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Defense of Marriage Act
Police in Dubai raided an alleged gay wedding and arrested more than two dozen men. Homosexual behavior is banned under the Islamic law goervning the United Arab Emirates, and the Interior Ministry says the men are being screened psychologically and may be given hormone treatments to deter them from homosexual behavior. They also face up to five yers in prison and lashings if convicted.
Who Made Chuck Berry Principal?
When eighth-grader Mac Bedor found a camera in the ceiling of the boys' bathroom at the Jasper County (Georgia) Comprehensive School, he and took it out and took it home to his mother. She called the principal and found that he had put it there. The mother says her son was then suspended for taking school property. The principal orginally said he intended to put the camera back in the bathroom, to catch vandals. But Jasper County superintendent Jay Brinson says it won't be put back in.
Every Breath You Take (12/28)
When another student accused Carter Barron of drinking at school, administrators at Georgia Peachtree Ridge High School had Barron take a breathalyzer test. School policy says Barron had a right to refuse the test, but he says he wasn't made aware of that right. Nor were his parents informed about the test. It showed no trace of alcohol. But when Barron's bag was searched for booze, officials found a cigarette lighter, and he was give a week of in-school suspension for that. The student who accused him of drinking wasn't punished.
Don't Look Now (12/27)
Provincial authorities in Manitoba, Canada, say they will fine the Maples Surgical Center. Not for botched surgery or unsanitary conditions, but for charging patients for MRI scans. Government statistics show Manitobans wait an average of eight to 15 weeks for an MRI in the government-funded system, and that's after a specialist says it's needed. Scheduling that visit can also take months. But Maples says it will allow patients to get an MRI within 48 hours, if they are willing to pay for it. The government says that violates the Canada Health Act. "If the minister of health wishes to be heartless enough to sanction people who provide health care to people who need it, then that's certainly his prerogative," said Dr. Mark Godley, medical director for the clinic. But Godley says the clinic will fight any sanctions in court.
Drunk With Power (12/26)
Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik wants to crack down on drunk driving by targeting drivers who aren't drunk. Dupnik has called for a law banning drinking and driving, even if the driver isn't impaired. Not surprisingly, his proposal has the support of officials with Mothers Against Drunk Driving as well as the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.
Just a Little Donation
If you are driving through Adams County in Washington state, you may get a speeding ticket. Seattle's KIRO-TV reports the area is "notorious for that." But the station found out that the local prosecutor may waive that ticket—if you make a donation to a local museum, which just happens to be run by a former employee of the prosecutor, an area animal shelter or the local DARE program. The station reports that prosecutor Randy Flyck could not immediately say how much money those organizations had collected with his office's help.
Oooohh, Fudge! (12/22)
Just in time for Christmas, the Waukegan, Illinois, city council is considering a bill that would require the registration of BB guns. The council has asked staff to draft a bill mandating that stores provide police with the names and addresses of anyone who buys air guns, BB guns and any weapon powered by carbon dioxide. Public Safety Committee chairman Sam Cunningham says some senior citizens are scared by some of the BB guns. "If we see windows shot out we'll know where to start looking," said Police Chief William Biang. So presumably the next time a window is shot out the police will question every 12-year-old boy in Waukegan.
France, You Ignorant Slut
Rapper Monsieur R faces up to three years in prison and a 75,000-euro fine for referring to France as a "slut" and a "bitch" and saying "I piss on Napoleon and General de Gaulle" on his latest album. Daniel Mach, a member of parliament, filed a complaint against the rapper, whose real name is Richard Makela, and a court has agreed to investigate the matter. Mach calls the lyrics "an attack on the dignity of France and of the state."
Mo' Money, Mo' Money (12/20)
"We don't want to write tickets for the sake of writing tickets. We do traffic enforcement for one reason—safety said Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Police Chief Jack Beaton. But facing a budget crunch, the city council has a different take on the issue and has voted to require the department to come up with an extra $1 million in "revenue." Council member Bob Hawkesworth, who pushed for the additional money, says the plan will give people a bigger incentive to drive safely.
Five Brides for Five Strangers
Almost 10 years ago, Amna Niazi, now 22, was married to a man she has never met. A village council in Pakistan ordered her and four other girls, all cousins, to be married to males from another family after the father of one of the girls killed another man. Now, their husbands want their brides to come live with them. The girls have refused, and the same village council has ordered that they should be abducted and raped or killed for refusing to go. And it has pronounced a death sentence on their fathers for refusing to turn them over. The Pakistani legislature has banned so-called honor marriages, but the law is widely ignored by local village councils.
The Torch I Bear Is Scorching Me
For 20 years, Looe, England, has hosted a torchlight procession for Christmas. Not this year. Although no one has ever been injured in the event, local officials have banned torches from the procession, citing safety concerns. They have, however, bought about 500 glow sticks for marchers to carry.
The Bitch Is Back (12/15)
For years, Lois Tobin has given out T-shirts and other mementos with her bar's name—The Bitch's Corner Bars - to customers. But when she replaced her outside sign, which had read simply Corner Bar, with the full name, Lingle, Wyoming, police came calling. They gave Tobin a citation for violating the town's obscenity ordinance. She faces a $200 fine. But her attorney says she will fight the citation. "'Bitch' is not a profane or obscene word so far as I can determine," said Jerry Smith.
Don't Do the Time, If You Haven't Done the
Allysan Isaac spent three months in jail and a year on work release for possession of a controlled substance. Only after she had completed her sentence did anyone notice that the drug found in her possession, an anti-anxiety drug called Buspirone, is not a controlled substance. "You were incarcerated for a case that was not a crime," said Mesa County, Colorado, District Judge Brian Flynn, the judge who incarcerated her. Neither the judge, the district attorney, law enforcement nor her first defense attorney could explain why no one realized she hadn't broken the law. But Isaac's legal troubles aren't over. While on work release, she received the drug Cloezepam, which is a controlled substance, and she was caught sharing a pill with another inmate. She was sentenced to probation and mental health treatment.
