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Guaranteed seating



In March, the Seattle Police Department ordered the 26 employees in its fingerprint unit to attend a mandatory, half-hour safety class in how to sit down. Recently, three of the unit's employees had filed worker-compensation claims for injuries that occurred as they were attempting to sit in chairs with rollers. The proper technique, according to an internal memo, is, "Take hold of the arms and get control of the chair before sitting down."

Gone to seed

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority in Glasgow, Scotland, announced a cutback in services in March because there was only one sperm donor left in the city, and even he will face mandatory retirement after 10 pregnancies. Although the donor was not identified or described, officials warned couples to lower their expectations about their genetic choices.

Sea change

Sea change

In an "only in California" development, in March the Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School in Palo Alto began offering sushi (a vegetarian version, wrapped in seaweed) in its lunchroom on Wednesdays.

Bombing out

Bombing out

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced in February that it would scale back its terrorist-combating safety inspections of nuclear power plants, despite the fact that the companies fail inspections about half the time and that in 14 of 57 inspections since 1991, the breaches have been so severe that terrorists could have caused a core meltdown. (Furthermore, in each inspection, the power company even knew the exact date of the "surprise" inspection, although it did not know exactly what area or tactic the NRC would use to test the plant's security.)

Domestic abuse

A February Associated Press report described the 18-point, government-designed tests that injured Israeli housewives must fail before they can be granted disability payments. A medical exam by itself can prove disability for any other occupation, but married female homemakers (men and single women are not eligible for disabled-homemaker status) must step into a simulated home and, in front of three officials, show that they cannot wash or iron laundry, mop the floor or slice bread, among other tasks.



Recent proposed legislation: Missouri state Sen. Sam Gaskill's bill to require hospitals to provide a neck-to-knee "dignity gown" instead of the standard, open-back gown. And a Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission's rule to allow retail liquor stores to conduct "consumer education" seminars, basically consisting of in-store tasting. And Arkansas state Rep. Stephen Simon's bill to allow licensed gun-owners to bring weapons to church. And Vermont state Rep. Robert Kinsey's bill to require CPR training as a condition for a marriage license. (Kinsey said he has no idea why such a law is necessary but that he routinely introduces bills at constituents' request.)

Neighborhood watch

In November, the mayor of South Gate, Calif., adjacent to Los Angeles, proposed an ordinance banning the colors "wild orange, rose, lavender and turquoise" on houses. One resident said he'd paint over his colorful house only if the mayor had a good reason, "like if cars were crashing into each other because the drivers were looking at `my house`. Or if it hurt people's eyes." However, in January, the Joliet, Ill., city council passed an ordinance requiring builders to make houses less boring by mixing up their aesthetic features and colors. Explained City Councilor Joseph Shetina, who supported the ordinance because too many row houses look alike: "`Y`ou go home drunk, and you'd never know which house was yours."

Scaled down

Scaled down

In March, the animal control officer of Pickens County, S.C., threatened to enforce a county snake-handling ordinance against collector Roy Cox, proprietor of the Reptiles of the World exhibit of rattlesnakes, boa constrictors and cobras. Cox, said the officer, needs a county license, which he can get only if he has federal and state reptile-handling permits. However, as an Associated Press reporter pointed out to the officer after investigating further, no federal or South Carolina agency issues any such thing as a reptile permit.

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