Recurring Theme: The Environmental Protection Agency, already revealed in June to have allowed a contractor to maintain taxpayer-funded “man caves” (TVs, appliances, couches, videos, etc.) hidden away in a Washington, D.C.-area warehouse, made the news again during the government shutdown in October when soup with a 1997 expiration date was found during the shutdown in an EPA employees’ refrigerator. Furthermore, in September, former high-level EPA executive John Beale pleaded guilty to defrauding the agency of $900,000 in salary, expenses and bonuses dating back to the 1990s by claiming work orders (including secret projects for the CIA) that no one at EPA appears ever to have tried to verify.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro created a “Vice Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness” to coordinate the welfare programs begun by the late President Hugo Chavez. Critics charged, however, that there is much to be unhappy about, given the country’s annual rate of inflation (near 50 percent), and an Associated Press dispatch quoted one critic who said she would be happy enough if only stores were not constantly out of milk and toilet paper. (Another skeptic said he looked forward to maybe a Vice Ministry of Beer).
— The U.S. government has engaged in some legendarily wasteful projects, but leaders in China’s Yungai village (pop. 3,683), in Hunan province, have surely raised the bar for epic squander after borrowing the equivalent of $2.4 million and building an impressive seven-story government headquarters — but with 96 still-unlooked-out front windows because there is no activity beyond the first floor. According to an October London Daily Telegraph report, the only occupants are the village government’s eight employees.
— Though many people might agree with blind musician Stevie Wonder that it is “crazy” to let people like him carry guns, federal and state laws seem ambiguous, according to a lengthy analysis of Iowa’s supplied by the Des Moines Register in September. Some Iowa sheriffs believe that federal anti-discrimination law limits their discretion (though they can deny permits for lack of physical or mental ability to handle the gun). The National Federation of the Blind generally trusts its members never to use guns recklessly, a spokesman said, and blind Iowa activist Michael Barber emphasized his right. “(Y)ou take it out and point and shoot,” he said, “and I don’t necessarily think eyesight is necessary. ... For me, the inspiration is just to see if I run into any difficulties.”
Leandro Granato, 27, said that he discovered, as a kid in Argentina, that liquids sucked up through his nose could then be squirted out of his eye — and an art career was born. News sites reported in October that Granato’s “eye paintings” of ink colors, splattered out as tears on canvas in various motifs (from up to 1 1/2 pints of ink each), are offered for sale at a top-end price of the equivalent of $2,400 each. (Huffington Post’s story also reminded readers that Chilean artist Carina Ubeda is another who uses her body functions as a medium — specifically, her menstrual blood, which she employed in the form of 90 used sanitary napkins arranged in a hoop featuring an apple, symbolizing ovulation. Her June show ran in Quillota, Chile.)
— Informal Georgia Sobriety Tests: Rachel Gossett blew a .216 alcohol reading in Loganville, Ga., in November, but that was probably a formality after an officer witnessed her attempt to put a cheeseburger from a Waffle Shop onto her foot as if it were a shoe. And Rashad Williams, 38, was charged with DUI in Atlanta in October after he crashed through the front of a Walgreens drugstore and then, according to a witness, calmly exited his vehicle (which was sticking halfway into the building) and resumed drinking next door at the Anchor Bar.
— Round Up the Usual Suspect: Indicted for rape in August in Hamilton County, Tenn.: Mr. John Allan Raper, 19. (Other recent miscreants were Mr. Batman Suparman, 23, convicted in Singapore in November of housebreaking and theft, and Mr. Bamboo Flute Blanchard, 18, who was arrested in June in Gainesville, Fla., and accused of trying to stab his father for an unreported provocation — although one possible motive suggests itself.)
— Chutzpah!: Sheriff’s deputy Darrell Mathis of Newton County, Ga. (30 miles east of Atlanta), a five-year veteran, was arrested in September and charged with selling marijuana locally -- from his squad car, in uniform, and apparently without inhibition. A confidential informant, unnerved by Mathis’ alleged brazenness, convinced FBI agents in April 2013 to do a by-the-book sting.