Green Acres (12/13)
Zimbabwean farmers say armed police are seizing tractors, graders, and other supplies and equipment and selling it at auction. They say they don't know where the money from those sales is going. Nor is it clear whether the seizures are sanctioned by the central government. Some report being show months-old letters authorizing the seizures signed by a minister who is no longer in charge of land reform.
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.
Police Cooperation (11/21)
Hank Schiffer thought it was "weird" that a reporter and camera operator for a local TV station just happened to be on hand to pepper him with questions when he was stopped for a traffic violation. "The whole stop sure had a staged feeling to it," he said. That's because it was staged, according to the cop who stopped Schiffer. A memo from Sgt. Jeff Kelly says he was asked to follow Schiffer and stop him if he committed any infractions, so the reporter could "ambush him to do her story." Local media report Boca Raton, Florida, Police Chief Andre Scott ordered two assistant chiefs to find an officer to help WPLG-Channel 10 reporter Julie Summers get an interview with the contractor, who had been dodging her attempts to speak with him about faulty sidewalks in a community near Boca Raton.
Red Light (11/18)
When Edward Keegan got a ticket for running a red light, he knew it was a mistake. First of all, the Philadelphia man says he hasn't been through that particular intersection in years. Second, his car was parked in his garage when an automatic camera supposedly caught his car going through the light. Sure enough, the car in the photograph taken by the camera is black. His is red. And he says the photo is so blurry he couldn't make out the tag number. After reviewing the ticket, the city cancelled it. But City Parking Authority executive director Vincent Fenerty stands by the traffic cameras. "This is pure human error. The cameras themselves work," he said.
Eating Himself to Death
Iranian police shot 23-year-old Seyed Mostafa to death when he refused to pull his car over when they tried to stop him. Police tried to stop Mostafa when they spotted him eating during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The police enforced a dawn-to-dusk ban on eating, drinking or smoking during the month of Ramadan.
Don't DIY (11/16)
Plan on painting your bedroom on your day off? You could be breaking the law if you live in Spring Hill, Tennessee. The city council recently banned all "erection, excavation, demolition, alteration or repair of any building" in a residential neighborhood on Sundays. The codes director has informed them that language bans do-it-yourself work as well as commercial work. One alderman suggested changing the law to ban only work that requires a city building permit. But the building office reminded the council that most additions or renovations to existing homes—whether done by the homeowner or a contractor—require a city permit.
Our Bad (11/15)
Machal Lalung was sent to a state-run insane asylum in India 54 years ago. But doctors there recently made an amazing discovery. Lalung isn't nuts. His odd behavior was actually epilepsy. Human rights activists say it is common for people in India to be branded as insane and locked up for months or even years, but Lalung's case still stunned them. Lalung was freed, only to find most of his relatives had died. He lives with his late sister's son.
Something Fishy (11/14)
Will neighbors start reporting people whose dogs look at little plump? Rome, Italy, has passed a new animal cruelty law. Along with measures banning the declawing of cats and the clipping of animals ears and tails for cosmetic reasons, the law mandates that owners walk their dogs every day or face a $625 fine. The law also bars pet stores from displaying animals in their windows and forbids goldfish from being awarded as prizes. Those goldfish must now be kept in a full-size aquarium, not a bowl. It also forbids construction that may displace colonies of stray cats that have formed across the city.
Porn in the USA (11/11)
A provision inserted into the Children's Safety Act of 2005 would define many mainstream Hollywood films as "pornographic." Currently, any film that has explicit sex must maintain records of the real names and ages of performers in those films. But a clause inserted into the House of Representatives version of the Children's Safety Act by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) expands that requirement to any film or TV show with simulated sex or "lascivious exhibition" of genitals. The requirement is retroactive to 1995. The bill also denies tax breaks designed to stop "runaway" film production to films that must meet the record-keeping requirement. The record-keeping requirement isn't in the Senate version of the bill, and the two must be reconciled.
Tribal Thinking (11/10)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has ordered a U.S. missionary group that works with indigenous peoples to leave the country. Chavez accused New Tribes, which works in remote areas of the country, of "imperialist infiltration" and "taking sensitive and strategic information."
A Hearty New Orleans Welcome
They billed it as "Welcome Home New Orleans," a day of entertainment, free food and medical care and a chance to clean up Washington Square. But two New Orleans Police Department officers showed up demanding to see a permit for the event. They weren't satisfied when they were told organizers had oral permission from the New Orleans Department of Health, and they reportedly became belligerent when asked to identify themselves. In fact, they tossed a reporter who took pictures of the confrontation out of the park after he refused to erase the photos. The two officers quickly departed, however, after members of the Missouri National Guard showed up.
You Guys Are Retarded! (11/8)
Melissa Hart says she has convinced school officials in Wethersfield, Connecticut, to confiscate ink pens that spout phrases from the movie "Napoleon Dynamite," including "Freakin' Idiot," "Yesss," "Sweet," and "You guys are retarded." Hart, whose three-year-old son has Down Syndrome, objects to that final phrase. She says the pens violate the school system's zero-tolerance policy on harassment.
Want to sell something over the Internet? Better bone up on you speed talking. North Dakota's Public Service Commission is considering forcing those who sell things on eBay for others to obtain auctioneer's licenses. They'd have to pay a $35 fee, get a $5,000 surety bond and obtain training in voice control, rapid speech, hand gestures, and other topics. The courses, which must be at state-approved schools, range from $796 to $1,625 and last from seven to 10 days.
