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In November the New York Times reported that for 27 years the federal government kept an extensive file on Pablo Picasso as a possible subversive and that the file is still active even though Picasso has been dead for 17 years.

Government in Action

As a result of its seizing the assets of failed banks, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation assumed ownership last year of, among other items, the negative to a never-released 1985 film starring Charlie Sheen and Laura Dern, the largest cemetery of former slaves in the U.S., and 800 units of Brahma bull semen.

Last September, after a monthlong hiring freeze and the heart attack suffered by a staff embalmer, Maryland's Anatomy Board was down to one person, Ronald S. Wade. Before the state provided emergency relief, enough cadavers piled up to create a public health hazard.

On page 31 of the Defense Department's annual report to the president and Congress last year, Michigan's Sawyer Air Force Base is shown in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is labeled as belonging to Canada.

Anthony Senecal, mayor of Martinsburg, West Virginia, proposed in November that the city's panhandlers apply for a license to beg (and pay a $25 fee for the application). Senecal believes most of the city's panhandlers are people who have misspent their ample government checks, and he doubted his system would work in New York City. "The biggest difference between us and New York City is we know all our bums."

In December a Department of Agriculture investigation found that food stamps had been used fraudulently to purchase, among other things, a funeral, 32 ounces of the illegal drug PCP, prostitution services, and, in a New Mexico transaction, two surface-to-air missiles.

Over the winter, police in New Delhi were handing out thousands of horoscopes to drivers, advising that good things would happen to good drivers and bad things to bad ones, hoping to reduce traffic casualties from last year's high of 2,000.

Smooth Reactions

In August police in Redlands, California, recommended criminal charges against F. Douglas McDaniel, 69, a state appeals court judge. Two months earlier, while watching Pretty Woman in a theater in Twin Peaks, California, he became incensed that two kids were giggling and allegedly hit one and started to strangle the other.

In a two-day period in New York City recently, a homeless man, a train maintenance worker, and a dog were killed on the subway tracks. Ninety people telephoned the transit authority to express concern about the dog, but only three called about the worker, and no one asked about the homeless man.

When petitioner Steven Barker, 31, of Woodbridge, Virginia, asked for an arrest warrant against a man who had threatened him, magistrate J.B. Polson refused to issue it, saying he knew the man. When Barker then asked for an alternate magistrate, Polson allegedly punched him in the face and ordered him out of the room. A few seconds later, Polson allegedly went outside and punched Barker again. Barker finally got a federal judge to hear his complaint against Polson; the Virginia attorney general's office had maintained that Polson could not be prosecuted for the punches.

Benita McCrae, 30, was sentenced to six months in jail in North Hollywood, California, in December. She had come to visit her daughter's kindergarten class and became upset that the teacher had raised her voice to the kids. She grabbed the teacher--who was 64 years old and half McCrae's size--by the throat and threw her to the ground.

Daniel Serna, 19, was charged with murdering Robert Vinci in Pueblo, Colorado, in August. Serna and a friend were standing in front of a 7-Eleven when Vinci rode up on his bike and passed wind in front of the two. Vinci smiled and said, "I've been ripping them all day," and Serna said, "Well, don't be ripping them by me." A fight ensued, and Serna allegedly pulled a gun and shot Vinci.

A police report in the San Francisco Chronicle in March described the following crime: a tall, burly, gun-wielding man walked into a Tenderloin district liquor store and demanded money. When clerk Frank Boutte, 35, said no, the robber burst into tears, put his gun away, and ran out of the store.

College sprinters Kevin Braunskill of North Carolina State and James Trapp of Clemson were suspended from competition in February. The two were on the award stand after Braunskill had won the 200-meter race when Trapp took a swing at Braunskill; Braunskill retaliated by hitting Trapp over the head with his first-place plaque.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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