A good news story

May 24, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BRASOV, Romania—Like thousands of cops the world over, Marian Godina got an angry call from his bosses. They wanted to see him immediately.

Some years earlier Officer Godina, a traffic officer in this city of 250,000 in the mountains of Transylvania, had pulled over a drunken driver who, in a break from the ordinary, had chosen to acknowledge his inebriation—with gusto. Asked if he had been drinking, the driver replied: “Do I look sober to you?” Asked what types of drinks he’d had, he said: “All sorts. Write down, a-l-l s-o-r-t-s.” When asked if he knew what day it was, he said: “It’s night…not day,” tossing in a few choice expletives.

When Officer Godina’s bosses saw, last summer, that he had posted the incident on Facebook, they weren’t amused by the coarse language. They ordered him to take down his entire Facebook page. Officer Godina, now 29 years old, was so humiliated he thought about quitting the force.

But overnight, after his page went dark, the Brasov police server crashed. It had been bombarded with complaints in his support. The next day, his bosses reversed course and ordered him to reactivate the page.

Though they hadn’t known it, Officer Godina’s Facebook page had become a cause célèbre. For decades, Romanian traffic police officers had been the subject of endless jokes about their alleged lack of integrity, education and wit. Officer Godina’s page was so relentlessly honest, funny, grammatically correct and at times openly critical of the corruption he saw firsthand that he had developed a loyal following among fed-up citizens.

Officer Godina’s Facebook breakthrough began with a post last year about watermelons. In 2009 he had been called out to investigate a crash in which a taxi had flipped over and a good Samaritan driving a watermelon truck had saved the driver. In his haste the truck driver had forgotten to set his brake; the truck rolled into a ditch and spilled its fruit—a season’s income—leaving the driver “crying like a child and staring in sorrow” at his truck, Officer Godina wrote. The policeman did his own good turn, helping the driver right his truck and re-stack the melons. The post earned him nearly 6,000 Facebook “likes”—and raves for being a government official working for the public good.

That notion was such a novelty, some skeptics wrote that Officer Godina might be just a “marketing gimmick.”

In later posts, he discussed why pedestrians can also be fined if they don’t look out for cars, and criticized his bosses for putting up yield signs on a dead-end street. He also sprinkled in goofy pictures and anecdotes from the job—police cars full of cabbages; another drunken driver pretending his dog had been behind the wheel; a driver seeking to avoid a fine by pretending he didn’t understand Romanian after spending a year in Italy.

Now, with more than 260,000 Facebook followers, Officer Godina is benefiting from a wave of popular disgust with corruption in this post-Communist country. In November, after huge street protests against corruption and abuse of power, the national government resigned. The protests were initially prompted by the death of a traffic policeman who had been opening the way for the motorcade of the then-interior minister. It later turned out that the minister wasn’t traveling on official business. A few days later, protests grew nationwide when a fire killed 63 people in a nightclub that authorities had allowed to function without proper fire precautions. The new national government has vowed to crack down on corruption, and prosecutors have won graft cases against prominent politicians and local officials, including Brasov’s former chief of traffic police.

Officer Godina, a Brasov native, wanted to be a cop since he was a child. When he was sworn in nine years ago, he said he promised to apply the law without fear or favor and never to take a bribe. But he and his colleagues would regularly write traffic tickets and have them torn up after wealthy or influential people appealed to his bosses—just like in Communist days, when powerful party members were above the law.

The officer stuck to his standards. In February, he fined the driver of a local councilor for failing to stop at a crosswalk, almost hitting a girl. When the councilor, in the car at the time, complained, Officer Godina’s bosses called him in to say he shouldn’t have fined the driver and that he had been disrespectful. A disciplinary inquiry was launched, which Officer Godina chronicled on Facebook, posting the recording of his conversation with the driver.

His fans were outraged. Around a hundred policemen from across Romania showed up in Brasov to support him, sporting bumper stickers reading “I am Godina.”

“His bosses totally underestimated Facebook, they had no clue how powerful it is,” said Alexandru Berbecariu, a 16-year-old high-school student in Brasov, who repeatedly said Officer Godina was “awesome.”

The scandal was picked up in national media. In the following weeks, the local councilor resigned, while the head of the Brasov police and one of his deputies went into early retirement.

Anticorruption prosecutors have launched an investigation into abuse of power. The two police bosses and the councilor deny any wrongdoing. Liviu Naghi, spokesman for the Brasov police, said that Officer Godina’s accusations “look good on Facebook” but that they “need to be proven, with evidence, by the prosecutor.”

The mayor of Brasov, George Scripcaru, himself on trial for corruption, said he is doubtful Mr. Godina can bring about change in a society deeply devoted to its old ways.

“Change doesn’t come like that, saying from today on, we completely change our ways,” he said. “Yes, it’s good what he’s doing, humanizing the Romanian policeman, showing problems in a fun way. But the problems remain.”

Plus, when state employees post on Facebook, he said, “hierarchy is no longer respected.”

