Questionable Judgments: (1) New York state officials proposed earlier this year to evaluate the state's parole officers in part by asking parolees such questions as whether they thought their officer sufficiently "cared" about their progress (but after criticism, canceled the project). (2) The board of zoning appeals in Anderson Township, Ohio, turned down a couple's request to build a cedar fence around their yard even though the proposal was supported by neighbors and another municipal agency. Angry, according to an April Cincinnati Enquirer report, the couple instead set up 15 donated toilets as flower pots in the fenceless yard, and the zoning board apparently can't stop them. [New York Post, 3-21-06] [Cincinnati Enquirer, 4-16-06]
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Are We Safe? (1) To free up soldiers for war-zone duty, the Army hires contractors to man the gates at 57 domestic installations, including Fort Bragg and West Point, but in April, the Government Accountability Office announced that, despite three warnings, some of the contractors continue to hire an alarming number of convicted felons as security guards. (2) Nashville's The Tennessean newspaper revealed in April that a man still serving time for hiring a hit man to kill his wife was actually put in charge of the purchasing office of the state's emergency management agency. Inmate Daniel Erickson was participating in a rehabilitation program intended to help prisoners find work when they get out and apparently was so good at his job that agency officials promoted him. [Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk), 4-6-06] [The Tennessean, 4-2-06]
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Artist Ira Sherman's high-tech "Impenetrable Devices," exhibited earlier this year at the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, are sleek, wearable gadgets whose common purpose is to thwart rape. Sherman said his "genital armor" and "castration mechanisms" were borne from listening to rape victims recommend instruments to provide bodily security. "The Injector" shoots an identifying dye, and sedatives, at the rapist; "The Bear Trap Corset" and the "Intimate Electric Fence" are self-explanatory; and the complex Cremasteric Reflex Corset employs steel spikes delivered by a pressure-sensitive air valve. Said Sherman, "All my (devices are) plausible." [The Tennessean, 1-22-06]
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Prosecutors in Dresden, Germany, charged Petra Kujau, 47, with fraud recently for selling at least 500 fake paintings of such artists as Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh. However, the paintings were always clearly labeled as fakes, according to an April Times of London dispatch, and their sale was a crime only because Petra had claimed they had been painted by Konrad Kujau (her great uncle), who had a worldwide reputation as a master faker. Thus, Petra is charged with duping collectors into thinking that they were buying original Konrad Kujau classic fakes. [The Times (London), 4-22-06]