US agency tried to recruit magician
A US federal agency needs illusionist David Copperfield to help escape from criticism over now-cancelled plans to hire a magician to train agency leaders using "magic tools".
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) posted a notice on May 1 seeking a magician motivational speaker for a June leadership conference in suburban Maryland. The agency said presentations should include "physical energizers, magic tricks, puzzles, brain teasers, word games, humour and teambuilding exercises."
Congressmen and senators said Noaa's plans were frivolous and ridiculous. House Science Committee Chairman Ralph Hall gave Administrator Jane Lubchenco a week to come up with an explanation and details about past spending on magicians and comedians.
In an eight page bid solicitation, the agency asked for the performer to create "a unique model of translating magic and principals of the psychology of magic, magic tools, techniques and experiences into a method of teaching leadership".
It said it wanted to use the emotional intelligence techniques of a prominent Harvard professor who has written five books, but misspelled his name.
The posting came weeks after the General Services Administration was embroiled in a scandal involving a Las Vegas conference that cost nearly a million dollars and included a mind-reader.
Senator Scott Brown said in a statement it was "a low point even by Washington's standards" and added that "the best magic that Noaa could perform would be to make this wasteful spending disappear".
After Noaa's notice was reported by Government Executive magazine, the agency cancelled the magic gig. An agency spokesman said its top lawyer is looking into the plans.
"No speakers have been hired or confirmed for this training session," spokesman Scott Smullen wrote in an email.