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Speak No Evil (1/25)
Telling a mother-in-law joke or quoting parts of the Bible could earn a person prison time and a hefty fine in France. The nation has responded to rising reports of anti-gay crimes by banning insults against women and gays. Remarks "tending to denigrate homosexuals as a whole" when uttered in public or made in print will be met with fines of up to 45,000 euros and up to one year in prison. The law has been opposed by Reporters Without Borders, religious groups and even the national commission on human rights who say it is overbroad. Gay groups and feminists say the law will only be used to prosecute "genuinely scandalous" remarks. But some gay groups also say they consider any claim that homosexuality is abnormal to be a prosecutable offense.
Stuck On You (1/24)
Lawmakers in Rio de Janeiro have banned shoe glue and some solvents because some children were sniffing them to get high. "Shoe glue serves a good purpose when used by shoemakers, but it also is an extremely strong narcotic and its free sale contributes to the moral degradation of youths and boosts crime levels," said the law's author.
La Dolce Vita (1/21)
Forget the romance of dinner in a smoky Italian restaurant. Italy has banned smoking in all indoor spaces, including bars and restaurants, unless their smoking section is separated from the rest of the building by continuous floor-to-ceiling walls and with its own ventilation system. Most restaurants are too small to install a separate section. And they now face a $2,600 fine and loss of their business license if they don't report those who light up. Smokers face smaller fines.
Pizza Man (1/20)
Canadian Immigration Minister Judy Sgro has resigned after pizza shop owner Harjit Singh claimed she failed to deliver on a promise to help him avoid deportation in return for free pizza and garlic bread. Sgro released a statement denouncing "outrageous fabrications" against her. But Sgro was already under investigation for allegedly getting a temporary residency permit and extending an expired work permit for a Romanian stripper who worked on her campaign for Parliament.
Sexy Monks (1/19)
Cambodia has banned a popular love song and the video for it from radio and television. "Leaving the Monkhood for Love" is about just that. And the video features a monk frolicking with a woman. But the government says the song and video harm the honor of Buddhist monks. Buddhism, notes Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, is the state religion of Cambodia, so that can't be allowed.
No D-I-V-O-R-C-E (1/18)
Shawnna Hughes wants a divorce. No big surprise there: Her husband, Carlos Hughes, was reportedly jailed for beating her, and she has a protective order against him. Carlos, who is in jail on drug charges now, has no objection to the divorce. But the state of Washington objected to the divorce, saying it might make it difficult to determine the father of the unborn child Shawnna Hughes is carrying and pursue him for repayment of welfare money used to support the child. Superior Court Judge Paul Bastine revoked the divorce until paternity of the child is determined after it is born, probably some time in March.
You're a Mean One (1/14)
The managers of a public housing complex in Statesville, North Carolina, refused to allow a local gentleman's club to donate toys to needy children in the project. Authorities insisted the children have enough toys. But newspaper photographs of dancers from the club delivering toys in 2003 brought many complaints from area residents.
Up to Code (1/13)
A firm repairing damaged buildings in Punta Gorda, Florida, had some bad news for the city council. It seems the two-year-old Public Safety Building wasn't built to city codes. The roof doesn't have the tie-downs and other measures required by code to resist hurricane-force winds. The city's project manager on the building says his job was to make sure it was built on time and on budget, which it was. He says city building inspectors should have done regular inspections of the building while it was under construction, but he says they weren't under his supervision.
The Healthiest Corpses in the Nation
Colorado paid more than $2 million in 2003 to doctors and others who claimed to be treating people who were already dead. In all, a state audit found $3.5 million in Medicaid overpayments in 2003. That was actually the lowest number in several years. State law does not require health care providers to repay the state for improperly paid claims.
Mentally Challenged (1/11)
The government of Iran has confirmed it has sentenced to death a 21-year-old woman for prostitution. It has confirmed that she was first forced into prostitution by her mother at age eight. It also confirmed she has been raped numerous times and gave birth when she was just nine. But it denies claims by Amnesty International that the woman is mentally challenged and has the mental capacity of an eight-year-old.
Without Parental Approval (1/10)
The Philadelphia City Council is considering a bill that would ban children under six from movies that aren't rated G after 7 p.m. "I think anybody who went to see Spider-Man at 9 at night and had a screaming baby next to them can appreciate why this bill should be looked at," said a spokesman for one of the council members who introduced the bill. The bill calls for a fine of up to $50 for any adult who brings a child to a movie in violation of the law, and a fine of up to $300 for any theater that illegally admits a child.
A British man was barred from his home for six months. A court also banned him from unsupervised visits with his three-year-old son and from telephone conversations with the boy. The man, whose name was not released by authorities, was also placed on two years probation. All this for giving the boy a single swat on the bottom after the child almost ran into traffic while the family was shopping. A police officer saw him strike the child and charged him with assault.
Sith Zoning Officials (1/6)
Mike Degirolamo has one simple ambition. He wants to build a 20-by-12-foot model of a Jawa Sandcrawler on the grounds of a business in Gloucester Township, New Jersey before the next Star Wars film opens in May. The owner of the property says its fine. But the property sits in a historic preservation area, and city officials say a replica of a vehicle from the first Star Wars film may not fit in. They've scheduled a meeting to discuss that issue and any liability concerns before ruling on whether they'll permit the model to be built.
Zero Tolerance (1/5)
Kelli Billingsley was suspended from her Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, school after she brought Jell-O to her fourth-grade classmates. Officials say the small cups looked like Jell-O shots. They even tested them for alcohol. The test showed no booze, but Kelli got booted anyway.
Blind Chance (1/4)
French officials are considering forcing companies that employ more than 250 workers to accept resumes only if they don't contain the applicant's name, age, gender, address and photograph. The government's national employment agency is set to run a trial program with blind resumes in 2005. Proponents say the measure is needed to combat discrimination in the workplace, especially against immigrants from North Africa and their children.
Brussels Sprouts Corruption (1/3)
Marta Andreasen, formerly the European Commission's chief accountant, says she was suspended from her job and ultimately fired because she refused to sign accounts she believed were unreliable. The EC says she was being disloyal, but she says she was concerned about fraud. In 2002 alone, her office found 10,000 possible cases of fraud in European Union accounts.