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December 12, 2012

Charles Oliver: An unreasonable fear of thermometers

Officials locked down Florida’s Seminole High School and called in a hazardous materials crew. Did someone bring explosives? A firearm? No, a student brought a thermometer for a class project, and school leaders decided that the mercury it contained was a hazard to students because, you know, millions of people have died using mercury thermometers.

NASA reports that an employee’s laptop was stolen from that person’s vehicle. The agency reports that the laptop contains the personal information of a “large number” of NASA employees and contractors and has offered employees a free credit and ID monitoring service  in case of identity theft caused by the stolen computer. I’m no rocket scientist, but it seems like a bad idea to me to put the personal information of a “large number” of people on any laptop.

National Public Radio reports that some 200 school districts have racked up billions of dollars in risky financial arrangements. The districts have relied on something called capital appreciation bonds, which allow them to defer payments for several years but at the cost of running up large amounts of interest. All told, the schools borrowed $3 billion through such bonds, but it will cost them $16 billion to pay off those bonds. One school system alone, the Poway Unified School District in California, will spend almost $1 billion to repay a little more than $100 million in bonds.

An Australian court has awarded a prostitute identified only as GK $30,000 after a Queensland motel refused to rent her a room because motel staff found she was bringing customers there. The court found that the hotel illegally discriminated against the woman. Prostitution is legal in Queensland, which also bars discrimination based on legal sexual activities.

When a New York City cop pulled Isaih Rosemond over for riding his unicycle on the sidewalk, Rosemond whipped out his iPhone and tried to show the cop a government website that proved he wasn't breaking the law. Instead, she gave him a ticket. Rosemond took the case to court, where a judge at first offered to dismiss the ticket if he didn’t ride his “bicycle” on the sidewalk again. Rosemond informed the judge that it was a unicycle and it was legal to ride it on the sidewalk. After actually looking up the law, the judge found he was right and dismissed the ticket.

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