Posts Tagged ‘government’
Backlog of manufacturing expected; China, India to provide replacements
Washington, DC, November 24 – Accumulating reports of defects among the approximately four million babies delivered in the US over the last year has prompted federal authorities to issue a recall notice for all children delivered between January and September of this year.
An apparent spike in defect reports became visible in March, when parents began reporting in higher-than-average numbers that their newborn children were not performing to standard. Of special concern, say regulators, was the frequency with which the units were emitting noxious substances from various orifices, which evidently attests to some sort of malfunction and indicated a serious quality control problem on the production line.
While the recall is underway, the six major plants in the US where babies are produced will scale back production, at least until the source of the malfunction can be identified and fixed. Demand for new babies will be satisfied through the importation of units from Asia, mostly China and India, where the surplus of babies has rendered them affordable to American would-be parents, import duties notwithstanding. Domestic trade groups have been pushing for strict controls on imports of foreign babies, but the inability of American baby plants to meet demand has forced those groups to accept a temporary lifting of import limits.
If previous episodes of this nature serve as any indication, say experts, no long-term damage to the American baby-manufacturing sector is to be anticipated. “Some smaller outfits might suffer, but those enterprises don’t seem to be affected by the current quality problems, so they might escape unscathed,” says Hugh Mantraffic-King, a consultant with ties to the industry. “In fact we’re likely to see several of the small-time baby producers step up their game and assert themselves while the big-name manufacturers are unable to produce.”
The most recent recall prior to this one occurred in the 1980’s, when parents began reporting abnormally high levels of autism and other developmental issues in their toddlers. That crop of babies had been manufactured primarily in California and Texas, leading to a months-long, acrimonious lawsuit that ended with a class-action settlement and a fine paid by Storx, then the leading baby manufacturer. Storx filed for bankruptcy in 1990.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, parents demanded the right to return their children after the latter began engaging in obviously defective behavior such as transcendental meditation, wearing bell-bottom trousers, and listening to disco “music.” However, no recall took place, as the units in question were past the warranty period when those defects were observed.
Washington, DC, May 14 – To recognize the necessary exception to traffic regulations, Congress has enacted legislation allowing you, specifically, to disregard laws when obeying them would prevent you from getting to your destination on time.
By a 239-102 margin, the House of Representatives passed the Driving Ordinance Urgent Circumstance Hurrying Exception (DOUCHE) Act, which will allow you to run red lights, ignore stop signs, pass on the right, tailgate, honk in quiet zones, speed past schools, disregard seatbelt and child safety seat laws, make illegal turns, travel the wrong way on one-way streets, block intersections and driveways, and implement lane changes and turns without signaling, if under those circumstances upholding the traffic law in question would cause a potential delay of more than 0.8 seconds. You, after all, are the most important person on the road, and your punctuality trumps everyone else’s safety.
The DOUCHE Act goes into effect on the first day of June, but sooner if you really need it. Potential delays of over 10 seconds will justify the violation of other laws, notably the right-of-way generally granted to pedestrians and emergency vehicles. Regardless of any delay, laws prohibiting the use of mobile devices while driving will no longer apply to you, because what you have to say is so important that other people’s lives take a back seat.
Congress enacted the law after you repeatedly voiced your wish that so many other people not be on the road when you, clearly, have needs that override theirs. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) sponsored the bill, and expressed satisfaction that DOUCHE enjoyed so much bipartisan support.
“This is a milestone in transportation history,” he told reporters after the vote. “It is always gratifying to see common sense win.”
Opposition to the bill came mainly from Tea Party Republicans, who said the measure did not go far enough, as it allowed these exceptions only for you. “As this proposal had too narrow a focus, we could not in good conscience endorse it; instead, Congress should be repealing traffic laws entirely, as they represent government overreach into the lives of private citizens.”
Schumer hopes to follow up with a law that would cancel all littering prohibitions as they apply to you, because you’re actually providing work for the people whose job it is to clean up.
More irreverence can be found at PreOccupiedTerritory.
My children have me at my wits’ end. No matter how calm I try to keep the house, all the children do is yell. I can’t hear myself think. I model quiet talking for them, but they don’t even hear me. What can I do about all the noise?
– Going Deaf in Des Moines
Dear Des Moines:
Your last cable bill was $450.88, suggesting that you expose the children to the idiot box more than you should. What do you expect? See if you can get them to spend spare time at the library instead of in front of a screen. But keep an eye on Greg, your fourteen-year-old, whose literature of choice involves internet sites of which you would not approve.