Flying Pork (11/4)
Since it was created less than three years ago, the Alaskan Fisheries Marketing Board has received about $30 million from the federal government, thanks to Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, who just happens to be the father of the board's chairman. Where has that money gone? Well, $500,000 of it went to paint a giant salmon on an Alaska Airlines jet.
Walk This Way (11/3)
Police in Malanda, Australia, ticketed Pat Gallen for crossing the street too slowly. Gallen is 83-years-old and uses a cane. After a public outcry, police rescinded the ticket.
We Don't Need No Stinking
Religious news sources report that the town council in San Nicolas, Hidalgo, Mexico, has voted to expel about 40 families, all evangelical Protestants, from their homes. Those sources also report that officials in the town of San Antonio Las Rosas, Chiapas, have declared that only Catholics may live there and have cut off electricity to evangelical families.
Fratello Maggiore Is Watching
Under new anti-terrorism laws, Internet cafes and others that offer telecommunications services in Italy must photocopy the passports of all their customers. Café owners must also record which computer a customer uses and each user's log-in and log-out times. They must also install software that tracks all of the Web sites users visit, and they must periodically turn those lists over to police.
Townhouse Crackers (10/31)
Carol Segal, a retired electrical engineer, wants to build townhouses on six acres of land he owns in Union Township, New Jersey. He's been trying to get government approval for the project for several years. And he says in meetings with city officials they kept suggesting people he should partner with on the project. After he rejected all of those proposals, the township committee voted unanimously to seize Segal's property and name its own developer to build the townhouses. Three days before that vote, two other developers hosted a fundraising dinner for Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, who is also head of the local Democratic Party, that raised more than $70,000. Cryan and the five town council members,who are all Democrats, say it is just coincidence those are the developers they are negotiating with to build the townhouses.
The People's Party (10/28)
Mohammad Mohsen Sazgara organized an Internet referendum for Iranians to vote on their preferred political system. For that, he was tried and convicted of trying to topple the county's Islamic government. Sazgara, who lives in the United States, was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison. Ali Afshari, leader of an Iranian student group, was earlier sentenced to six years in prison for publicity against the regime.
Not Their Cross to Bear
Britain's chief inspector of prisons has told guards at Wakefield prison not to wear unauthorized pins. "We were concerned to see a number of staff wearing a flag of St. George tie pin," wrote Anne Owers. She added that St. George's Cross could be "misinterpreted" as a racist symbol. St. George is the patron saint of England, and St. George's Cross is the national flag of England.
Big Guns (10/26)
German police are investigating the family of Prince Ernst August of Hanover for illegal firearms possession. The investigation started after the family put a collection of antique muskets, pistols, and armor up for auction. Investigators found that some of the guns were in working order. They seized the weapons and are trying to determine if the owners had permits for them.
Alex Lagman, 17, has diabetes and must monitor his blood sugar four to 10 times each day. That's why he keeps a testing kit with him at all times. But the Tempe, Arizona, Union High School district has told him he must keep the kit at the school nurse's office. His family says that isn't practical. The nurse isn't always there. He'd miss class when going there for testing, and sometimes he needs to test himself quickly. The school says it has a policy that bans the lancets he uses to prick his finger. But The Arizona Republic says the school district hasn't provided it or the family with a copy of that policy.
You May Not Kiss the Bride
Alon Orpaz and Tehila Salev got married in a traditional Hindu ceremony in Pushkar, India. And at the conclusion of the ceremony, the Israeli couple kissed each other. This outraged the priests at the temple, who called police. The couple was charged with public indecency and a court sentenced them to 10 days in prison or an $11 fine. They paid the fine.
Walesing Away (10/21)
Welsh police are investigating British Prime Minister Tony Blair for an alleged hate crime. According to a book by a former Labor Party adviser, Blair shouted "fucking Welsh" at the TV while watching his party's poor showing in the 1999 elections for the Welsh Assembly. Police are investigating that claim.
Money Down the Drain (10/20)
Students these days don't usually shower after gym class. Officials in the San Francisco Unified School District say the showers in its middle and high schools are almost never used, except occasionally by the sports teams. But the district will have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the showers handicapped accessible to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Meanwhile, some schools say they already don't have the money to replace damaged chalkboards and desks. Other school systems have taken out their showers and replaced them with other things, such as weight rooms, but San Francisco officials say it will be cheaper just to make their showers ADA compliant.
Beam Me Up,Scotty (10/19)
The Scottish government plans to create "health enforcers" whose job it will be to seek out people with poor health, bad eating habits, smokers and those with a family history of medical heart disease or cancer and, well, nag them into seeing a doctor. The enforcers will target the poorer areas of the country because people in those areas reportedly receive less medical care than richer people.
Police Powers (10/18)
Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, doesn't want to wait on those messy courts to punish yobs. Blair says experienced senior officers should be able to seize driver's license and cars and issue anti-social behavior orders. The accused would eventually get their day in court, he says, so the police action would only be temporary unless a court continues it.
Give Me Land, Lots of Land (10/17)
South African officials have said they won't follow Zimbabwe's practice of forcibly seizing land from white farmers and redistributing it to blacks. Well, as long as the farmers sell at the price the government offers. The government says it will take the farm of Hannes Visser, after Visser rejected an offer of $276,000. Visser wanted $473,000 for the 1,235-acre farm.
Separation of Church and Bar (10/14)
Jersey City, New Jersey, says it will use its power of eminent domain to seize the Golden Cicada Bar. The city wants the land so a private Catholic school can build an athletic field. Just 185 of the 934 students enrolled in St. Peter's Preparatory School live in Jersey City.
