Chuck Shepherd

Longtime Mississippi environmental activist Tennie White is 27 months into a 40-month sentence for "falsifying" three $150 tests in her laboratory, but high-ranking executives at the Kerr-McGee chemical conglomerate made millions on the case White helped expose: leakage of cancer-causing creosote into communities, including White's Columbus, Miss., neighborhood. A detailed investigation by in November noted the executives' brilliant response to the 25,000 creosote lawsuits nationwide: put all the liability into one outlying company (eventually going bankrupt) but selling off, highly profitably, the rest of the firm.

Compelling explanation

Texas is among the most enthusiastic states for jailing low-income arrestees who cannot pay a money bail, especially during devastating family hardships, and the four Houston bail magistrates are particularly harsh, according to a recent report of the Texas Organizing Project. After hearing one financially overwhelmed woman beg sarcastically that $1,000 bail is "nothing" next to her other bills, unsympathetic magistrate Joe Licata shrugged, "It's nothing to me, either. It's job security."

Quantities in the news

• Price tag for one round of a 155 mm projectile shot from the Navy's USS Zumwalt: $800,000.

• Trees killed in California by the now-five-year-old drought: 102 million.

• Recent finding of "water" farthest from the Earth's surface: 621 miles down (one-third of the way to the Earth's "core").

• Odds that statistics lecturer Nicholas Kapoor of Fairfield (Conn.) University said he played against in buying a $15 Powerball ticket: 1 in 913,129 (but he won $100,000).

• Speed police calculated Hector Faire, 19, reaching in an Oklahoma police chase: 208 mph (but they got him anyway).

• Different languages spoken by children in Buffalo, N.Y., public classrooms: 85.

Hardly need a Breathalyzer

• Michelle Keys, 35, among those joyously caught up in Iowa's upset football victory over highly ranked Michigan in November and celebrating that night in Iowa City, was slurring and incoherent and told police she was certain she was standing in Ames, Iowa (120 miles away), and had just watched the "Iowa State-Arizona" game (a matchup not played since 1968). She registered .225.

• A 38-year-old woman was arrested in Springwood, Australia, in November when police stopped her car at 3 a.m. at an intersection — with a swing set wedged onto the roof of her SUV. She had shortly before driven through someone's backyard and through the swing set. She registered .188.

Recent alarming headlines

• "Man mixing LSD and cough syrup saves dog from imaginary fire" (WNYT-TV, Albany, N.Y.). Panicked, the man had first sought help from neighbors — who were unpersuaded by the sight of a fireless fire.

• "Santa Claus speaks out against North Pole ban of marijuana sales" (KTUU-TV, Anchorage). Cannabis is legal in Alaska unless towns ban it, and the legally named Mr. Claus needs it for cancer pain.

• "Dog on loose causes sheep to have sex with their sisters in Walton-on-the-Hill" (Surrey Mirror, Redhill, England). The wild dog has wrecked a planned mating program, leaving female sheep to canoodle with each other.

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