagus pranced through the street praising the stalks as representing “the generosity of God.” Critics (including clergy from other parishes) likened the parades to a Monty Python sketch, and “an infantile pantomime,” with one pleading plaintively, “Really, for [God’s] sake,” can’t the Church of England offer “more dignified” worship?
LEADING ECONOMIC INDICATORS
Andrew Bogut, signed as a free agent by the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers in March and expected to be a key player in the team’s quest to defend its league championship, checked into his first game and played 58 seconds before crashing into a bench and breaking his leg. For that 58 seconds, the Cavs owe Bogut $383,000. And Jose Calderon signed as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors in March, but the NBA-leading Warriors changed their mind (for unforeseen reasons) two hours after the deal and released Calderon. For his 119 minutes as a Warrior (6:06pm to 8:05pm), Calderon was paid $415,000.
In May, as Taunton, Massachusetts, police were about to arrest Amy Rebello-McCarthy, 39, for DUI after she left the road and crashed through several mailboxes (with the crash causing all of her tires to deflate), she, laughing, told officers there was one other thing: She had a bearded dragon in her bra (where it was riding while she drove). The lizard was turned over to animal control.
FINE POINTS OF THE LAW
In a legislative battle waged since a 1979 state court decision, some North Carolinians tried once again this year to change a state law that explicitly states that once a person (almost always, of course, a “female”) has “consented” to an act of sexual intercourse, that consent cannot be withdrawn–even if the encounter turns violent. (The violence might be prosecuted as an “assault,” but never the more serious crime of “rape.”) Said state Sen. Jeff Jackson, whose bill to change the law failed in April to get a legislative hearing, “We’re the only state in the country where ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘no.’”
In May, the British tribunal dealing with student cheating rejected the appeal of a law student who was caught taking an in-class exam with her textbook open (permitted) but containing handwritten notes in the margins–not permitted, but written in invisible ink legible via the UV light on her pen. And on testing day in March for Romania’s 14- and 15-year-olds, administrators of the country’s popular DEX online dictionary, acting on suspicion, changed the definitions of two words likely to be improperly looked up by cheaters during the exam. “[H]undreds” of school searches for the words took place that morning, but administrators were still mulling an appropriate punishment for the cheaters (who were, of course, easily identified by their misapplication of the suspect words).