America’s returning warriors continue to experience inexplicable difficulty after putting their lives at risk for their country. It took 13 years for Army Sgt. Maj. Richard Erickson to get his job back from his civilian employer after he took leave in 2000 to serve in the National Guard special forces. The employer soon fired him for taking “excessive military leave.”
The employer? The U.S. Postal Service, for which Erickson worked as a window clerk (and which was forced to reinstate him after a January 2014 ruling awarding him $2 million in back pay). Erickson had won several interim victories, but USPS fought each one, extending the case, and said in January that it might even appeal the latest ruling.
Happy New Year: (1) Once again, celebrants in France marked Jan. 1 by setting fire to 1,067 cars nationwide (down from 1,193 the previous Jan. 1). (2) In the Hillbrow neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa, celebrants apparently decided to abandon a 20-year-old tradition and not hurl furniture from high-rise apartments. (The Hillbrow custom was highlighted on one social-networking website, along with the New Year’s graveyard gathering of relatives in Chile and Ireland’s banging bread on walls to dispel evil spirits.)
Holy Mutations: Deformed animals born in developing countries often attract streams of pilgrims, seeking to touch a creature considered divinely blessed. In December, a five-legged cow in Raipur, India, had supposedly “caused” the last 30 women who touched it to give birth to boys. And a day after that report came one from Phuket, Thailand, in which a newborn gecko with six legs and two heads has become a magnet for visitors seeking clues to winning lottery numbers.
In November the Journal-News of Hamilton, Ohio, examining various police union contracts in the state, learned that in several jurisdictions, officers are allowed to work their shifts even when less sober than some drivers whom they ticket for DUI. In Lebanon, Ohio, for instance, cops can work with a .04 blood-alcohol reading. In Butler County, a .04 reading triggers legal protections for officers that are unavailable to ordinary drivers. (However, in Lebanon, an officer’s right to suck on a breath mint before taking the test was recently removed from the contract.)
The Continuing British Campaign to Abolish Risks: (1) Britain’s Royal Mail announced in December that it would stop delivery to Jeff and Sheila White’s cottage in Carnforth because the carrier was frightened of cows. (Mrs. White said he was just lazy, in that when the cows were present, the carrier had to open and close a gate to get to their cottage.) (2) A 65-year-old school crossing guard resigned in October from a job he said he liked because officials at Manadon Vale Primary School had ordered him to stop playfully “high-fiving” students. Guards, the school said, need both arms free to hold signs and make proper signals.