Quelle surprise

Who would have thought that removing human contact from the process of checking out groceries would lead to anti-social and illegal behavior? Certainly, I never would have thought this:

Beneath the bland veneer of supermarket automation lurks an ugly truth: There’s a lot of shoplifting going on in the self-scanning checkout lane. But don’t call it shoplifting. The guys in loss prevention prefer “external shrinkage.”

For every problem, there is a handy euphemism.

Self-checkout theft has become so widespread that a whole lingo has sprung up to describe its tactics. Ringing up a T-bone ($13.99/lb) with a code for a cheap ($0.49/lb) variety of produce is “the banana trick.

I always wondered what safeguards were in place to prevent people from doing this. I guess the answer is: none.

If a can of Illy espresso leaves the conveyor belt without being scanned, that’s called “the pass around.” “The switcheroo” is more labor-intensive: Peel the sticker off something inexpensive and place it over the bar code of something pricey. Just make sure both items are about the same weight, to avoid triggering that pesky “unexpected item” alert in the bagging area. […]

The Leicester researchers concluded that the ease of theft is likely inspiring people who might not otherwise steal to do so. Rather than walk into a store intending to take something, a shopper might, at the end of a trip, decide that a discount is in order.

Especially if all of the checkout counters are closed, forcing the shopper to use a self-checkout machine… half of which are switched off.

As one retail employee told the researchers, “People who traditionally don’t intend to steal [might realize that] … when I buy 20, I can get five for free.” The authors further proposed that retailers bore some blame for the problem. In their zeal to cut labor costs, the study said, supermarkets could be seen as having created “a crime-generating environment” that promotes profit “above social responsibility.”

Meanwhile, the rule of law continues to decline:

In some places, meanwhile, the likelihood of being punished for petty shoplifting is decreasing. Even if a manager wants to press charges, many police departments can’t be bothered with supermarket theft. In 2012, for example, the Dallas Police Department enacted a new policy: Officers would no longer routinely respond to shoplifting calls for boosts amounting to less than $50. In 2015, the threshold was raised yet again, to $100.

They can’t be serious

From the Washington Post:

From NBC news:

Jeffrey Epstein’s body has been claimed from the New York City medical examiner’s office, a source close to the investigation told NBC News on Wednesday.

Epstein, 66, was found dead by apparent suicide Saturday morning in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. The center’s warden has been temporarily reassigned, and the two guards assigned to watch Epstein have been placed on leave.

Epstein wasn’t on suicide watch at the time of his death, multiple people familiar with the investigation have told NBC News. […]

The person who claimed Epstein’s body was described only as an “Epstein associate.”

Shanghai repair guy

Hengshan Lu apartment buildingWhen I was living on Hengshan Road in Shanghai, my apartment building had a repair guy. He lived in the dumpster room, which was a nondescript concrete structure that adjoined the building. By and large, you didn’t notice him, and I think that suited him fine. There was also a slovenly middle-aged dude who lived in the building and always seemed to show up and collect a small amount of money whenever anything happened, such as a tenant moving in. You might call him the building manager, except he didn’t really manage anything. He was more of an agent or middleman.

There was, for a long while, a broken toilet that sat next to the elevator on my floor. Nobody seemed to mind this. I don’t remember if it was ever removed. When I first moved in to the building, the sink didn’t work and there was a leak from the ceiling above the shower. We got the sink fixed somehow, but the leak persisted. It turned out there was a crazy old guy living directly upstairs (he was a government official who had been injured in a car accident and literally went crazy) and there was something wrong with his pipes and that was the source of the leak.

Together with my landlord (a cretin), the repair guy and the “building manager,” we visited the crazy old guy upstairs and identified the problem, which promptly failed to be solved. There was a big argument between the three parties who were supposed to be helping me fix the leak and somehow they just couldn’t reach an agreement about how or whether to fix it.

Finally, after a long and exhausting struggle, I figured out that the problem was that the repair guy wanted a small sum of money, like 40 yuan (about $6), and either the landlord or the “building manager,” or both, refused to pay him. So I shrugged and paid the man. And you know what? He fixed the leak. He fixed it but good.

Florida Mayor

Dale Glen Massad

“Florida Man” is a well-known internet meme, thanks to the abundance of crazy news headlines involving denizens of the Sunshine State (e.g. “Florida Man steals 36,000 pounds of Crisco”; “Florida Man bites off neighbor’s ear because he wouldn’t give him a cigarette,” etc).

Florida Man, meet Florida Mayor:

The mayor of a Florida town was arrested Thursday after he opened fire on deputies who were trying to serve a search warrant for allegedly operating an illegal medical practice at his home.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said SWAT officers showed up to the house of Port Richey mayor Dale Glen Massad on Thursday morning to serve a warrant related to allegations that he was still practicing medicine despite having his medical license revoked more than 27 years ago.

When SWAT tried to enter the home, bullets began raining down on the officers.

Officers did not return fire. Eventually, Massad surrendered to police and was taken into custody. No one was injured.

More fodder for a Dave Barry column.

So this is weird (Nevada nuke site mayhem)

Nevada National Security Site

It’s only February – January when this story came out – and we may already be reaching Peak 2019. This headline, which as far as I can tell is real, reads like a perfect cold open for a particularly engaging sci-fi series:

Man holding mysterious ‘cylindrical object’ shot dead by police after car chase at secret nuclear test site

A man who approached police holding a mysterious “cylindrical object” has been shot dead following a car chase through a top secret nuclear test site.

The unnamed man burst past a security checkpoint at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, late on Monday afternoon, prompting private security contractors and local police to give chase.

The pursuit lasted around eight miles, the Department of Energy said in a statement, before the man pulled over, got out of the car, and approached the officers while holding a “cylindrical object”.

After failing to listen to police orders, he was shot and died at the scene.

Of course, this story would not be complete without a reference to Area 51:

The NNSS is located around 30 miles west of the far more notorious site, Area 51 – a remote military testing facility subject to countless UFO-based conspiracy theories.

I’m telling you, I have a bad feeling about Nevada.

World’s tallest statue

So huge, it’s scary:

Statue of Unity India

Statue of Unity

The new Statue of Unity, twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty, is located in the middle of nowhere in the state of Gujarat, India. At 597 feet, it is the world’s tallest statue. The sculpture is of Indian independence leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

Quote from India’s prime minister:

“This statue is an answer to all those who question India’s power and might,” Modi said in his address, before heading to take part in religious rites to mark the unveiling.

And if that’s not enough, this should settle the matter:

Even as the wrangling over the Statue of Unity continues, a taller and possibly even more divisive sculpture is in the works off the coast of Mumbai. Scheduled for completion in 2021, it is of Chhatrapati Shivaji, a Hindu warrior king, revered for battling Muslim rulers.

Statue of Shivaji Mumbai

Statue of Shivaji

Once that monstrosity is topped off, I think India’s status as a global superpower will be firmly cemented.

A glitch in the Matrix?

Berenstain Bears

Do you remember a series of children’s books about a family of anthropomorphized bears? Remember what it was called, and how the series title was spelled and pronounced?

Picture it in your mind and say it out loud before clicking this link. And this.

Yeah. Something isn’t quite right here. I think we’re being messed with. By whom and for what purpose, I’m not sure.

I haven’t exactly done a survey, but it would appear that many tens of thousands of American remember it the way I do. Many, like I do, probably remember it very vividly. The idea that we are all sharing a false memory stretches credibility, but stranger things have happened.

What I’m curious to know is, does *anyone* remember it the way it is “supposed” to be spelled? Seriously now.

UPDATE: Ok, I’ve talked to one person two people who remember the “correct” spelling.