Illegal chicken skeletons: What's in your job description?

Friday - 8/16/2013, 2:00am EDT

Being married to a federal worker definitely has its ups and downs. And it can be funny, different and fascinating. At times. Especially if your legal soul mate has an interesting job: Like intercepting illegal chicken skeletons. Back to that in a sec...

Also, there is the "security" of being a fed:

During the recession, odds are your civil servant mate was not laid off, was hit with reduced hours and maybe the loss of health benefits, or forced to take a pay cut. In that sense, feds made out well during the lean years.

On the other hand, the regular January federal pay raise hasn't happened for the last three years. There is a good chance Congress — now on a month-long vacation looking for ways to save money and improve government efficiency — will extend the freeze for another year. Or two.

Congress, as a whole, hasn't approved a budget for at least three years and it may not come up with anything for fiscal 2014, which starts Oct. 1. Given some of the things approved in the House, that could — for feds — be a good thing.

As per usual, life goes on. Federal workers — when not furloughed — continue to do their jobs. And when it comes to variety, nobody has a more interesting array of occupations than Uncle Sam. How many astronauts, spies or money-makers (as in people who actually create, produce and print and cut money) does your company have?

For that matter, how many chicken skeleton interceptors do you know?

chicken skeletons

Customs and Border Protection found these chicken skeletons hiding in cargo at the Port of Baltimore. (Photo:CBP)

Well, if you work for Customs and Border Protection, you work with some interesting people. In addition to protecting and monitoring our borders, airports and other ports of entry. CBP people make sure that things arriving by boat — about 80 percent of the stuff we eat, drink or wear — are legal. And safe. Huge ships with special containers routinely transport billions of tons of cargo every day. Smugglers try to use them, sometimes, and people who try to avoid paying duty have been known to fib on the cargo manifest.

Large (as in huge) cargo ships are so efficient that fish factories in Europe send their fish to China, for cleaning. Once they are filleted, they are shipped back to the home country and maybe to your table. So when some places say fresh...

Even if you live in oil or natural gas country, odds are some of the stuff you fill your tank or cook with came from abroad. By ship.

Some of the things make sense. Others are a surprise.

Like what Port of Baltimore CBP folks found last month: Two cargos of 22 chicken skeletons, complete with chicks. A firm in Manassas, Va., ordered them. Why? A center piece, anniversary gift, something for the man cave? We decided not to ask. But we'd love it if you would email us your best guess, or what you would do with a chicken skeleton if you could lay (no pun intended) your hands on one. Better yet, a pair.

Anyhow, most people think of CBP as stopping illegals at the border. But as a spokesman for the agency said, they have many other important duties. Their unofficial motto: Thugs, Bugs and Drugs.

The middle one, the bugs part, is important. Often at least as important as stopping thugs and drugs. One bug of the wrong kind could cause an epidemic or wipe out crops. No laughing matter.

So chicken skeletons from China — which has Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza — that's bad stuff.

Sleep well. The former chickens have either been destroyed or returned to the sender. You gotta wonder; what's next?


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Nicole Ogrysko

Today's NUF comes in two parts.

Part I: During World War II, it was widely believed that eating carrots improved your night time vision. Curators at the World Carrot Museum say the myth stems from a popular World War II campaign in England. The British wanted the Germans to believe that the success of their blackout air raids was not due to some secret technology, but because British night fighters... ate a lot of carrots. Check out the archival pictures of the pro-carrot advertisements, courtesy of the Smithsonian magazine.

Part II: Yes, there is a World Carrot Museum. Unfortunately, it's not a place you can physically visit — just online.


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