Prescription for Disaster (10/13)
The Washington, D.C. Council has unanimously passed a law forbidding drug companies from selling their products in D.C. at an "excessive price." The bill gives the government and private citizens the right to sue drug companies over prices and places the burden on proof on the companies to show their prices aren't excessive. Excessive is defined as being at least 30% more than prices in Germany, Canada, Australia or the United Kingdom.
Don't Want to Live Like a Refugee (10/12)
Three years after moving back to Russia, Alexander Razumovskaya still hasn't been given the citizenship he was promised. He and millions of other ethnic Russians moved back to Russia from other Soviet Republics after the USSR broke up in 1991. They were promised citizenship or permanent registration. But many of them still haven't received it. Why? The local authorities who are supposed to process them find it too lucrative to leave them in legal limbo. They refuse to give them registration, then "fine" them for not having it. Those without citizenship are also taxed 30 percent of their income, instead of the 13 percent citizens pay.
Physician, Heal Thyself (10/11)
After Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, Dr. Mark Perlmutter traveled from Pennsylvania to help treat the sick and injured. That's how he found himself on the tarmac of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport administering chest compression to a dying woman. And that's where he found himself ordered by an official with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to stop treating patients because he wasn't registered with the agency. FEMA says it doesn't accept volunteer physicians and uses only doctors who have FEMA credentials. Perlmutter says he was the only doctor at the airport and asked to keep treating patients until a FEMA-certified doctor arrived, but his request was rejected.
Less Than the Law Will Allow (10/10)
At least two motorists in Johannesburg, South Africa, have been ticketed by speed cameras for traveling more than 80 kilometers per hour on the M1 North highway. The problem is that the speed limit on the road is 100 kilometers per hour—faster than they were driving. The police insist the cameras are set correctly, and the tickets were issued because of an administrative mistake. But Ronnie Frank, the motorist who discovered the problem, says it's possible that many other motorists just paid their tickets without checking to see if they were actually driving over the speed limit. "If this is happening on the M1, it could be happening on all the highways and everywhere that cameras are used," said Ana Cox, a reporter for The Star newspaper, who was also incorrectly ticketed.
Drink It Up (10/7)
Lincoln, Nebraska, police cited sportscaster Brent Musburger for having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle after a college football game. Musburger was caught drinking a beer while he was a passenger in a car.
First, the Sentence (10/6)
Women caught in the Iranian city of Shahin-Shah wearing make up, scarves that don't cover the hair and neck or sleeves that don't cover the arm down to the wrist will be arrested and immediately flogged. The prosecutor's office there has posed signs saying it has asked police to immediately bring the women they arrest to court, where prosecutors will demand the maximum sentence: 100 lashes. The notice also says that women caught with their hair not completely covered face up to 10 months in prison.
Don't Forget to Breathe (10/5)
Jason Hegg's 22-month-old son Carter has asthma, and because of his age, Carter can't use an inhaler. Instead, his family carries a portable nebulizer, a device that allows Carter to breathe a medicated mist, with them when they travel. Or at any rate, they try to. According to Hegg, federal Transportation Security Administration screeners at Duluth International Airport refused to allow him to board a plane with the nebulizer, even after he showed them information from a TSA Web site saying nebulizers are permitted on planes. Hegg says he can produce witnesses who say the TSA officials at Duluth asked each other why he had to bring the nebulizer on board, since "there's oxygen on the plane."
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (10/4)
Police in Lawrence, Kansas, believed a local bar was serving booze after legal hours. But when an officer went to Conroy's, he didn't find anyone drinking. He found bartender Tiffany Hunter enjoying a cigarette with another employee and a couple of friends. That was a violation of the local smoking ban, so the cop cited Hunter, who now faces a maximum fine of $100. Hunter notes that when the law was passed, supporters said it would protect employees, but she isn't clear how the law protects her or the other employee who was present, who is also a smoker.
Walk This Way (10/3)
Jaywalking may not be smart, but should it be a felony? Orange County, Florida, prosecutors have asked police to arrest parents who jaywalk with their children. They are threatening to prosecute extreme cases as felony child abuse.
Animal House (9/30)
One was ordered to wear a classmate's soiled underwear. Another had his only suit stained when shaving gel was deliberately sprayed in his closet. Others had their heads dunked into dirty toilets. No, they weren't pledging a frat. They were students at the Massachusetts State Police Academy. Academy officials refuse to identify one instructor who was reassigned after allegations of hazing. But they have appointed a panel to study training procedures at the academy.
Parental Warning (9/29)
Seven rapes have been reported on the Greek island of Zakynthos so far this year, and one of the alleged rape victims and her mother now face time in jail. The victim, a 15-year-old girl, faces up to six months in jail for misleading police by initially denying she knew her alleged attacker then admitting she did. The girl says she gave conflicting statements because she was "scared and embarrassed." And her mother faces up to a year in jail for "neglecting the supervision of a minor" for allowing the girl to go dancing with friends.
Red Hot Momma (9/28)
When Joliet, Illinois, police officers raided Dorothy Campbell's home, they didn't find any of the marijuana they claimed her son Brandon was selling. But according to a lawsuit filed by the mother, who wasn't home during the raid, the police did find her sex toys and presented them to her son, asking what his mother did with the items. The lawsuit says the toys were left strewn about the house. A few days later, a sergeant came to the house and apologized for the raid, and his comments were allegedly videotaped by another of Campbell's sons, but two days after that, the police again raided the home, confiscating the video camera the son used to record that apology. They claimed there were pornographic images of a 14-year-old girl on the tape. A judge ruled police did nothing illegal in the first raid, but obtained the warrant for the second raid under false pretenses.
Garage Banned (9/27)
Homeowners in Leamington, Ontario, Canada, may not hold more than three garage sales a year. City officials say the new law will cut down on noise and traffic, but they also admit that local businesses complain yard sales hurt their revenues. Those who break the law will have their sales shut down by police, and they face fines of up to $5,000.
