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Paying people to take their meds?
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A severe but underappreciated American drug problem (sometimes deadly and often expensive) is patients' failure to take prescribed medications -- even to save their own lives (such as with anti-coagulants or cholesterol-regulating statins). In recent pilot programs, according to a June New York Times report, compliance rates have been significantly improved -- by giving patients money ($50 to $100 a month, sometimes more) if they remember to take their drugs. Data show that, indeed, such compliance subsidies reduce society's overall health care costs by preventing expensive hospital admissions. Beyond health care costs is the social benefit when violent schizophrenics take their meds and refrain from attacking people.

Government in Action

• Labor unions' sweet, recession-proof contract with the New York City area's severely cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority last year provided 8,074 blue-collar workers (conductors, engineers, repairmen, etc.) with six-figure compensation, including about 50 who earned $200,000 or more. Researchers cited by The New York Times in April found that one Long Island Rail Road conductor made $239,148, about $4,000 more than the MTA's chief financial officer and about $48,000 short of being the highest-paid person in the entire system. Included in some of the fat payouts for LIRR locomotive engineers was special "penalty" pay (about $94,600 in one case) for engineers who are required to move a train to a different location from its normal assignment.

• Arizona (viewed by some as hard-hearted for its April law stepping up its vigilance for illegal immigrants) showed a soft side recently, implementing a $1.25 million federal grant that it believes will save the lives of at least five squirrels a year. The state's 250 endangered Mount Graham red squirrels risk becoming roadkill on Route 366 near Pima, and the state is building a rope bridge for them to add to several existing tunnels.

Great Art!

• At a June concert in Australia's Sydney Opera House, American musicians Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed performed Anderson's 20-minute, very-high-pitched composition, "Music for Dogs," an arrangement likely to have been largely unmelodious to humans, who generally cannot hear such high pitches, but of more interest to dogs, who can. (Dogs were permitted in the audience, but news reports were inconclusive about their level of enjoyment.)

• Many jihadist recruiting pitches are dry and pious, but in May, the Somali activist Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, 26, who was born in Alabama, began streaming Internet rap "music" videos to encourage warrior sign-ups. (Sample verse: "It all started out in Afghanistan / When we wiped the oppressors off the land / The Union crumbled and tumbled / Humbled, left them mumbled / Made a power withdraw and cower.") Actually, there was no music but merely al-Amriki singing, presumably because in the version of Islam favored by Somali jihadists, "music" is not permitted.

• West Virginia's Division of Culture and History announced in June it would hold a state-sponsored art exhibition, showcasing the state's arts talent. Until now, the state has refused such projects because the last one, in 1963, turned out badly. The grand prize that year, supposedly representing the character and tradition of the state, went to "West Virginia Moon," which was a collection of broken boards and a screen door.

A Professional All the Way

In May, the chief media spokesman of the Nye County, Nev., sheriff's office, Det. David Boruchowitz, announced to the press the arrest of a man charged with burglary and assault. The suspect's name, he reported, was Det. David Boruchowitz. The chief investigator on the case, Det. Boruchowitz told reporters, was Det. David Boruchowitz. (Three days later, the charges were dropped, but that announcement was made by someone else.)

Fine Points of the Law

• In Rehoboth Beach, Del., it is illegal for men and women to publicly reveal their genitals and for women to reveal their breasts, but Police Chief Keith Banks, confronted in June with complaints about some beachgoers flouting their shapely breasts, said there was nothing he could do. Banks said the offenders were actually biological males in the midst of hormonal transgendering. As Banks explained, "(T)hey had male genitalia. Therefore, they were not guilty of a crime."

• In April, Prince Edward Island (Canada) judge John Douglas acquitted minor league hockey player Chris Doyle of assaulting his former girlfriend, though Doyle had arrived at her home uninvited, had annoyed and berated her, and would not leave. The girlfriend was injured when Doyle punched a door, causing it to smash against her face, but Judge Douglas accepted that Doyle honestly did not know she was behind the door. Said the judge, "If he was charged with being a colossal asshole, I would find him guilty. Of ‘assault causing bodily harm,' I find him not guilty."

In Two Cradles of Bizarre Politics

• Russia: On television in May, the governor of the Russian republic of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, recounted that he had been abducted in a spaceship in 1997 and forced to communicate with aliens telepathically, and later entertained some in his apartment. One opponent seized the moment and called for an inquiry into whether Ilyumzhinov had telepathically spilled government secrets while under the aliens' spell. Then, former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov announced he would challenge Ilyumzhinov for the position of head of the World Chess Federation (which Ilyumzhinov has been since 1993), but yet another Russian chess icon, Arkady Dvorkovich (who is President Medvedev's chief economic adviser), said he still backed Ilyumzhinov because of the latter's superior managerial talent.

• Florida: (1) While still chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Jim Greer was revealed to have ordered the continuous shuttling of emergency "notes" to him during a Republican National Committee meeting, and according to an April Orlando Sentinel profile, the "notes" were all blank. A Florida RNC official concluded that Greer was simply trying to make himself appear important to his colleagues. (In June, Greer was indicted on six felony counts related to raiding the state party's treasury.) (2) At a forum in May for county school board aspirants in Orlando, candidate John Mark Coney took the floor to read passages from the Bible and then to emphasize his suitability for office by announcing that he, at age 53, is a virgin.