America's returning warriors continue to experience inexplicable difficulty after putting their lives at risk for their country. It took 13 years for Army Sgt. Maj. Richard Erickson to get his job back from his civilian employer after he took leave in 2000 to serve in the National Guard special forces. The employer soon fired him for taking "excessive military leave." The employer? The U.S. Postal Service, for which Erickson worked as a window clerk (and which was forced to reinstate him after a January 2014 ruling awarding him $2 million in back pay). Erickson had won several interim victories, but USPS fought each one, extending the case, and said in January that it might even appeal the latest ruling.

Recurring themes

Once again, celebrants in France marked Jan. 1 by setting fire to 1,067 cars nationwide (down from 1,193 the previous Jan. 1). But in the Hillbrow neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa, celebrants apparently decided to abandon a 20-year-old tradition and not hurl furniture from high-rise apartments.

Britain's Royal Mail announced in December that it would stop delivery to Jeff and Sheila White's cottage in Carnforth because the carrier was frightened of cows. (Mrs. White said he was just lazy, in that when the cows were present, the carrier had to open and close a gate to get to their cottage.)

A 65-year-old school crossing guard resigned in October from a job he said he liked because officials at Manadon Vale Primary School had ordered him to stop playfully "high-fiving" students. Guards, the school said, need both arms free to hold signs and make proper signals.


Jamal Garrett, 29, was arrested in Antioch, Calif., in January after, police said, he tried to rob a Wells Fargo bank, but had fled empty-handed after a teller struggled to read a poorly written holdup note. (She and her manager said they did not even know immediately if it was a holdup or just a note requesting assistance.)

Daniel Severn, 27, pleaded guilty to burglary in England's Hull Crown Court in December, for trying to enter a home through the roof but getting trapped, upside down, in the bathroom. He dug his phone out of his pocket, but it fell into the toilet, and he remained hanging for an hour and a half until a resident arrived and found him.


Unrelenting, swastika-tattooed New Jersey neo-Nazi Heath Campbell, 40, saw child No. 9 born in November, and once again, the county family welfare office removed it almost immediately. "I'm not allowed to have children because I'm a Nazi," he lamented. Campbell first made headlines in 2008 when a bakery declined to decorate a birthday cake for his son, Adolf Hitler Campbell, leading child welfare officials to investigate, and more seizures followed, now including the November-born Eva (Lynn Patricia) Braun. Campbell told reporters he would continue to fight for offspring. "I'll stop making them when they stop taking them."

To build an iron ore smelting plant in Iceland in 2009, Alcoa Inc. was forced to kowtow to the country's national obsession that elves ("hidden people") live underground and that construction projects must assure that the little fellas have had a chance to scatter gracefully to new habitats. Alcoa hired the necessary elf-monitoring "engineers," and eventually the project proceeded. In December 2013, the government announced it was temporarily abandoning a major road project connecting a remote peninsula and the capital of Reykjavik after it was "learned" that the route would disturb an "elf church." The likely outcome, again, according to an Associated Press dispatch, is that the project will resume once the elves have relocated.

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