What Are You Smiling At? (9/26)
Britons applying for passports have been told not to smile when having their photographs taken. No, this isn't the set up for another joke about British teeth. The order is part of an effort to meet international standards on incorporating biometric technology. Smiling, it seems, can confuse facial recognition scanners, as can hair across the eyes, which has also been banned.
Suffer the Children (9/23)
Three Indonesian women have been sentenced to jail for holding a children's camp. Rebecca Loanita, Etty Pangesti and Ratna Mala Bangun held a "Happy Weekend" of songs and games for Christian children. But apparently some Muslim children also attended the event, which was enough to get the women prosecuted and convicted for trying to convert Muslim children. The women's attorneys said no child was converted and none were forced to attend. They say the women were prosecuted and convicted because of threats against the women and authorities by Muslim extremists.
To Go Baldly (9/22)
Officials in Nanjing, China, have banned bald men from driving taxis. Then again, they've also banned men with long hair or moustaches from driving them as well. And female taxi drivers can't wear a lot of makeup. The new laws are part of a drive to spruce up the city before it hosts a national sports tournament.
Losing My Religion (9/21)
A federal appeals court has upheld a decision by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals to deny asylum to a Chinese Christian who said he was persecuted because of his faith. Xiaodong Li says his apartment was raided and he was punched, kicked and shocked until he confessed to illegally organizing worship services in his home. The immigration board reportedly ruled that China has a right to enforce laws against unregistered churches and authorities there had punished Li for violating that law, not for his religion.
DWI, DWI, National Pastime of the Average Guy
The Swedish government wants all new cars sold in the country to have devices to prevent drunk driving by 2012. Heavy vehicles would be required to have the devices even sooner. The devices require a driver to breathe into them and keep the car from starting if they detect alcohol on the breath.
The Prisoner (9/19)
James Masterson has spent six years in an Illinois prison even though he has not been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a crime. Heck, he's not even an "enemy combatant" or terrorist. Masterson was charged with attempted aggravated sexual assault and indecent solicitation in 1997, after allegedly giving a prostitute a letter offering to sleep with her 12-year-old daughter. If he'd been convicted of that crime, he could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison. Instead, in 1999, a judge ruled him a "sexually dangerous person," allowing him to be held indefinitely until he has "recovered." Illinois officials say they are unsure how many people are being held under the act, but the legislature earlier this year made it tougher for those imprisoned under the law to appeal their sentences.
Turkish Delight (9/16)
Orhan Pamuk, one of Turkey's most respected and famous novelists, faces up to three years in prison for insulting the national character. Pamuk "insulted" the nation in an interview with a Swiss newspaper by mentioning the 1 million Armenians killed by Turks early in the 20th century and the 30,000 Kurds killed by the government since 1984.
Phoning It In (9/15)
Upset by stories of people exchanging sexually explicit photographs and videos on their cell phones, the Malaysian government has ordered police to randomly search those phones for pornography. The police are to immediately delete any sexual images they find. The police are also cracking down on Internet cafes, threatening to prosecute owners if customers download porn. Those found possessing porn face up to five years in prison and a $13,292 fine in Malaysia.
Car 54, Where Are You? (9/14)
An audit has found California can't account for about 30,000 of the 70,000 vehicles the state owns. The missing vehicles include trucks, police patrol cars, and fire trucks. The audit found one agency had recently bought $4 million in vehicles, but it couldn't say exactly where it had bought them.
The Missionary Position (9/13)
Venezuela has temporarily banned permits for foreign missionaries to enter the country, and it promises to more closely scrutinize and monitor those who are eventually allowed to enter the country. The move follows U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson's call to "take out" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Doing the Charleston (9/12)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave South Carolina officials just 30 minutes warning that up to 180 refugees from Hurricane Katrina would be arriving on a plane in Charleston. Still, they managed to have a line of ambulances and buses waiting for the plane, which never arrived. Never arrived in South Carolina, that is. The refugees actually landed in Charleston, West Virginia.
S&L Crooks (9/9)
U.S. District court Judge Lynn Hughes has ordered the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to pay financier Charles Hurwitz $72 million in legal fees in a case involving a failed savings & loan and the government's attempt to gain 3,500 acres of redwoods controlled by Hurwitz. Calling the FDIC a "corrupt agency with corrupt influences on it," the judge said the government had filed the case in 1995 against Hurwitz, under pressure from environmental groups and the Clinton administration, to force him into a debt-for-nature swap that would give the government the land in return for Hurwitz's supposed liability in the S&L failure. The government dropped the case in 2002 after a series of legal setbacks.
Fashion Police (9/8)
It isn't illegal in Canada to wear a T-shirt that has a picture of a gun and says "Rule no. 1 be armed." But Toronto police say they are going to crack down on people wearing them anyway. "The seizure of the shirts may be in question, but if you are wearing one of these shirts you are going to be hassled by the cops," said Sgt. Rob Hargan. He says police have already seized two shirts from people wearing them. "We don't want people wearing them and we don't want them on the street," he said.
Ashlee Simpson Beware (9/7)
Saparmurat Niyazov, president of Turkmenistan, has banned lip synching, saying it has a negative effect on singing. The ban covers public events such as concerts and television appearances as well as private performances. Niyazov has also banned opera and ballet.
