A cosmetics company in Gaza recently began selling a fragrance dedicated to victory over Israel and named after the signature M-75 missile that Hamas has been firing across the border. “The fragrance is pleasant and attractive,” said the company owner, “like the missiles of the Palestinian resistance,” and comes in masculine and feminine varieties, at premium prices (over, presumably, the prices of ordinary Gazan fragrances). Sympathizers can splash on victory, he said, from anywhere in the world.
Government in action
n The Philadelphia Traffic Court has been so infused with ticket-fixing since its founding in 1938 that a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court report on the practice seemed resigned to it, according to a November Philadelphia Inquirer account. One court employee was quoted as defending the favoritism as fair (as long as no money changed hands) on the grounds that anyone could get local politicians to call a judge for him. Thus, said the employee, “It was the (traffic) violator’s own fault if he or she didn’t know enough” to get help from a political connection. Traffic Judge Christine Solomon, elected in November 2011 after a career as a favor-dispensing “ward healer,” said the ticket-fixing was “just politics, that’s all.”
n More than 200 school districts in California have covered current expenses with “capital appreciation bonds,” which allow borrowers to forgo payments for years — but at some point require enormous balloon payments. A Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that districts have borrowed about $3 billion and thus are on the hook for more than $16 billion. “It’s the school district equivalent of a payday loan,” said California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a former school board member who said he’d fire anyone who sought such loans. (Some defenders of the loans pointed to schools’ occasional need for immediate money so they could qualify for federal matching grants — which, to the districts, would be “free” money.)
In October, Austrian artist Alexander Riegler installed a one-way mirror in the ladies’ room at a cafe in Vienna to allow men’s room users to peer inside (in the name of “art,” of course). Riegler said he wanted to start a “discussion of voyeurism and surveillance.” Men could see only the faces of women standing at the lavatories, and he said then that in January, he would reverse the process and allow women to peer into the men’s rooms. (The cafe had posted a sign advising restroom users that they would be part of an “art” project.)
Niles Gammons of Urbana, Ohio, apparently did some partying on Saturday night, Nov. 3, because he managed a rare DUI daily double. He was first cited for DUI at 1:08 a.m. Sunday and then, 60 minutes later, he was again cited for DUI at 1:08 a.m. (The first was during Daylight Saving Time; the second was after the changeover.)
Emerging democracies have experienced brawls and fisticuffs in their legislatures as they learn self-government, with Ukraine perhaps the most volatile. When some legislators rose to change party affiliations in December, a fracas broke out and, according to Yahoo News, “Images ... showed a scene that resembled a WWE pay-per-view event, with parliament members using full nelsons, choke holds and other moves familiar to American wrestling fans.” In fact, a man with the same name as a WWE heavyweight (“Rybak”) had just been elected speaker, and the country’s well-known boxing champion Vitali Klitschko was in attendance (as a member of a minority party called “Punch”). (One 2010 brawl in the Ukrainian legislature sent six deputies to the hospital with concussions.)