California activist Jonathan Frieman finally got his day in court in January, but a Marin County judge quickly rejected his argument that he is entitled to use the state’s carpool lanes accompanied only by a sheath of corporate papers in the passenger seat. (During the 2012 Republican primaries, Mitt Romney famously asserted a corporation’s general right under the law to be treated as a “person.”) The judge decided that the state legislature’s carpool law was intended only to reduce traffic clutter and that driving with no passenger except corporate papers was unrelated to that goal. Frieman told reporters that he had been carrying the papers around for years, hoping to be challenged.
n Many Japanese men seem to reject smartphones in favor of a low-tech 2002 Fujitsu cellphone, according to a January Wall Street Journal dispatch — because it can help philanderers keep their affairs from lovers’ prying eyes. The phones lack sophisticated tracking features — plus, a buried “privacy” mode gives off only stealth signals when lovers call and leaves no trace of calls, texts or emails. A senior executive for Fujitsu said, “If Tiger Woods had (this phone), he wouldn’t have gotten in trouble.”
n China’s national legislature passed a law in December to establish that people have a duty to visit their aged parents periodically. China’s rapid urbanization has not developed nursing homes and similar facilities to keep pace with the population, and sponsors of the law said it would give the parents a legal right to sue their children for ignoring them.
Latest religious messages
“Prophet” Cindy Jacobs said in a January internet broadcast that God has revealed Himself to her by mysteriously removing critical shortages in her life, such as her car’s well-worn tires that just kept rolling. “I remember one time that I had a pair of shoes that I wore and wore and wore and wore and wore and it just — for years, these shoes did not wear out.”
n Neighborhood observers reported in December that the asbestos-removal “crew” working at the former YWCA in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, consisted merely of volunteer teenagers who are students at the local religious Buckeye Education School. State regulations require that asbestos (known to cause deadly respiratory illnesses) be handled only by certified contractors using hazardous-materials gear. Buckeye and other officials, while emphasizing that the students were volunteers, declined to say who authorized them to work.
n In November, Tokyo’s Kenichi Ito, 29, bested his own Guinness World Record by a full second (down to 17.47 seconds) in the 100-meter dash — on all fours. Ito runs like a Patas monkey, which he has long admired, and which (along with his self-described monkey-like face) inspired him nine years ago to take up “four-legged” running. He reported trouble only once, when he went to the mountains to train and was shot at by a hunter who mistook him for a wild boar.
Generally, clients are held to account for their lawyers’ errors because the lawyers are their “agents,” but death row inmates might be treated differently, for they usually do not select or pay for their lawyers — and because the stakes are so high. Alabama, though, looks at the problem unsympathetically, according to a January New York Times report. When an Alabama death row inmate misses an appeals-filing deadline only because of his lawyer’s error (in murder client Ronald Smith’s case, only because lawyer C. Wade Johnson was an often-incapacitated methamphetamine addict), the client forgoes the appeal. The Smith case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. (Alabama also remains the only state in which judges overrule juries and impose the death penalty instead of life in prison.)
Least competent criminals
Benjamin Greene, 22, was charged in December with shoplifting a nude blow-up doll from a Spencer’s Gifts store in Spartanburg, S.C., but on closer inspection, the doll was less than met the eye. It was one of the manufacturer’s “Super Star Series” of dolls, suggesting resemblances to celebrities like Jessica Simpson and Lindsay Lohan, but which are apparently all the same generic plastic doll resembling no specific human. The packaging on Greene’s $19.99 “Finally Mylie! Love Doll” suggests singer Miley Cyrus (“finally” presumably to honor Cyrus’ having recently turned 18 and “legal”), but it, too, was the generic plastic doll.
n In December, the Illinois Times reported that emergency workers were called to a Springfield, Ill., church to rescue Father Tom Donovan, who said that he had been playing with a pair of handcuffs in the rectory and accidentally got stuck. He was also wearing “some sort of gag,” according to the police report. The church told reporters that Father Donovan immediately went on administrative leave and was unable to answer questions.
n Donald Blood III, 55, was charged with DUI in December in Dorset, Vt., after driving into a yard, thinking it was a parking lot. It was actually historic property: the 1852 home in which Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was born and which is “a place of sanctuary where people can come to give thanks to God for their new lives.”