I think my husband is having an aff-
My brother has an alcohol problem. We tried an intervention but that went badly, leading to an even bigger series of outbursts. Beyond the obvious concern for him, how can we avoid the humiliation of the whole community finding out, but still show him openness and love?
You’re not “Anonymous,” sweetie. You never were.
What’s the best way to impress a potential employer and perhaps score an interview?
First, in your cover letter you spelled “excellence” wrong. Second, get better neckties – those paisley ones are just ridiculous. And third, forget it: the Powers That Be have ordained that you are to remain unemployed until mid-2015. Sorry. Also, just because it annoys us, quit putting a double space after each sentence. One just doesn’t do that anymore.
My neighbors’ dog constantly leaves droppings on my property, and the owners feign ignorance and neglect to clean up. How can I best insist that this stop, without jeopardizing our otherwise friendly relationship?
It might help if you stop vindictively flinging the doggy deposits into their back yard when you think no one can see you.
Could you publish that inspirational poem from the woman who lost a daughter to terminal illness?
No. Have you no respect for boundaries? People hate that treacle.
Jerusalem (AP) – Authorities conducted a raid this morning of the Israeli Rabbinate’s department for supervising and certifying establishments claiming to provide kosher food, and found no indication that the agency had any effectiveness on the premises.
Police and Ministry of Religious Affairs personnel entered the offices in downtown Jerusalem and confiscated papers, computers, and assorted other materials in an effort to determine where, if at all, the Rabbinate had been keeping its ability to properly implement a system for certifying restaurants and factories as kosher. An examination of the materials revealed that any stores of competence had been exhausted long ago, and that the department had only traces of credibility left.
The Rabbinate is empowered by law to determine what entities are allowed to use the term “kosher” to describe their food, a consumer protection implemented to prevent fraud. Doing so requires that the institution maintain given levels of efficacy, transparency, consistency, and adherence to established standards of kashrut supervision as enshrined in certain books of Jewish law. But the Rabbinate’s role as, effectively, judge, jury, and executioner has freed it from outside oversight, opening itself to an impaired ability to ensure that it was itself adhering to the standards it purports to enforce. One of the Rabbinate’s heads is currently under house arrest, awaiting trial for fraud and breach of trust.
Responding to agitation from community activists, the ministry decided to take action, but it remains unclear what impact the move will have. Shoddy record-keeping had already compromised the department’s ability to adequately track the validity of imported foodstuffs labeled as kosher “with the approval of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel,” and the information garnered in the raid is unlikely to have an effect on the problematic dynamic of having restaurants act as employers of the kashrut supervisors.
Elsewhere in the world of kashrut supervision, independent agencies charge the food establishment a specific amount, employing its own supervisors either to remain on the premises or to conduct unannounced inspections. As the investigation has revealed, however, the Rabbinate here apparently lacks the competence necessary to handle such a complex arrangement, and foists the bureaucratic and bookkeeping burden on the businesses it certifies.
A supervisor, known as a mashgiach, assumes the dual role of advising the establishment of the practices required to ensure adherence to the laws of kashrut, and of inspecting the facility to ascertain its compliance. The Rabbinate’s system, says Ministry spokeswoman Amira L’akum, charged its supervisors with inspecting too many establishments, impairing their ability to adequately supervise any single one. “Basically, under the current system, a mashgiach comes in once a month or so, makes a token inspection of the trash can, and collects his check.” She added that there was no way an inspector could remain at any one restaurant or vendor long enough to audit the establishment’s compliance with procedures such as sifting flour to remove insects, checking eggs for blood spots, or not operating what looks like an elaborate, legally sanctioned protection racket.
Indeed, the Rabbinate can levy stiff fines for attempting to sidestep its procedures, which includes the engagement of any other supervising agency in the Rabbinate’s stead. L’akum noted that the department’s established pattern of behavior does not include butting heads with any independent kashrut organizations that actually have implemented a reliable supervision system. “Whether this indicates a modicum of competence or a baseline cynicism has yet to be determined,” she said.
Buttressing the argument for the cynicism factor, Rabbinate inspectors raided two related Jerusalem establishments this week, touting their discovery of forged kashrut labels. The establishments, a cheese store and restaurant with the same name and owner, had never paid the Rabbinate for supervision. Ministry officials, who declined to be identified in keeping with procedures regarding ongoing investigations, surmise that the move was calculated both to showcase whatever vestiges of competence remain, and to demonstrate that it nevertheless lacks either the will or capacity to conduct any such raid on establishments that are already paying the Rabbinate.
A spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate predicted that the institution would emerge from the episode unscathed, noting that the police department, which has been handling the evidence, has exhibited the same level of competence and credibility.
Jerusalem (AP) – A local man went to the local licensing bureau office to obtain a necessary document this morning and succeeded with a minimal wait time and no hassle, casting doubt on the Licensing Authority’s competence as a purveyor of frustration and confronting the Ministry of Transportation with a scandal unseen in severity in more than two decades.
Shortly before noon, Jerusalem resident Daoud Ibn Swid, 38, entered the licensing office in the center of the city to receive a printout of his renewed car registration, which he had not received in the mail. After passing through security and taking a number, Ibn Swid waited approximately 11 minutes before his number was called. Exacerbating the swiftness of the experience was the apparent efficiency of the clerk, who, after asking for ID, called up the pertinent information on her computer terminal and printed out the document, causing Mr. Ibn Swid to spend less than 60 seconds at the counter and encounter no frustration or obstacles.
Normally, says Licensing Authority spokeswoman Byurakra See, visitors to the various bureau offices are expected to spend at least 45 minutes waiting before their number is called. Then procedures mandate that the visitor be shunted to different windows at least twice before even a preliminary resolution of the inquiry can be offered. Following that stage, clerks are directed to ask for documentation that the visitor does not have on hand, such as a passport, an old, expired driver’s license, a birth certificate, a college transcript, or a full credit history printout.
If the visitor has provided all of that documentation, says See, computer network errors or printer malfunctions must disrupt any effort to meet the visitor’s needs. According to See, initial indications point to a large number of previous visitors who despaired more quickly than expected of accomplishing anything and departed, leaving the staff unprepared for Mr. Ibn Swid to appear at a service counter showing no signs of accumulated frustration or anger.
“Our clerks are well trained in identifying and exploiting the most irritating aspect of visiting our facilities, but these unforeseen circumstances meant that they had to confront a calm, even happy, visitor, and our procedures do not cover that unprecedented development.” She assured reporters that the Authority would both amend the procedures to cover any possible recurrences of this scenario and examine existing procedures to determine how it might be prevented in the first place.
Minister of Transportation Israel Katz also promised a full inquiry, noting that no visitor to the Licensing Authority offices had emerged in less than 15 minutes since 1993. On two consecutive April days that year, an office in the city of Haifa processed more than eighteen people over the course of the five hours it was open, far above the average of seven visitors. That episode, infamously known in Israeli bureaucratic circles as The Efficiency Plague, prompted the development of tighter controls and procedures for the mishandling of visitors, procedures that apparently worked well until today.
Minister Katz said his office would investigate whether any bribery or other inducement was used to prompt the clerk to process Mr. Ibn Swid’s document quickly, but conceded it was unlikely, given the brevity of the time the two spent interacting.
Jerusalem (AP) – Cutting through the maze of alleys and narrow, one-way streets in the historic neighborhood of Nachlaot is Betzalel Street, where a twice-daily ritual takes place during rush hour as drivers routinely imperil pedestrians by barreling through ill-designed crosswalks. The municipality plans to add at least three more such intersections to the city’s streets in 2014, a mayoral spokesman announced this morning.
As traffic volume exceeds the capacity of Betzalel, cars backed up bumper-to-bumper inch up the road toward the even more congested center of town, and the ambiguous nature of one intersection invites drivers not to notice the red light that would allow pedestrians to cross the street. When they nevertheless assert their prerogative to do so, angry drivers blame their own ignorance, real or feigned, that the big red light up ahead means they must stop.
At the root of the phenomenon, says city engineer Ron Demmover, is the bizarre layout of the intersection. Traffic from Nissim Bacher may only turn right, down Betzalel. Accordingly, instead of being required to stop before Betzalel actually meets Nissim Bachar, drivers heading uphill on Betzalel must stop at the crosswalk just beyond the intersection. Nissim Bachar does not continue across Betzalel, giving the uphill drivers no indication on their right side that they have entered an intersection.
To increase the risk to pedestrians, the city planted a tree right in front of one of the two traffic signals governing the intersection, the one that stands right at the crosswalk. Thus the only signal clearly visible to drivers headed up the street is a traffic light set back about fifteen meters beyond the intersection. “It’s a crazy sight,” says Demmover. “You get cars moving right through the crosswalk on a red light, then stopping four car lengths later, in the middle of nowhere, because, hey, look, a red light.”
