NOT EVEN A PIN DROP
Officials at England’s 12th-century St. Peter’s Church in Seaford, East Sussex, which is renowned for its eerie quiet, created a 30-minute CD recently of near-total silence, first as a small-scale fundraising project, but later for general sales (since word-of-mouth had attracted orders from as far away as Ghana). Those who have heard it said they could make out only the occasional squeaking of footsteps on the wooden floor (and the very distant hum of passing cars). Said one admiring parishioner, “People sometimes like to sit down and just have a bit of peace and quiet.”
THIS WEEK IN WOLF EDUCATION
France has seen its wolf population gradually increase from near-extinction in the 1930s, but still classifies the predator as a “protected” species. However, sheep farmers increasingly complain that wolves’ attacks are reducing their herds. Therefore, in a recently proposed “National Wolf Plan,” the government boldly gave headline-writers around the world material for rejoicing: a national program to “educate” the wolves. Individual wolves known to have attacked sheep would be caught, marked and briefly detained, with the hope that they would learn their lesson from that trauma and from then on, pass up sheep and turn instead to rabbits, boar and deer. (Said one critic, “You might as well try to educate a shark.”)
GOVERNMENT IN ACTION
The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration revealed in January that twice as many fraudulent income tax refunds were paid to inmates in 2011 (173,000) as for the tax year 2010. However, the IRS claimed that the fraudulent returns it did manage to stop totaled $2.5 billion (almost half of which was disingenuously claimed by two inmates). Also, the Department of Health and Human Service’s inspector general revealed in January that Medicare was illegally billed for $120 million from 2009 to 2011 for services used by inmates and illegal immigrants–neither category of which is authorized to use Medicare.
As of January, New York City music teacher Aryeh Eller, 46, has almost reached a milestone in his battle with the Board of Education. Soon, he will have earned $1 million in salary and benefits since the board removed him from the classroom 13 years ago and dispatched him to a light-duty “rubber room” after complaints of fondling and sexual harassment in the one year that he actually taught. An arbitrator had found insufficient evidence for his termination, but the board refuses to let him back in the classroom, fearing he is a danger to students.
SHOULDN’T FLY OFF THE SHELF
Iceland’s menswear designer Sruli Recht’s autumn/winter 2013 collection, debuting in Paris in January, included a ring made from a four-inch slice of his own skin (removed during recent abdomen surgery, then salted and tanned to give it sturdiness). The ring (called “Forget Me Knot”) carries a price tag of $500,000–considering that the rest of the ring is 24k gold.
In Russia’s coldest region (the Siberian republic of Yakutia), artist Mikhail Bopposov created a massive, nearly 900-pound cobra statue (honoring the Chinese Year of the Snake)–made entirely of cow dung. Though at this time of the year the sculpture freezes, Bopposov plans to sell it when it melts, since fertilizer is a valuable commodity during the region’s short summers. Actually, this is Bopposov’s second foray into dung art, after last year’s winged serpent he created for the Chinese Year of the Dragon.
LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS
A massive, fraudulent test-taking scheme spanning three Southern states came to a halt in 2009 after going undetected for 15 years. In February 2012, Clarence Mumford Sr., 59, pleaded guilty as the mastermind of the syndicate that charged schoolteachers thousands of dollars to have proxy test-takers sit for them in mandatory qualifications exams. The 2009 incident that brought the scheme to light was when one hired proxy (Memphis, Tenn., science teacher Shantell Shaw) decided to take both a morning test for one teacher and an afternoon test for another teacher, at the same location, while wearing the same pink baseball cap.