— The Washington Post reported in April that the federal government is due to spend $890,000 this year to safeguard ... nothing. The amount is the total fees for maintaining more than 13,000 short-term bank accounts the government owns but which have no money in them and never again will. Closing the accounts is easier said than done, according to the watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste, because the accounts each housed separate government grants, and Congress has required that, before the accounts are closed, the grants must be formally audited — something bureaucrats are rarely motivated to do, at least within the 180 days set by law (though there is no penalty for missing the deadline).
— It’s good to be the county administrator of Alameda County, Calif. (on San Francisco Bay, south of Oakland). The San Francisco Chronicle revealed in March that somehow, Susan Muranishi negotiated a contract that pays her $301,000 a year, plus “equity pay” of $24,000 a year so that she makes at least 10 percent more than the next highest paid official, plus “longevity” pay of $54,000 a year, plus a car allowance — and that she will be paid that total amount per year as her pension for life (in addition to a private pension of $46,000 a year that the county purchased for her).
— The Way Washington Works: (1) Congress established a National Helium Reserve in 1925 in the era of “zeppelin” balloons, but most consider it no longer useful (most, that is, ranging from President Reagan to the Democratic congressman who in 1996 called it one program that, if we cannot undo it, “we cannot undo anything”). The House of Representatives recently voted 394-1 to continue funding it because of “fears” of a shortage that might affect MRI machines and, of course, party balloons. (2) In rare (these days) bipartisan action, congressional military “experts” of both parties are about to force the Army to continue building Abrams tanks — when the Army said it doesn’t want them and can’t use them. The tank manufacturers, of course, have convinced Congress that it needs the contracts, no matter what the Army says (according to an April Associated Press analysis).
— The Jewish Museum in Berlin is currently staging what has become popularly known as the “Jew in the Box” exhibit to teach visitors about Judaism — simply featuring one knowledgeable Jewish person who sits in a chair in a glass box for two hours a day and answers questions from the curious. Both supporters (“We Germans have many insecurities when it comes to Jews”) and critics (“Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water (and) turn up the heat?”) are plentiful.
— The weather in Hong Kong on April 25 wreaked havoc on American artist Paul McCarthy’s outdoor, 50-foot-tall piece of “inflatable art” in the West Kowloon Cultural District. “Complex Pile” (a model of an arrangement of excrement) got punctured, which mostly pleased McCarthy’s critics since his recent work, reported the South China Morning Post, has often centered around bodily functions.
— News of the Weird has reported several times on the astonishing control that inmates have at certain prisons in Latin American countries, with drug cartel leaders often enjoying lives nearly as pleasurable as their lives on the outside. However, according to an April federal indictment, similar problems have plagued the City Detention Center in Baltimore, where members of the “Black Guerrilla Family” operated with impunity. Between 2010 and 2012, corruption was such that 13 female guards have now been charged, including four women who bore the children of the gang’s imprisoned leader, Tavon White. Cellphones, drugs and Grey Goose vodka were among the smuggled-in contraband, and the indictment charges that murders were ordered from inside.
— Somewhat Backwards DUI: Danielle Parker was hospitalized and awaiting DUI charges after a crash near Gaston, N.C., in March, even though she had been in the passenger seat of the car. She had handled the wheel momentarily because Brittany Reinhardt, 19, in the driver’s seat, was busy texting.