Officer Godina translated his Facebook fame into a book contract. Published in February, “Flashes From the Other Way” compiles his funniest Facebook posts and other sketches of life on the force. It has sold 40,000 copies, making it Romania’s best-selling book so far this year, and the best performer ever among police authors, according to his publisher. He has followed up with a children’s book explaining traffic rules, to come out June 1.

Writing wasn’t his ambition, but he said he likes to amuse his friends with funny tales from work and to write poems to the girls he falls in love with. He’s now a heartthrob, and sometimes posts about dates. He said he is in no hurry to tie the knot: “If I’m lucky, I won’t get married next year, either.”

At his book launch in late February, Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos showed up and told journalists he hoped the “Godina phenomenon” can be replicated in other state institutions. A top judge has now begun posting quirky work anecdotes along with criticism of corruption.

After two months on the road to promote his book, Officer Godina returned to Brasov and resumed his traffic job. On a sunny day late in April, he was back directing traffic around a ceremony for World War II veterans. Some things have changed. When one of the top brass who last year told him to take down his Facebook page stepped out of a black SUV and greeted him with a broad smile, Officer Godina said: “My bosses are all afraid of me now.”

Original story here




Odd news from around the world

Armed robber is jailed for 21 years after his victim recognised him when Facebook suggested they should become friends: “Omar Famuyide, 21, was identified after his face popped up in the ‘People You May Know’ feed on one of his victims’ social media pages. A court heard he was one of two men who burst into the Ambassador’s Relaxation Suite in Birmingham city centre on July 13 last year. The thugs assaulted two women inside and threatened them with a metal bar and a handgun before shooting at the building as they fled. Famuyide then struck again a month later on August 11 when he walked up to a man in the Highgate area of the city and held a gun to his head. The victim in that robbery contacted officers in August to say he recognised Famuyide from his feed on Facebook. He was eventually caught and a search of his home in Highgate found a distinctive fisherman’s style hat – identical to that worn by the offender during the Ambassador’s raid.

Video shows a young man driving with a COW in the back of his tiny car: “How do you give a cow a lift? Do you a) Hire a truck? b) Walk home with it? c) Stick it in the backseat of your car? One resourceful young man plumped for the last option after buying a cow at a local market and took it for a spin along the roads of Borat’s native Kazakhstan with the animal poking its head out of the rear window. The video shows the young man, who looks to be in his early twenties, smiling and giggling as the animal stares deeply into the camera. The hefty brown and white animal has its head completely out of the window and the rest of its body apparently stuffed into the back of the small car. Local media believe the animal had just been bought at a local market and was being driven home by its new owner”

More California dreaming: “A Los Angeles driver had an unpleasant experience while heading past a restaurant, after a naked man suddenly jumped out from underneath a car and launched himself on top of the moving vehicle. The bizarre incident occurred on Cahuenga Blvd W in Studio City, right outside the Mexican restaurant Mercado. Footage taken by a passer-by shows the man appear from hiding by a parked car, and then charge at the white hatchback coming right at him. The driver quickly stops before hitting the man, however he keeps running and throws himself at the windscreen. The man screams out as he launches in the air, landing on the bonnet. He lies there motionless for a few seconds, stark-naked, before quickly getting up and jumping off the car. The man points in the air while walking to the sidewalk, where he collapses to the ground. The caption on the video said it was ‘yet another daily occurrence of some nude guy wigging-out in the streets'”

Painting worth millions found in ordinary home: “Earlier this year, a painting found in the attic of a house in south-west France two years ago was attributed to Italian master Caravaggio by French art expert, Eric Turquin, who now hails its discovery as a great event in the history of art. The work, which depicts Biblical heroine Judith beheading an Assyrian general, was found by the owners who had no idea about the painting until they went to the top of the house to check a leak in the roof. “They had to go through the attic and break a door which they had never opened. They broke the door and behind it was that picture. It’s really incredible,” Turquin said. The painting is thought to have been painted in Rome in 1604-1605 by Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio, and is “in exceptionally good condition”, according to Turquin, “despite having been forgotten in the attic for probably more than 150 years.” It has been reported the painting could be worth €120 million ($125 million)”

World’s longest rail tunnel a ‘godsend’ for Europe: EU official: “The new Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT), set to become the world’s longest railway tunnel when it opens on June 1, is a “godsend for Europe”, EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc told Swiss media Monday. The 57-kilometre (35.4-mile) tunnel, which runs under the Alps, was first conceived in sketch-form in 1947 but construction began 17 years ago. Since then, some 28.2 million tonnes of mountain rock have been excavated and an estimated $12 billion (10.6 billion euros) spent to construct a tunnel that should trim travel times through the heart of Europe. The GBT “will be a vital link connecting Rotterdam (and) Antwerp with the ports of the Adriatic,” Bulc told the Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, along with Swiss officials, are due to attend the grand opening next week.

And don’t forget to catch up with all the Strange Justice before you go.

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