Destroying the Dog in Order to Save It
Maura Ciardello says she was left with bruises and a missing tooth. All because an off-duty New Jersey Department of Human Services police officer objected to her leaving her dog locked in her SUV at night when she ran into a store to pick up some groceries. Stephen Sexton was not in uniform, and Ciardello says he did not immediately identify himself as a policeman when he confronted her as she returned to her SUV. She says she feared she was about to be carjacked or raped. When she tried to get in her vehicle, Sexton pulled her out and threw her against the SUV. Woodbridge police arrived to assist Sexton, who had called for help in making an arrest in an animal cruelty case. But while they were transporting Ciardello to jail, the dog escaped from the SUV and ran into traffic, where it was killed. She has charged Sexton with aggravated assault. Sexton has charged Ciardello with obstruction of justice and aggravated assault. Local media report Sexton was fired from the Woodbridge township police a decade ago after a locker room skirmish.
The Latest Dish (9/2)
Iranian police are using helicopters to find privately owned satellite dishes, which the country banned in 1995. The latest crackdown is to prevent owners from receiving broadcasts from foreign-based groups opposing Iran's government. Those caught with dishes face large fines and prison sentences.
Duck Season (9/1)
Dianne Erdmann rescued a duckling after it was attacked by a crow. She nursed it back to health, fed it, bought it custom-made diapers and watched as it took its first flight. She even took it to work, and that's where she was when officers from the Washington Fish and Wildlife service came for the duck. It seems possessing a duck is illegal in the state, unless of course, it's dead. Her boss sent word that unless the officers had a warrant, they weren't going to turn over the duck. It didn't matter. The officers grabbed the duck, allegedly striking Erdmann in the chest. The duck is now in a state rehabilitation center, and Erdmann is trying to convince local prosecutors to indict the officer who she says struck her.
Big Thirst (8/31)
A security camera caught at least six Richmond, California, police officers taking drinks and possibly food from a closed Mrs. Fields Original Cookies store during a search of a mall for an armed burglar. An attorney representing the officers says they were dehydrated after a long search of the closed mall. Local media, citing unnamed sources, say the supervising sergeant did not report the incident. He considered leaving money to pay for the drinks but decided not to because it might be stolen.
The Good Book (8/30)
Younis Sheikh contends that stoning adulterers to death is not mentioned in the Quran. He further holds that the four imams, the third-generation interpreters of the Quran after Mohammad, were, in fact, Jews. And he's published as book defending those ideas. For his trouble, he has been sentenced to life in prison by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan.
Slap Happy (8/29)
Radio station WQHT sponsored about two dozen "smackfests" in 2004, in which women slapped each other to win money and concert tickets. But perpetual busybody New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer and the New York Athletic Commission said the contests, between volunteers, were unlicensed combat sports and began an investigation. Now the radio station has agreed to settle the case by paying a $240,000 fine and another $60,000 to an anti-domestic violence group, running anti-violence programming, and agreeing to hold no more smackfests.
The Best Defense (8/26)
It began with an instructor at Karate for Kids teaching five students what to do when confronted by an armed attacker in an alley outside the school. It ended with the instructor and the students face-down on the ground in handcuffs. Albany, Oregon, police thought the class was an actual mugging or gang activity. Scott Turner, the owner of the school, says he doesn't have any problem with the police responding as they did. But he wonders why, after finding out was really going on, they charged his instructor and the students with disorderly conduct. They each face a $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail.
Real Neighborly (8/25)
Children can still play outside in Pinehurst, North Carolina, so long as their neighbors can't hear them after 8:30 p.m. The town has banned any recreational activities that neighbors might hear after 8:30 in the summer, 7 p.m. in the winter. The new rule came after one family complained about late night basketball games at a neighbor's house. But city residents who weren't involved in that dispute aren't happy about the new rule. We're being punished for two neighbors who can't get along," said Jamie Baddour.
Are You Eyeballing Me? (8/24)
When a Wellington, New Zealand, police officer pulled Michael Romanos over for not wearing his seatbelt, he noticed Romano wasn't wearing glasses. Romanos needs vision correction — it says so on his license—but he was wearing contact lenses. Sgt. Richard Hocken couldn't see the contacts, however, and Romanos refused to take them out. "I needed to have wetting solution to put them back in," Romanos said. So Hocken did what any policeman would do when faced with a motorist who might be driving without required vision correction, he asked him to drive several kilometers to an optometrist's office, where it was determined Romanos was indeed wearing contacts. Romanos still got a ticket for driving without his seatbelt.
Bad Boys, Bad Boys (8/23)
Pierce County, Washington, sheriff's deputies were looking for a suspect in a car break-in when they found Aaron Otto Hansen passed out in a sleeping bag outside a relative's home. The deputies, who were being filmed by the TV show "Cops", tried to wake Hansen and shouted at him to show them his hands. "You're gonna get tased, due," said one. When the deputy tried to pull the sleeping bag open, a disoriented Hansen pulled it back over his head and tried to push the deputy away. That's when that deputy and another knelt on Hansen and tased him repeatedly. As Hansen began to thrash about, one deputy called for a police dog that repeatedly bit at Hansen's leg, "leaving his pants shredded and his ankle bloodied," according to local media. The confrontation ended with Hansen begging the deputies to tell him what he did wrong. He was charged with two counts of assault for resisting the officers. Those charges were dropped the day his lawyer received the "Cops videotape. Hansen is now suing the deputies, the county and the cities of Lakewood and Tacoma.
Police showed up at Ashley Berden's home at 4 a.m. and demanded she take a Breathalyzer test. She faced a $100 fine if she didn't. The 18-year-old had left her purse at a party that police had busted for underage drinking, and that was sufficient for the Thomas Township, Michigan, police to demand a test. Under state law they didn't need a warrant to demand the test of someone under 21. And township police reportedly routinely raid parties and demand to test everyone under 21. The test on Berden showed she hadn't been drinking. Now, she and three others are suing the state, local police and sheriff's departments and the Central Michigan University Police Department, seeking to have the law permitting warrantless tests of those under 21 struck down.
