Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Secret Secrecy

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The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) recently postponed its program to rejuvenate quarter-century-old Trident missile warheads because no one could remember how to make a key component of the weapons, according to a March report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO found that the NNSA could not replicate the manufacturing process because all personnel with the necessary knowledge have left the agency and no written records were kept. “This is like James Bond destroying his instructions as soon as he’s read them,” noted one commentator. (The GAO report came two months after the German Interior Ministry reported to parliament that it had lost 332 secret files over a 10-year period because the files were in fact so secret that no one in the ministry could recall what was in them.)

Least Competent Criminals

Not Ready for Prime Time: In March, two men were seen on a backyard surveillance camera in St. Petersburg, Fla., attempting to break into a house during the day, when no one was home. According to the police report, one of the men assumed a football stance, ran the length of the yard and rammed the back door. However, the latch held, and the impact knocked the man backward, leaving him on the ground, writhing in pain. The collision also triggered an alarm, but the men escaped before police arrived. (2) Two adults and three teenagers were arrested in Waterville, Maine, in March and charged with arson (four other suspects are expected to be charged as well). The police had plenty of evidence, thanks to a video made by the suspects. The video describes their crime and is crafted with theme music and cast-and-crew credits.

People With Issues

Vinyl Lust: (1) A 23-year-old man was arrested in February and charged with a series of break-ins at sex shops in downtown Cairns, Australia, in which the intruder inflated plastic dolls and had sex with them before leaving the store. (2) In February in Cape Coral, Fla., George Bartusek Jr., 51, was arrested in his car in the parking lot of a Publix supermarket. While parked next to the front door, he allegedly had sex with two blow-up dolls in the front seat. He told police he had come to the shopping center to buy clothes for his dolls.

Butterfly Lust

Biologist Michelle Solensky, of Ohio’s College of Wooster, reported late last year in the journal Animal Behaviour that male monarch butterflies are such calculating inseminators that they can decide the optimal level of sperm necessary for reproductive advantage. While injecting fluid, the male can selectively determine how much of it will include fertility cells, depending on how much residual sperm the female holds from previous suitors (and thus to always inject more than the other guys did). Solensky told New Scientist magazine that the penis acts as a kind of “dipstick” to check the quantity already present.

Leading Economic Indicators

As Italy's banks—like so many others—curtailed lending during the global financial crisis, an estimated 180,000 of the country's small businesses had nowhere to turn for liquidity except to the Mafia, whose lending continued (at ridiculous interest rates, of course), unrestricted by the recession, according to a March Washington Post dispatch from Rome. Organized crime in Italy collects an estimated $315 million a day.

2009 Chuck Shepherd

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