To showcase its commitment to endangering pedestrians, the administration of Mayor Nir Barkat issued a press release today in which it expressed its commitment to spreading the design flaws of the Betzalel/Bachar intersection to other parts of the city. “The malicious engineering produced by our elite team of misanthrope bureaucrats will give rise in 2014 to deadly junctions in the neighborhoods of Givat Shaul, Kiryat Moshe, and Kiryat HaYovel,” read the statement, referring to neighborhoods along the western edge of the city. The release also said the city has not capped the number at three, and is open to redesigning intersections in the more central areas of Baka and Talpiot to help bring the specter of being maimed by a ton or so of moving steel to more and more Jerusalem residents.
Not everyone is pleased with the move. Ateret Shulman, whose four-year-old daughter was hit by a car at the intersection in question, laments the investment, noting that her child was hit by a car heading downhill, where the obscured and badly placed signals were irrelevant; the driver had simply ignored a red light. “There’s no need to rearrange entire junctions,” she argues. “Just install traffic lights that aren’t as easy to see, and forget it.” A mayoral spokesman explained that such a move would also risk accidents between vehicles, when the target audience, so to speak, is people on foot.
The measure focuses exclusively on the western section of the city, which houses mostly Jews. The eastern portion, captured by Israel from Jordan in 1967 and annexed, contains mostly Arab non-Jews who, like most of the rest of the world, do not recognize Israel’s claims to that part of Jerusalem. Successive mayoral administrations have had to contend with accusations that they neglect to provide adequate municipal services to Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. In an odd political twist, this initiative, though it focuses only on West Jerusalem, would result in bringing the two sections of the city closer to equality: the municipality has invested little in improving the infrastructure of the Arab neighborhoods, including the maintenance of crosswalks, making every pedestrian venture onto asphalt there a game of Frogger. Now the residents of the western part would find more exposure to the experience.
Washington, DC (AP) – Responding to an alarming increase in the risk of parents actually having time to accomplish things, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan directed all schools receiving federal funding to allot more time for meetings with teachers.
Technology has allowed American parents to increase their efficiency, maintaining productive communication with associates, supervisors, and employees even while engaged in the mundane tasks of parenting a school-age child. Smart phones and other mobile devices help them stay in contact via text messages and other media even while they sit in a classroom as a teacher or principal drones on in cliché-ridden pronouncements about educational goals and parental involvement.
To combat this development, Duncan had his staff prepare a plan to restore the status quo ante from decades past, when parents had no choice but to sit idle, silently cursing themselves and their fates while being assaulted with hackneyed verbiage. The Taking the Initiative to Make Educational Sessions Unbearable in Conferences or with Kids (TIMESUCK) program makes it mandatory for all teachers to bar the use of mobile devices while parents are assembled for meetings with teachers.
Through TIMESUCK, the Department of Education seeks to keep parents in their rightful place: scrambling, frustrated, exhausted, confused, and as powerless as possible. “The mission of each cabinet department is to maximize the ways in which US citizens and residents are made to feel helpless and manipulated,” Duncan told reporters. “The Department of Education is charged with achieving that end through the school system.”
Traditionally, explained Duncan, the chief vehicle for cultivating and nurturing the persecution of parents has been post-secondary tuition fees and a program jointly sponsored with the CIA to maintain certain level of drug addiction in middle and high schools. Further support for these initiatives comes form the Department of Health, which has consistently managed to ensure that a disturbing percentage of female high school students become pregnant at least once by their junior years.
However, uneven distribution of income and parental involvement in children’s schooling has meant that while the goals of the Department were being met, even exceeded, in inner cities and areas hit with socioeconomic distress, middle- and upper-class school districts still had unacceptably high levels of parental satisfaction and engagement. TIMESUCK, says educational consultant Hugh Sunavobicz, will make great strides in equalizing the frustrations of parents across the socioeconomic spectrum.
“In recent years, parents of means could insulate themselves from the soul-sucking experience of parent-teacher conferences, but this measure levels the playing field. In many ways, it’s a back-door achievement to further the goals of the Democratic Party, which prides itself on equalizing the opportunities that the economically disadvantaged normally do not enjoy.” In this case, noted Sunavobicz, few resources are necessary to implement the initiative, a point that short-circuits some of the anticipated criticism from conservative quarters.
Republican Senator Mark Rubio confirms that analysis. “The Republican Party does not oppose granting people opportunity, but it must be done judiciously and non-profligately. TIMESUCK seems to answer to both requirements, but only time will tell.” He added that the GOP has consistently supported other measures to keep parental optimism in check, such as a series of wasteful foreign wars, a government that blatantly violated human rights and constitutional protections, and election campaigns that leave no room for hope in the future.