Taking a Gamble (8/19)
The government of Chechnya has banned slot machines, saying they are unIslamic. Chechnya reportedly has more than 1,000 gambling halls, but the government, after consulting religious leaders, has ordered them closed.
Grassroots Politics (8/18)
Greg Cooper says he has the perfect lawn—green, no weeds, well-maintained. Even the local yards agent for the county extension service calls it "attractive." But St. Petersburg, Florida, authorities say there's a problem: It's artificial. Copper has covered his yard with Waterless Grass, a high-tech alternative to grass that never needs mowing. But the city code says yards must be covered with herbaceous sod or plant material, not plastic. Cooper must now convince the city council to amend the city code or go back to grass.
Collateral Damage (8/17)
Larry Chidester was asleep in his Springville, Utah, home one night when a loud crash woke him up. He went outside to investigate. Bad move. A Utah County Sheriff's Office SWAT team was raiding his next door neighbor's house, but when they saw Chidester, deputies went after him, too. According to a lawsuit the Chidester family filed, an officer yelled "There's one!" and officers tackled him and shoved his face into the ground. They then kicked in a side door, went into the home, entered the bedroom of Chidester's parents and threw his father to the floor. Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy admits the Chidester home was not the SWAT team's target. He says the Chidesters became involved in the raid "as an ancillary issue." "The warrant was for the house next door but in the service of that warrant they became involved ... they had contact with us," Tracy told a local newspaper.
Hospital Food (8/16)
A government official investigating the state-run portion of Trinidad and Tobago's health-care system says a hospital sandwich gave her food poisoning. Gladys Gaffoor says she was admitted to a private nursing facility after eating the sandwich.
Bush-League Legislation (8/15)
Missouri Senate Bill 280, signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Matt Blunt, combines the state cosmetology and barber boards in a cost-saving move. But tucked into the bill is a provision that requires parental permission before a minor can get a bikini wax. "Twelve- and thirteen-year-old little girls think they're eighteen and nineteen in this day and age. Sometimes they can become very rebellious, and if they think this is something that their folks can come unglued about, that's what they're going to do," said Darla Fox, executive director of the Missouri State Board of Cosmetology, which proposed the change.
Bird is the Word (8/12)
The village board of Greendale, Wisconsin, has ordered artist Al Emmons to remove a sculpture of Big Bird from the chimney of a duplex he owns. Neighbors complain the sculpture detracts from the historical nature of the area, and they say Emmons didn't have a permit to place the sculpture on his house. "That's what upset me the most. He wasn't given permission to do this," said neighbor Joseph Leedale.
No Room at the Inn (8/11)
Officials in Laos banned solo tourists from the capital of Vientiane during a recent regional ASEAN forum. Only those tourists traveling in groups arranged by local travel agencies were allowed in. The government also forced bars to close early, banned trucks and ordered women in the city to dress in traditional clothing or face fines. The actions were taken to make sure the city had the proper atmosphere for visiting dignitaries.
Child's Play (8/10)
Broward County, Florida, schools have banned running on playgrounds. That's just one of a number of changes on south Florida school playgrounds, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper. Gone are swings, see saws, and merry-go-rounds. (Moving equipment causes injuries.) Gone, too, are sandboxes. (Animals use them for litter boxes.) And even cement crawl tubes have been banned. (Vagrants may use them for shelter.) School officials say they have made the changes because of lawsuits. Since 1999, Broward County schools paid out about $561,000 to settle 189 claims for playground accidents.
All Hot and Sweaty (8/9)
Police in India's eastern state of Orissa know just how to deal with people who watch illegal dirty movies. They reportedly rounded up about 200 people watching a porn movie in one cinema and 400 people watching porn at another theater and made them do sit-ups in public and promise never to watch dirty movies again.
We Don't Need No Stinkin' I.D. (8/8)
Police arrested architect Joaquin Romero Aparicio during a trip to a Mexico City shopping mall. They believed he was drug lord Vicente Carillo. Aparicio spent a week in jail before DNA tests proved he wasn't Carillo. Just a few days later, Mexican police admitted the Javier Arellano they had arrested in Mexicali was not drug lord Francisco Javier Arellano Felix, but a car showroom employee with a similar name. Arellano was held and questioned for seven hours.
Couch Potatoes (8/5)
You can still sit on your porch and wave to people passing by in Anderson, South Carolina. Just don't do it on a reclining chair. The city council is considering a bill that would ban people from putting indoor furniture on their porches. Violators could be fined $1,000.
Crime Prevention (8/4)
The Burton-on-Trent, England, council has threatened Julie Brown's son with an anti-social behavior order for annoying neighbors by riding around on a motor scooter. But Brown says that's impossible, given that her son won't even be born for a few more months. "I was angry because nobody came and checked and the letter was sent despite the fact we don't have a son yet, let alone one who causes trouble riding around on a scooter," she said. A council spokesman said the letter appears to be a mistake.
One Girl Gang (8/3)
Fresno, California, police sent three squad cars and a helicopter to arrest Maribel Cuevas. Is she an armed robber? A terrorist? No, she's an 11-year-old girl who threw a rock and hit one of several boys who had pelted her with water balloons. When she saw she'd hit the boy, who admitted he started the fight, she quickly sought help and apologized. But when officers arrived they grabbed her, pushed her to the ground and one out a knee into her back to restrain her. They then handcuffed her and put her into a police car. Her mother, who says the police pushed her away when she tried to go to her, says Maribel's wrists were bruised from the handcuffs. Maribel, who was kept in juvenile hall without contact from her parents for five nights, now faces a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon.
