NEWS OF THE WEIRD 6.22.16

By on June 21, 2016

App Nauseam

In May, the Norwegian Consumer Council staged a live, 32-hour TV broadcast marathon—a word-for-word reading of the “terms of service” for internet applications Instagram, Spotify and more than two dozen others, totaling 900 pages and 250,000 words of legal restrictions and conditions that millions of users “voluntarily” agree to when they sign up (usually via a mouse click or finger swipe). A council official called such terms “bordering on the absurd,” as consumers could not possibly understand everything they were legally binding themselves to. (The reading was another example of Norway’s fascination with “slow TV”—the success of other marathons, such as coverage of a world-record attempt at knitting yarn and five 24-hour days on a salmon-fishing boat, mentioned in News of the Weird in 2013.)

Government in Action!

The Defense Department still uses 1980s-era 8-inch floppy disks on computer systems that handle part of America’s “nuclear umbrella,” including ballistic missiles. Also, according to a May report by the Government Accountability Office, systems using 1970s-era COBOL programing language are still used for key functions of the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service, among others (including Veterans Affairs, for tracking beneficiary claims). Agencies have reported recruiting retired employees to return to fix glitches in operating systems long since abandoned by Microsoft and others.

• In April, police in Boise, Idaho, told KAWO Radio that they will not relax the year-old ban on dachshund “racing” that was a traditional family entertainment highlight at the annual “Arena-Wiena Extravaganza”—because all dog-racing in Idaho is illegal. The station had argued that the law intended to target only greyhound racing; that an exception had been carved out for popular dogsled racing (reasoning: individual dogs were not racing each other); and that, in any event, the “race” course was only about 40 feet long—but reported that the authorities were “dead serious” about the ban.

Can’t Possibly Be True

A watchdog agency monitoring charities revealed in May its choice for “worst” among those “helping” U.S. veterans: The National Vietnam Veterans Foundation raised more than $29 million from 2010 to 2014—but wound up donating about 2 cents of every dollar toward actual help. The other 98 cents went to administration and fund-raising. (Similarly troubling, according to the watchdog, is that the CEO of NVVF is a staff attorney at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.)

More Adventures of the Easily Offended

A March video featured a black San Francisco State University woman angrily confronting a white student, accusing him of “cultural appropriation” because he was wearing his hair in dreadlocks.

• A March fitness club ad pitch in Sawley, England, picturing an extraterrestrial with the caption, “And when they arrive, they’ll take the fat ones first,” was denounced by an anti-bullying organization as “offensive.”

• A May bus-stop ad for a San Francisco money lender (“10 percent down. Because you’re too smart to rent”) was derided for “ooz(ing) self-congratulatory privilege.”

Unclear on the Concept

Gainesville, Florida, performance artist Tom Miller planned a public piece in a downtown plaza during May and June as homage to the music composer John Cage’s celebrated “4’33” (which is four minutes and 33 seconds of purposeful silence by all musicians who “play” on the piece). Miller said his project would consist of local artists “installing” sculpture at 15-minute intervals for five days—except that the “sculpture” would have to be imagined by observers, as (in the tradition of Cage) nothing otherwise perceptible would be there.

The Continuing Crisis

Tex-ass Justice! Convicted murderer Charles Flores was on Texas’ death row for more than 16 years (until June 2 of this year) before the state’s highest criminal appeals court finally ruled that the execution might not be justified if the most important evidence was provided by a witness whom the police had hypnotized. The trial judge, and the jury, had accepted that “hypnosis” could lead to “recovered” memory (a popular hypothesis in the 1980s and 1990s, but largely discredited today). There was no physical evidence against Flores, and the trial court was ordered to rethink the validity of hypnosis.

(Government) Crime Scenes

The Massachusetts attorney general disclosed in May that state crime-lab chemist Sonja Farak (who was fired in 2013) worked “high” on drugs “every day” in the lab in Amherst, beginning around 2005. Among her preferred refreshments: meth, ketamine, ecstasy and LSD. (Farak worked at a different Massachusetts crime lab than Annie Dookhan, imprisoned in 2013 for improvising damaging lab results on at least 20,000 convicts.)

Thanks This Time to David Lawrence, R.Moore, and Dan Bohlen, and to the News of the Weird Senior Advisors (Jenny T. Beatty, Paul Di Filippo, Ginger Katz, Joe Littrell, Matt Mirapaul, Paul Music, Karl Olson, and Jim Sweeney) and Board of Editorial Advisors (Tom Barker, Paul Blumstein, Harry Farkas, Sam Gaines, Herb Jue, Emory Kimbrough, Scott Langill, Bob McCabe, Steve Miller, Christopher Nalty, Mark Neunder, Sandy Pearlman, Bob Pert, Larry Ellis Reed, Peter Smagorinsky, Rob Snyder, Stephen Taylor, Bruce Townley and Jerry Whittle).

Comments

comments


About Chuck Shepherd

You must be logged in to post a comment Login