In April, Anton Purisima filed a claim in Federal District Court in New York City that the Lowering the Bar blog calculated was for the largest monetary demand ever made in a lawsuit: "$2,000 decillion" (or 2 followed by 36 zeroes, which of course is many times more money than exists on planet Earth). Purisima's lawsuit names Au Bon Pain, Carepoint Health, Kmart, the New York City Transit Authority and LaGuardia Airport among the parties allegedly causing him distress (by fraud, civil rights violations and even "attempted murder"). Lowering the Bar also noted that "$2,000 decillion" could also have been accurately nominated as "$2 undecillion" or even "two octillion gigadollars."

The continuing crisis

Beachcombers in the Gulf of Mexico town of Redington Beach, Fla., were treated on May 17 to the sight of a full-grown elephant treading water about 20 yards offshore. (The animal had made its way to the water after being unloaded for a commercial birthday party appearance.)

One of the leading theories as to the cause of a radiation leak at a nuclear waste dump near Carlsbad, N.M., in February is the facility's recent, unanticipated switch to "organic" kitty litter. Previously, an inorganic variety had been used to absorb liquid in the waste drums shipped to the facility from bomb-making plants that had been temporarily storing the waste pending creation of a permanent nuclear waste storage site.

Latest religious messages

An unnamed 60-year-old Buddhist monk was arrested in Nantou County, Taiwan, in April after a convenience-store manager said he was caught red-handed swiping packets of beef jerky. "I don't know why," he told police, "but lately I had this craving for meat." He also had trouble with honesty, initially denying his guilt before finally confessing to the officer that "I have let Lord Buddha down." (Buddhists traditionally are strict vegetarians.)

Fine points in the law

Despite a 1971 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that governments could not punish people who are merely "annoying," dozens of towns (according to a March Wall Street Journal report) continue to regard the behavior as criminal. (The justices decided the word is too "vague" to give fair warning of which behaviors are illegal, but an Indiana deputy attorney general told the Journal that anyone with "ordinary intelligence" knows what is annoying.) New York has such a law, as do Lawrence, Mass., and Cumberland, Md. — among the 5,000 mentions of forms of "to annoy" in a computer search of municipal ordinances.


The U.S. Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration, in his latest report on agency employee bonuses in April (covering late 2010 through 2012), disclosed that $2.8 million of the high-performance prizes went to employees with discipline problems — including about 1,150 workers who owe about $1 million in back federal taxes. The inspector general acknowledged that the bonuses "appear to create a conflict" regarding the "integrity" of the program. (The Treasury Department pointed out somewhat proudly that the department's rate of tax delinquencies is only about one-eighth the delinquency rate of the United States as a whole.)


Ethan Couch, 17, was convicted of DUI manslaughter last year after killing four people, but benefited at sentencing from a counselor's testimony describing him as a victim of "affluenza" — a condition in which children of wealthy families hopelessly feel "entitlement" and are prone to irresponsibility. In April, the Texas hospital providing Ethan's court-ordered rehabilitation announced that Ethan's parents would nonetheless be billed for only about 6 percent of the cost of treatment — $1,170 of an anticipated $21,000 monthly tab — with Texas taxpayers picking up the rest.

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