If you find yourself making a long driving trip this year, keep an eye out for lost bridges. A report by the Department of Transportation found that the federal government can't account for almost half of the 10,000 or so bridges that it owns. If you do find yourself driving across a federally owned bridge, take extra care. Of the bridges that the feds can find, nearly a quarter haven't been inspected within the last two years, as required by law. And even the bridges that have been inspected may not be in great shape. The DOT did spot inspections of 34 inspected bridges and found that 16 didn't match the information in the official report. Some didn't have the required weight-limit signs posted. Others were designated as "should be closed to traffic" but were in fact open.
In Parma Heights, Ohio, the local Hooters restaurant is fighting the city over a promotional display. The restaurant put a 75-foot inflatable crab on its roof to alert customers to a crab-leg special. The city says the crab violates zoning rules, and it has threatened to jail the manager if the creature isn't removed. But Aaron Gausepohl, the manager, seems prepared to go to jail for his display. "This is America. We can have big crabs if we want," he said.
A blind San Francisco man has sued the local mass transit commission, claiming the agency's Web site violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because its heavy reliance on graphics and art makes it hard for the visually impaired to use.
Santa Ana, California, had plenty of pay telephones. Most gas stations, mini-malls, and convenience stores had at least one. You might think that's a good thing, especially for stranded motorists and people without phone service at home. But the city council decided these phones were an eyesore, so it passed rules making it more difficult and expensive to install them.
In the United States, some want to make it a crime to desecrate the flag. In India, it's against the law to disrespect the colors of the flag. MTV found that out the hard way. Its Indian counterpart started coloring its onscreen logo in the orange, white, and green of India's flag. MTV thought it was identifying the channel as solidly Indian in content and honoring the country's 50th year of independence. The government called it a "serious offense" and threatened legal action. MTV removed the colors.
Members of an O'Fallon, Missouri, high school band have gone to court to challenge their superintendent, who banned them from playing Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" because of the song's "drug message." That perplexed the young band members, who did not perceive any drug message, especially in the instrumental version they planned to play.
Israel's largest insurer has filed suit against American and Israeli tobacco companies, seeking compensation for the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. In addition to $2 billion in monetary damages, the suit seeks to force tobacco firms to remove the harmful substances from cigarettes.
The family that owns the Sunken Gardens tourist attraction in Florida has been trying to sell it for 10 years. They've been hampered, in part, by the fact that the site has been declared a historic monument, thus imposing restrictions on changes. For instance, one developer wanted to buy the property to build townhouses, a change that would not have been permitted. Now the owners have found a buyer who will keep the property in its historic shape: A nudist group wants to turn Sunken Gardens into a nudist resort. "They want a historic use? This one goes back to Adam and Eve," said an attorney for the current owners.
The city of Houston had to throw out 2,000 booklets about the mayor's youth programs because they were riddled with typos, misspelled words, fragmentary sentences, and grammatical errors. Among them: teachers are called "teches," and the library is called the "libray.'' The booklet, which even contained a typo in the mayor's name on the cover, was written by the city's $67,000-a-year director of youth services.