Assorted Stupidity #105

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  • In June, the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of an employee who objected to having his hand scanned because he said it would brand him with the Mark of the Beast. The EEOC sued on the employee’s behalf, saying he was entitled to a reasonable accommodation for his belief that the scanning would mark him as a follower of the Antichrist. The employer refused to let him just enter his ID number on a keypad (which apparently doesn’t present the same concern), and actually gave him a letter saying that under its interpretation of Scripture, it would be okay if he scanned his left hand and not his right. He quit instead. The Fourth Circuit said there was no dispute the employee’s belief was sincere, and no reason not to accommodate it.
  • Nova Scotia police are asking for help identifying the “Change Bandit,” who on at least two separate occasions has given store clerks a $50 bill and then successfully confused them into giving back too much change. He should not be confused with the “Short Change Bandit,” a California man charged earlier this year with one count of change-banditry and suspected of many similar crimes dating back to 2004. Ironically, the Short Change Bandit allegedly favored transactions worth about $500, so these two particular bandit names are a little misleading.
  • Is it possible that the Change Bandit is taller than the Short Change Bandit? Maybe, but if you think so you have a lot more faith in humanity’s ability to hyphenate correctly than I do.
  • Not that it’s always crystal-clear when you should hyphenate. The Chronicle of Higher Education had this article on the topic last month, and it provided another pretty good example of when a hyphen makes a difference: “third-world war.” My favorite remains “criminal-defense attorney,” though.
  • Kenyans should be on notice that those found guilty of violating the country’s new ban on plastic shopping bags face a minimum punishment of about $19,000 or one year in jail, according to Al Jazeera. The law, which went into effect about two weeks ago, carries a maximum punishment of about $38,000 or four years in jail. Sounds harsh, but I’m pretty sure you can be shot on sight for this in San Francisco.
  • Experts Decry Increasing Use of Rap Lyrics in Criminal Trials” is a headline Courthouse News had to use recently, because of an alarming trend in which prosecutors claim rap lyrics are relevant. “I am just shocked at how frequently this is occurring,” said Charis Kubrin, a sociologist who has testified in dozens of such cases. “[I]t can be horribly prejudicial,” she noted accurately, especially if jurors aren’t familiar with the genre. The article describes an experiment in which Kubrin presented people with a lyrics that included the phrase “I shot a deputy down.” People who were told they were rap lyrics were much more likely to take the claim literally than those told they were from a country-music song. (They were actually from a 1960 song by The Kingston Trio, who so far as I can tell have never murdered anyone.)