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Government in Action!

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It's Good to Be a British Prisoner (continued): The Portland Young Offenders' Institute in Dorset recently began holding classes, for up to 30 inmates, in pole-vaulting (but reassured critics that even the most athletic inmates would only get about 13 feet high, whereas the prison walls are 20 feet tall, topped by razor wire). Psychologist Susan Young was paid the equivalent of about $1,000 a day to counsel convicted murderer Barry George during his recent retrial in London, and among her duties, she said, was to massage his head periodically so that he could concentrate better, to assist his lawyers.

In January, the town of Herouxville, Quebec (pop. 1,300), famously enacted a "code" of expectations for immigrants, seemingly aimed at Islamic laws and rituals (for example, requiring gender equality, permitting alcohol, rejecting special diets for prisoners and reaffirming laws against stoning and female genital mutilation). In October, a town spokesman complained that the code had caused Herouxville residents to be called "(m)orons, liars, xenophobes, fascists ... dictators, Nazis, racists ... idiots ... mentally deficient, intolerant, stupid, retarded." Nonetheless, the town said it would campaign to have the code adopted nationally.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced with great fanfare in June that its repairs and upgrades of levees in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina, would allow the system to hold back a future storm's flood waters even if the level rose more than 5 feet beyond the Katrina level. However, in November, the corps announced that because of a mistake in calculation (an engineer had used a "minus" sign when a "plus" sign was called for), the expensive levee repairs would actually protect against flooding only 6 inches above the Katrina level. (However, two days after it corrected its measurement, the corps corrected its correction and now says it stands by the original calculation of more than 5 feet.

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