Arkansas Time Machine, Back to the 1950s: In McGehee, a town of 4,200 in southeastern Arkansas, a black girl (Kym Wimberly) who had finished first in her senior class was named only "co-"valedictorian after officials at McGehee High changed the rules to avoid what one called a potential "big mess." As a result, in an ironic twist on "affirmative action," the highest-scoring white student was elevated to share top honors. Said Kym's mother, "We (all) know if the tables were turned, there wouldn't be a co-valedictorian." In July, the girl filed a lawsuit against the school and the protocol-changing principal.
(1) Roy Griffith, 60, John Sanborn, 53, and Douglas Ward, 55, were arrested in Deerfield Township, Mich., in July and charged with stealing a 14-foot-long stuffed alligator from a barn, dragging it away with their truck, and using it to surf in the mud ("mudbogging"). When the gator's owner tracked down the three nearby, they denied the theft and insisted that theirs is an altogether-different 14-foot-long stuffed alligator. Ward's blood-alcohol reading was 0.40.
(2) When deputies in Monroe County, Tenn., arrested a woman for theft in August, they learned one of the items stolen was a 150-year-old Vatican-certified holy relic based on the Veil of Veronica (supposedly used to wipe Jesus' face before the crucifixion). The painting had been stolen from the closet of a trailer home on a back road in the Tennessee mountains, where a local named "Frosty," age 73, had kept it for 20 years with no idea of its significance.
Government in Action!
Of the 1,500 judges who referee disputes as to whether someone qualifies for Social Security disability benefits, David Daugherty of West Virginia is the current soft-touch champion, finding for the claimant about 99 percent of the time (compared to judges' overall rate of 60 percent). As The Wall Street Journal reported in May, Daugherty decided many of the cases without hearings or with the briefest of questioning. He criticized his less lenient colleagues, who "act like it's their own damn money we're giving away." A week after the Journal report, Judge Daugherty was placed on leave.
• Once hired, almost no federal employee ever leaves. Turnover is so slight that, among the typical causes for workers leaving, "death by natural causes" is more likely the reason than "fired for poor job performance." According to a July USA Today report, the federal rate of termination for poor performance is less than one-fifth the private sector's, and the annual retention rate for all federal employees was 99.4 percent (and for white collar and upper-income workers, more than 99.8 percent).