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When Tools Are Outlawed
In the United Kingdom, it's already illegal to buy ammunition without a firearms license. Now, the government is set to also make it illegal to purchase bullet presses and other tools used to make ammunition without a license. The move was triggered by the murder two years ago of a police officer by a gunman using homemade bullets.
Good Deed Goes Unrewarded
Vicente Verez-Bencomo was slated to receive an award from the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, Calif., for his work in developing a low-cost vaccine for meningitis and pneumonia. He was also scheduled to speak at a Society for Glycobiology meeting in Boston. But Verez-Bencomo couldn't make the trip. The State Department said giving him a visa would be "detrimental to the interests of United States." The State Department refused to answer questions from the Associated Press about why it didn't grant the visa. But the fact that Verez-Bencomo is from Cuba may have something to do with it.
Under the Gun (12/8)
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino says police may have to start randomly searching cars coming into the state for weapons in order to reduce gun violence in his city. "We have to spot-check the cars that come across state lines. What's the mechanism? I'm not a public safety official but I think we have to get these folks together," he said.
God Damn the Pusher Man
"You don't expect your daughter to go to school and come home with drugs in her bag," said Amanda Butterfield. And you really don't expect to find the police put them there. But that's just what happened to the Wainfleet, England, woman after her 10-year-old daughter Kia went to an anti-drugs event organized by the school. Lincolnshire police hid two bags of drugs in Kia's bag for a demonstration by a drug-sniffing dog. But they recovered only one, leaving a bag of amphetamines behind. The police promise it won't happen again. And the head of the school says the incident should not "detract from the drugs awareness message."
Police Protection (12/6)
Terrance Alexander has been suspended or reprimanded 13 times by the Atlanta Police Department since 2001for violating department rules. The department fired him in May, after he pulled a woman from her car, threw her to the ground, handcuffed and arrested her for stopping too long at the airport while she was picking up her 78-year-old mother. Alexander was not assigned to the airport but was working a second job directing traffic. The woman settled a lawsuit against the police department for $350,000, but a civil service board ordered the department to reinstate Alexander.
Nanny State (12/5)
You are never too young to learn government-mandated lessons. The British Parliament is considering a bill that would establish a national curriculum for the first three years of a baby's life. All childcare providers, including nannies and childminders, would be required to teach the curriculum, which promises to produce skillful communicators and "competent learners."
Blue Christmas (12/2)
Members of Falun Gong, a religious group, say Chinese authorities have arrested more than 100,000 members of the movement and sent at least 20,000 to labor camps. According to Chinese human rights activists, members of unregistered religious groups who are imprisoned are forced to make Christmas lights that are sold for export.
Crash of the Titan (12/1)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded Titan more than $550,000 for equipment and work related to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. But some want to know how a company that is facing two federal lawsuits in connection with alleged abuse at Abu Ghraib and that recently paid $28,500 to settle charges that it tried to bribe the president of Benin got those contracts. Further, last year a federal inspector general's report said the government overpaid $229 million for a contract awarded to Titan because the company contracted out "substantially all the work."
Don't Tell Andrew McCarthy
Police in the Iranian town Bojnourd have been cracking down on lewdly dressed mannequins. They've inspected 262 stores and seized 65 female mannequins that weren't properly veiled. Stores found to have indecently dressed mannequins have been shut down for 10 to 90 days. The sweeps are part of a larger crackdown on "trouble makers" that has led to the seizure of many "vulgar" CDs.
Tough Crowd (11/29)
Badr Zaman Badr and his brother Abdurrahim Muslim Dost spent three years in Guantanamo and other U.S. prisons after the fall of the Taliban. Even after releasing the men, U.S. authorities still say their imprisonment was justified. But the brothers say their only crime was writing satires of the religious authorities that governed Afghanistan. Shortly before U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan, they say they were warned by Roh Ullah, the brother of one mullah they had lampooned, to stop their attacks. Ten days later, Pakistani intelligence seized them and later turned them over to the U.S. The Ullah family denies any role in their seizure. But Newsday reports Ullah has been accused of using contacts with Pakistani intelligence to have several opponents seized. The brothers say they were interrogated by U.S. officials hundreds of times, and those officials seemed most interested in a satire they wrote after Bill Clinton put a $5 million bounty on Osama Bin Laden. Dost suggested Afghanistan retaliate by putting up 5 million Afghanis—about $113—for the arrest of Clinton. He says the proposal made fun of the poor state of the economy under the Taliban, but Americans never got the joke.
Open Records (11/28)
Each November, Finland opens up tax records from the previous year. Newspapers use the records to put together lists of the highest-earning people in the country, as well as those who escape taxes by living abroad. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, according to Reuters, as "Finns indulge on a massive scale in satisfying their curiosity about each other's finances."
Elfish Motives (11/25)
The state of Connecticut wants to ban the sale of Seriously Bad Elf beer. The British import's label features "a mean-looking elf with a slingshot firing Christmas ornaments at Santa's sleigh as it flies overhead," according to the Associated Press. And state officials say the label might entice children to drink. The state says it will also forbid the sale of Warm Welcome Nut Brown ale because it features a picture of Santa Claus on the label.
Targets of Opportunity
Tourists can rest easier. Dinosaur World and Weeki Wachee Springs are just two of the Florida tourist attractions the federal government wants to harden under a $90 million grant program. Meanwhile, Hillsborough County Chief Deputy Jose Docobo says plenty of "truly critical" sites were left off that list. "I hate to identify sites that weren't put on the list, but they included major sporting venues, infrastructure sites dealing with energy and transportation, true amusement centers with large crowds. This problem exists locally and nationally," he told local media.
Reckless Driving (11/23)
When the Olympics come to London, England, in 2012, members of the "Olympic family," including athletes, government officials and corporate sponsors, will have special traffic lanes set aside for their use, which will be monitored by police and traffic cameras. Ordinary drivers will be herded into the remaining lanes, and those who attempt to drive above their station will face £5,000 fines. That's five times the maximum fine for most other traffic offenses and 33 times the fine for driving in a bus lane, according to The Sunday Times of London.
An American Success (11/22)
An court in Afghanistan has sentenced Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, editor of the magazine Women's Rights, to two-years in prison for blasphemy. He got off lucky. The prosecutor charged him with apostasy and demanded a death sentence. Ironically enough, Nasab was prosecuted for two articles in one issue of his magazine that claimed that apostasy in not a crime under Islamic law.