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After Elections in Delaware, Politicians Literally Bury Hatchets

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Image credit: A Chesapeake Journal

As the election season kicks into gear and all that negative rhetoric hits the airwaves, it's worth remembering that politics isn't always so nasty. And no place is that more clear than in one Delaware town, where politicians mark the end of campaigning by literally burying the hatchet.

It's part of the area's regular Return Day celebration, an event held two days after Election Day every two years. The festival started sometime in the late 1700s (it's unclear exactly when) for citizens to gather to learn the outcome of state and national elections. Now it's just an opportunity to hold a festival in the city of Georgetown, complete with a carriage parade and ox roast.

Georgetown -- the county seat of Delaware's Sussex County -- was originally the site where voters would gather to cast their ballots. Thus it provided the natural place for an event two days later, when the town crier would read out the election results. Despite plenty of reasons that the Return Day gathering doesn't need to happen anymore -- you know, like having separate voting districts or the Internet -- the tradition has held, with the town crier and all.

One of the most interesting parts of the festival, however, is the air-clearing tradition of burying a ceremonial hatchet. Based on the Native American tradition of burying a hatchet to denote peace, the chairmen of the local Republican and Democratic parties will appear together on stage and submerge a hatchet into a box of sand. Some candidates have participated in the ceremony as well -- in the 2010 festival, Senate candidates Christine O'Donnell and Chris Coons (the victor) joined together to bury the hatchet after a particularly tough race that ousted incumbent Rep. Michael Castle.

The event is preceded by a parade of horse-drawn carriages and antique automobiles, featuring local dignitaries and recent candidates (Vice President and Delaware native Joe Biden has made more than a few appearances). And following the hatchet-burying and results announcement, Delaware tradition holds that Return Day attendees get an ox roast sandwich off of an open-pit barbecue, although historians say that previous festivals served up rabbit and opossum meat as well.

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Why America Has So Many Empty Parking Spaces
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When you’re driving around looking for a spot to park on tight downtown streets, you’re probably not cursing city planners for mandating too much parking space. (You’re probably thinking the opposite.) But while some areas, depending on the time of day, are inundated with more cars than spaces, for the most part Americans lead lives of parking privilege, surrounded by empty spaces they don’t need to use. By one estimate, there are eight parking spots for every car in the U.S. (Others say it's more like three, which is still a lot considering that number doesn't take into account home parking.)

Why does the U.S. have so much extra parking? A new video explainer from Vox (spotted by Arch Daily) has the answer. It’s because laws mandate it.

In the video, Will Chilton and Paul Mackie of the transportation research initiative Mobility Lab explain the rise of the parking meter, which was invented in the 1930s, and the regulations that soon followed, called mandatory parking minimums. These city laws require that those building an apartment complex or shopping center or store have to provide a minimum number of spaces in off-street parking for customers to use. The cost of providing this service is carried by building developers—giving the city a free way to get new parking without having to manage their street parking situation closely. Go to any suburb in America, and the parking lots you leave your car in are probably the result of these parking minimum rules.

The ease of parking in America isn’t a good thing—though it may feel like it when you slide into an open spot right in front of the grocery store. Experts have been calling for an end to zoning laws like these for years, arguing that excess parking encourages unnecessary driving (why take the bus or carpool if it’s easy to drive yourself and park for free?) while simultaneously making it harder to walk around a city, since parking takes up a ton of land that’s difficult to traverse on foot, interrupting the urban fabric.

These parking minimum regulations take very specific forms by building type, including number of spaces required per hole at a golf course, per gallons of water in a public pool, and per beds in a nursing home. Before you cheer for free, plentiful parking, let the experts at Vox explain just why this is a problem for cities:

[h/t Arch Daily]

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A Microsoft Font Might Have Revealed Political Corruption in Pakistan
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Note to wrongdoers: Check your fonts. Right now in Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family are in legal hot water over what might be falsified government disclosures, according to Slate. The proof? The typeface used in the documents, as the investigative report submitted to Pakistan's Supreme Court notes.

Calibri, the sans-serif typeface that serves as the default for Microsoft applications, was designed in the early 2000s. But it didn't become widely available to the public until Microsoft Vista and its accompanying Office update were released in 2007.

This is where things have gotten tricky for the prime minister. His daughter may have fabricated documents that would show that she and her family had made the proper official disclosures on their finances. The documents, which were supposedly signed in 2006, were written with Calibri—a year before it was released to the public.

Defense lawyers argue, of course, that Maryam Nawaz Sharif could have just had access to Calibri before Windows Vista came out, since it was designed before 2007. The typeface's designer, Lucas de Groot, has said that the very first release he was aware of came out in 2006 as part of beta testing for the Vista operating system. But based on the sheer size of the files involved in such a beta product, it would have required "serious effort to get," a representative for LucasFonts told the Pakistani news outlet Dawn. And that would have been a super early test version, since the first public beta didn't come out until June 2006, four months after the documents were supposedly signed. Unless she was a huge computer nerd, Maryam probably didn't have access to Calibri back in early 2006, indicating the documents were faked. 

Whether you're turning in a term paper or falsifying legal documents, you're always better off going with Times New Roman.

[h/t Slate]

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