Chuck Shepherd

Master baker Stefan Fischer filed a lawsuit recently against Bakery of New York for wrongful firing — because he refused to use "bug-infested" flour to make batches of bread. According to Fischer, when he informed management of the bugs in the facility's 3,000-pound flour silo, he was told simply to make "multigrain" bread, which Fischer took to mean that fewer diners would complain if they heard "crunching" while eating multigrain.

Conspiracy theory

Police and prosecutors in Dallas, appropriately sensitive at having been the site of the 1963 killing of President John Kennedy, have apparently taken out their shame on assassination buff Robert Groden. As the Dallas Observer reported in September, Groden has been ticketed by police dozens of times for operating book sales booths near the "grassy knoll" (site of the alleged "second shooter" of the president) — and yet he prevails in court every single time (82 straight, and counting). Tip for visitors from the Observer: Never publicly utter "grassy knoll" in Dallas, as it seems particularly to offend the police.

Management techniques

• About 200 employees of a travel service in China's Shandong province were fined the equivalent of $6.50 each recently for failing to comply with orders to "comment" — favorably, one supposes — on the general manager's daily posts to the Twitter-like internet site Sina Weibo.

• In June, a motivational trainer working with employees of the Changzhi Zhangze Rural Commercial Bank in China reportedly told the poor-performing bank personnel — among the 200 at the session — to "prepare to be beaten." He then walked among the workers, whacking some with a stick, shaving the heads of the males and cutting the hair of the females.

The family tree

Trees talk to each other and recognize their offspring, according to Australian ecology researcher Suzanne Simard (most recently lecturing on the influential video series TED Talks). Trees are not independent organisms but belong to arboreal "families" with characteristics identifying them to other family members. According to Simard, "mother" trees that ordinarily expand their roots wildly may hold back to give nearby "kinfolk" tree roots a chance to spread. Using "isotope tracing," she learned of trees passing healthful carbon, via fungi, to neighboring family seedlings, which she said renders the seedlings more resistant to future stress.

Can't stop myself

• A lifelong pickpocket known as "Auntie Sato," 83, who has spent nearly 30 years of her life behind bars, was sentenced again (two years, six months) in August for a purse-snatching from a traveler in Tokyo's Ueno Station. "Why," asked the judge, does Auntie Sato keep at it, especially since she also owns property and has rental income. She answered: "I thought about [stopping]," but "gave up. It's hopeless."

• Faisal Shaikh, awaiting his cellphone theft case to be called at the Thane sessions court in Mumbai, India, in August, wandered up to the court stenographer's desk and swiped her cellphone. He was apprehended shortly afterward near the courthouse.

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