Odd Files

Can’t Possibly Be True


Comprehensive Pentagon studies of America’s nuclear missile infrastructure released in November (following disturbing reports of readiness failures) included the revelation that nuclear warheads had to be attached with a particular wrench, even though the Air Force owned only one with which to service 450 missiles housed at three bases. Consequently, one official told The New York Times, “They started FedExing the one tool” back and forth. No one had checked in years, he said, “to see if new tools were being made” — typical of maintenance problems that had “been around so long that no one reported them anymore.”

Autumn Canceled: London’s Daily Telegraph reported in November that a gardener hired by the House of Commons had spent a day pulling color-changing leaves from trees on the Westminster Palace grounds — because it would be more cost-effective than to rake them up after they fell. The gardener (whose name sounds right out of a James Bond adventure — “Annabel Honeybun”) said she had 145 trees to service. (A local environmentalist lamented denying autumn visitors “one of the few pleasures at this time of year.”

Cultural Diversity

Various cogs in South Korea’s national machinery paused briefly on Nov. 13 so as not to distract the nation’s high-school-age kids, as 650,000 of them were sitting for the decisive university entrance exams (which are several levels more important than the SATs or ACTs for American students). Large companies and government agencies told employees to commute later in the morning — to keep traffic lighter for students traveling to the 1,257 test centers — and “no-fly” zones reduced noise during the 40-minute period in which students tested aurally on the English language.

Latest Spiritual Messages

“Santa Muerte” (Our Lady of the Holy Death) might be described as a cynic’s unauthorized byproduct of Roman Catholicism currently festering in drug-cartel-roiled Mexico and Central America and is, according to Vice Media, “the world’s fastest growing” religion. “Saint Death” first appeared only 12 years ago, in the Mexico City barrio of Tepito, and is now a first line of protection for worshippers in danger zones. (Almost 80,000 Mexicans have been killed in drug-related violence since 2006, Vice reported.) Said an author who has studied the religion, “People feel more comfortable asking (Santa Muerte) for favors they probably shouldn’t ask a Catholic saint for.”

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