An option for suicide “with elegance and euphoria” is how Lithuanian-born Ph.D. candidate Julijonas Urbonas (London’s Royal College of Art) described his “Euthanasia (Roller) Coaster,” currently on the drawing board. Urbonas’ model of “gravitational aesthetics” would be a third-mile-long, 1,600-foot-high thrill ride engineered to supply 10 Gs of centrifugal force (a spin at about 220 mph) to induce cerebral hypoxia, forcing blood away from the head and denying oxygen to the brain. Euphoria (and disorientation and anxiety, but not pain) are likely states to precede the brain’s shutdown. Urbonas insisted that users would have the option through the first two minutes of the three-minute ride to rethink their decision and bail out. (Suicide is legal in four European countries and Oregon and Washington.)
Government in action!
n An open-government advocacy group’s survey of federal agencies, released in July, revealed that eight of them have unresolved Freedom of Information Act requests that are over a decade old, including one pending for more than 20 years. (The 1976 FOIA law requires resolution within 20 business days, with a 10-day extension under “unusual circumstances.”)
n Also, regarding the FOIA, a June 2011 request by the city of Sioux City, Iowa, for background documents regarding the recent Postal Service decision to move jobs from Sioux City to Sioux Falls, S.D., was met promptly — by the Postal Service’s forecast that the likely fee for the documents would be $831,000, even though under the law the first two search hours and the first 100 documents are free.
n In August, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s inspector general revealed that a $1,200 cash award was paid by the agency in 2010 to one of the very employees who had been specifically singled out for allowing Bernard Madoff to talk his way out of SEC inquiries in 2005 and 2006, before his epic Ponzi scheme was exposed in 2008. (The IG helpfully recommended that, in the future, awards not be given to employees who have recently been facing potential disciplinary action for poor performance.)
n Among the aftershocks of the 9-11 attacks on America was the colossal budget-busting on “homeland security” — a spending binge that, additionally, was thought to require something approaching uniform disbursement of funds throughout the 50 states. (Endless “what if” possibilities left no legislator willing to forsake maximum security.) Among the questionable projects described in a Los Angeles Times August review were the purchase of an inflatable Zodiac boat with wide-scan sonar — in case terrorists were eyeing Lake McConaughy in Keith County, Neb.; cattle nose leads, halters and electric prods (to protect against biological attacks on cows, awarded to Cherry County, Neb.); a terrorist-proof iron fence around a Veterans Affairs hospital near Asheville, N.C.; and $557,400 in communications and rescue gear in case North Pole, Alaska, got hit.
News that sounds
like a joke
The convenience store clerk, Ms. Falguni Patel, was giving testimony in the September trial of Morgan Armstrong (charged with robbing her in Hudson, Fla., in 2009) when she began shaking and then passed out while seated in the witness box. A relative of Patel’s approached, removed her sneaker and held it to Patel’s face, without success. The relative explained that Patel was subject to such blackouts and that sniffing the sneaker often revives her. (After paramedics attended to her, Patel took the rest of the day off and went back to court the next morning.)
A News of the Weird Classic (Feb. 2007)
After Emmalee Bauer, 25, was fired by the Sheraton hotel company in late 2006, she sought unemployment compensation under Iowa law that affords benefits to employees terminated through no fault of their own. However, the judge decided Bauer did not qualify. She had written a 300-page journal, during office hours, describing in detail her efforts to avoid work. Among her entries: “This typing thing seems to be doing the trick. It just looks like I am hard at work on something,” and “Once lunch is over, I will come right back to writing to piddle away the rest of the afternoon,” and “Accomplishment is overrated, anyway.”