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Suspicions Confirmed | Bright Ideas

News of the Weird by Chuck Shepherd

By News of the Weird by Chuck Shepherd

Published Sept. 30, 2015

Suspicions Confirmed  |  Bright Ideas

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia, has an award-winning "telework" program allowing patent examiners flexible schedules, leading half of the 8,300 to work at home full-time -- despite a 2014 Washington Post report on employees gaming the system. In August, the agency's inspector general exposed several of the most ridiculous cases of slacking off, including one examiner who was paid for at least 18 weeks' work last year that he did not perform and that his manager did not notice. (The examiner, who had been issued nine poor-performance warnings since 2012 and who had flaunted his carefree "workday" to co-workers for years, abruptly resigned two hours before a meeting on the charge and thus left with a "clean" personnel record.) Wrote the Post, "It's a startling example of a culture that's maddening." [Washington Post, 8-21-2015]

Only China and Iran execute more prisoners, but Saudi Arabia also has a soft side -- for jihadists. Saudis who defy a ban on leaving the country to fight (usually against the common enemy, Syria's Bashar al-Assad) are, if they return, imprisoned at a maximum-security facility in Riyadh, but with liberal short "vacations" at "Family House," hotel-quality quarters with good food, playgrounds for children and other privileges (monitored through guest-satisfaction surveys). Returning jihadists also have access to education and psychologists and receive the equivalent of $530 a month with ATM privileges. The purpose is to persuade the warriors not to return to the battlefield once released, and officials estimate that the program is about 85 percent effective. [Bloomberg Business, 7-8-2015]

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