"The trucks full of paperwork come every day," wrote the Washington Post in March, down a country road in Boyers, Pa., north of Pittsburgh, and descend "into the earth" to deliver federal retiree applications to the eight "supermarket"-sized caverns 230 feet below ground where Office of Personnel Management (OPM) bureaucrats process them — manually — and store them in 28,000 metal filing cabinets. Applications thus take 61 days on average to process (compared with Texas' automated system, which takes two). One step requires a record's index to be digitized — but a later step requires that the digital portion be printed out and filed. OPM blames contractors' technology failures and bizarrely complicated retirement laws, but no relief is in sight. (Fortunately, cave-bound paper-shuffling is a well-regarded job around Boyers.)

Democracy blues

Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., announced his retirement in February, after 23 years, and in "tribute," the Washington Post suggested he might be the least successful lawmaker of the past two decades, in that he had sponsored a total of 646 pieces of legislation — more than any of his contemporaries — but that not a single one became law. He has not passed even the easiest of bills — to name a post office or a courthouse.


The Internal Revenue Service reportedly hit the estate of Michael Jackson recently with a federal income tax bill of $702 million because of undervaluing properties that it owned — including a valuation on the Jackson-owned catalog of Beatles songs at "zero." The estate reckoned that Jackson was worth a total of $7 million upon his death in 2009, but the IRS placed the number at $1.125 billion. (In 2012 alone, according to Forbes magazine, Jackson earned more than any other celebrity, living or dead, at about $160 million.)

News of the self-indulgent

Plastic surgeons have performed beard implants before, but only for men with facial scarring or for female-to-male transgenders. Recently, New York City surgeons report an uptick in business by men solely to achieve the proper aesthetic look. According to the website DNAinfo, the procedure is the same as for hair transplants — and takes eight hours to do, at a cost of about $7,000. Said Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, "Whether you're talking about the Brooklyn hipster or the advertising executive, the look is definitely to have a bit of facial hair."

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