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Collins: All the news that's fit to skip — in August

August. A dead shark was found on a New York City subway. Meanwhile, at the Iowa State Fair, vegan activists broke into a refrigerated case in the Dairy Building and threw red paint on the butter cow. In San Diego, the mayor claimed the city should pay the costs of defending him in a sexual harassment lawsuit because he had never been given sensitivity training.

I am bringing all these things up to point out that you can be selective about what you have to worry about during August. It's summertime. The living should be easy. Sometimes, if you relax, things just work themselves out. For instance, the butter cow has been cleaned up and is more popular than ever. And it turns out that the shark was dead before it got on the subway.

Here in New York City, the problem of Anthony Weiner for mayor seems to be going away all by itself, with no effort whatsoever on our part. Weiner clocked in with an unfavorable rating of 80 percent in a recent poll, most of which was taken before he called a 69-year-old opponent "grandpa" at a forum sponsored by the AARP.

On the other hand, there's San Diego. You may remember that, in July, Mayor Bob Filner was charged with sexual harassment by some of his former supporters who claimed that, among other things, he grabbed female workers around the neck and whispered lewd comments in their ears. That was the moment when the nation first became aware of the term "Filner headlock."

Initially, the information was all secondhand, and Filner vowed that "the facts will vindicate me." Even then, things looked ominous. For one thing, the facts-vindication defense had been preceded by a vow to behave differently. It was sort of like announcing that you're innocent but will definitely never do it again.

Now, one lawsuit and about a dozen public accusations later, Filner is out of sight — allegedly having gone off for two weeks of sexual-harassment-rehab that seemed to have ended early, although there was also a claim that it had started ahead of schedule.

"Nobody knows where he is!" said Steven Erie, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and an expert in the city's dysfunctional local politics.

What Filner has definitely not done is quit. In his last public statement — which came out after every single member of the City Council had called for his resignation — the mayor announced that "Now is not the time to go backward." It is pretty much a rule that any announcement that it's not the time to go backward is a sign that things already have. Just as is having a headlock named for you when you are not a professional wrestler.

Also, the women who've stepped forward include Filner's former communications director, who's filed the lawsuit, and a nurse, who said he came onto her when she was trying to get help for a homeless ex-Marine who had been injured in Iraq.

Also, the mayor is trying to get the city to pay his mounting legal fees by arguing that San Diego is responsible for everything because Filner never received the sensitivity course required for city employees. "There is a very, very good reason for mandatory sexual harassment training; if nothing else, it makes people think about the subject and how they interact with their fellow employees," his lawyer wrote.


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