Compelling explanations The Bank of England, arguing before the U.K.’s Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in October, warned against limiting the bonuses that bankers have come to expect from their lucrative deals — because that might encroach on their “human rights.” The bank suggested it is a human rights violation even to ask senior executives to demonstrate that they tried hard to comply with banking laws (because it is the government’s job to prove violations).
Slick talkers (1) A young woman, accosted by a robber on Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill in October, told the man she was a low-paid intern — but an intern for the National Security Agency, and that within minutes of robbing her, the man would be tracked down by ubiquitous NSA surveillance. She said, later (reported the Washington Examiner), the man just “looked at me and ran away (empty-handed).” (2) A 29-year-old cafeteria worker at Sullivan East High School in Blountville, Tenn., swore to police on the scene in October that she was not the one who took money from a co-worker’s purse, and she voluntarily stripped to near-nakedness to demonstrate her innocence. “See? I don’t have it,” she said. Moments later, an officer found the missing $27 stuffed in the woman’s shoe.
— Katarzyna Dryden-Chouen and her husband, Clive, busted in a London police raid last year with a marijuana grow operation that had netted an estimated (equivalent) of $450,000, insisted to a jury in October that their massive haul was not for sale but for “personal” use — in that they worship the Hindu god Shiva, and truly believed that the world would end soon and that they needed a sizable offering to burn. (Actually, the jury bought it. “Distribution” charges were dismissed, but the couple still faces jail for their cultivation activity.)
Not my fault Conscience-Cleansing: Greg Gulbransen of Oyster Bay, N.Y., announced in September that he was about to sue the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for dragging its feet in implementing the Gulbransen-inspired 2007 federal legislation that he said would save lives, especially those of toddlers. The unimplemented law would force car manufacturers to install rear-facing cameras as standard equipment, a cause Gulbransen embraced after accidentally, fatally, backing over his own toddler in the family’s BMW SUV.
Perspective An exhaustive American Civil Liberties Union report in November showed that more than 3,200 people are serving life sentences in the U.S. for nonviolent offenses (about 80 percent for drug crimes). Most were sentenced under “three-strikes”-type laws in which the final straw might be for trivial drug possession, for instance, or for a petty theft such as the $159-jacket shoplifting in Louisiana, or the two-jersey theft from a Foot Locker. Said the jacket thief, Timothy Jackson, “I know that for my crime I had to do some time but . . . I have met people here whose crimes are a lot badder with way less time.” Added his sister, “You can take a life and get 15 or 16 years,” but her brother “will stay in jail forever. He didn’t kill the jacket!”
Undignified deaths (1) Douglas Yim, 33, was convicted in September of murdering a 25-yearold man in Oakland, Calif., in 2011 after an evening of teasing by the man, who mocked Yim’s certainty about the existence of God. (2) A 27-year-old yoga fanatic in St. Austell, England, drowned in a pit in May during a well-publicized attempt to create an “out-of-body experience” to get as close to death as possible but without going over the line.