State Religion (8/2)
Pastor Cai Zhuohua, his wife and two church members are facing charges of "illegal business practices" in China. They are accused of illegally printing more than 200,000 Bibles. Bibles per se aren't illegal in China. But only one firm is legally permitted to print them. Cai has already spent 10 months in jail.Pastor Cai Zhuohua, his wife and two church members are facing charges of "illegal business practices" in China. They are accused of illegally printing more than 200,000 Bibles. Bibles per se aren't illegal in China. But only one firm is legally permitted to print them. Cai has already spent 10 months in jail.
Leash Law (8/1)
Forget the child safety seat. If Pennsylvania State Rep. Tom Stevenson has his way, motorists will have to strap in Fido when they go for a ride. Stevenson has introduced a bill that would require that dogs in cars be restrained with a modified seat belt or placed in a carrier box. The bill would also ban dogs from hanging their heads out of vehicles. Stevenson got the idea from an 11-year-old who took part in his annual "there ought to be a law" contest.
Everybody Must Get Stoned, But Not in New
New Zealand MP Ashraf Choudhary, a member of the ruling Labor Party, says the Koran is correct when it says gays and adulterers should be stoned to death. But he says he doesn't believe it should be done in New Zealand.
You Wanted a Crackdown? (7/28)
Palestine TV invited Riad al-Agha, president of the Gaza-based National Institute of Strategic Studies, to a forum to discuss the growing lawlessness in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Agha criticized Palestinian security forces for refusing to obey orders by the Interior Ministry. Immediately after the show ended, those security forces arrested Agha for "incitement." He was released after writing an apology.
You Can't Get There From Here (7/27)
Carlo Lazo won a Bronze Star for providing medical aid to his fellow soldiers under fire from snipers and artillery in Iraq. But he can't do anything to help his ailing 16-year-old son. That's because the boy lives in Cuba, and the U.S. government has put tougher sanctions on that country aimed at restricting the flow of dollars into Cuba by limiting Cuban-Americans from visiting family members. People such as Lazo used to be allowed one visit per year. Now, it's one every three years, and Lazo won't be eligible to visit again until 2006.
A bus company has sued a group of French cleaning ladies who carpool to their jobs in Luxembourg. Transports Schiocchet Excursions claims the women are engaged in "unfair and parasitical competition." They want the court to fine the women and seize their cars. The women say carpooling is cheaper, faster and more convenient.
Phoning It In (7/25)
The North Korean government has cut almost all of its international telephone lines. Lines leading to government agencies and trading companies have been cut reportedly to prevent information on conditions in the country from flowing out. Those who have permission to make international phone calls must do so under the supervision of security officials.
Pain in the Grass (7/22)
A Minneapolis city inspector noticed the grass around a local YWCA looked a lot higher than the 8-inch maximum allowed by city code. But that inspector didn't notice a large sign saying the grass was a man-made prairie full of native species created as a teaching device. The firm he hired to mow the lawn didn't see the sign, reading "Why Don't We Mow?" in large letters, either. In approximately 15 minutes, five years worth of work, for which the YWCA had a city permit, was chopped to shreds. The city inspector's office said they sent out notices before cutting the grass, but those notices were sent to a nearby school, not the YWCA. A landscape architect says the prairie may have to be reseeded.
Speak No Evil (7/21)
Seven Pakistani police officers have been fired after allegedly sewing shut the lips of Mohammed Hussain. They reportedly sewed his lips shut because Hussain used filthy language and insulted them while they were torturing him. Despite the firings, police say it still isn't clear who sewed Hussain's lips shut.
The Government Giveth, and the Government Taketh
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a government agency that subsidizes U.S. firms doing business in foreign counties, has awarded a $25 million insurance policy to a propane gas terminal in Guatemala that is part of a Mexican energy conglomerate that has been ordered by the Internal Revenue Service to pay more than $70 million in back taxes. OPIC has also made millions of dollars in loans to companies with ties to organized crime, according to an Associated Press investigation.
You've Got to Know When to Cane 'Em
Fifteen men in Indonesia's Aceh province have been caned after being convicted of gambling. The province adopted Islamic Shariah law in 2003, and authorized caning earlier this year. The caning, conducted outside a mosque, was broadcast live on local television. Eleven other convicted gamblers were declared by doctors to be unfit for caning. They will be caned when their health improves.
If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body, Could I Seize
Ileana Valdez was stopped at Boston's Logan International Airport when a metal detector went off as she passed through. Security officials didn't find any weapons on her, but they found she was carrying $46,950 in cash. Valdez told them she was going to Texas for plastic surgery on her buttocks and breasts and she was going to use the money to pay for it. She says a male Drug Enforcement Administration agent told her she had a "nice body" and didn't need surgery. Then he seized her money, saying it was drug money. Valdez, who has no criminal record, is suing to get her money back from the government.
Party On (7/15)
The Virginia Court of Appeals has upheld a 27-month prison sentence for George and Elisa Robinson for providing alcohol to minors. The couple served alcohol to about 60 teens at their son's 16th-birthday party at their home. The two have admitted they made a mistake, but said they wanted to provide a safe environment for the teens. They were originally sentenced to eight years by a juvenile court, but that was reduced by a circuit court.
Throwing out the Merlot With the Bathwater
In May, the U.S. Supreme court ruled states such as Michigan may not ban wineries from out-of-state from delivering wine to customers while permitting deliveries by in-state wineries. So the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee has passed a bill outlawing all direct wine shipments to consumers, restaurants and retailers. Under the bill, wineries will have to sell through a wholesaler. Supporters, including the wholesalers, say the bill will keep minors from getting their hands on wine. But small Michigan wineries say they don't produce enough to interest wholesalers, making the bill a possible death sentence for their businesses.
Back (Garage) Door Man (7/13)
Dennis Phillips doesn't like garage doors on the front of houses. He says they belong on the side or even the rear. That wouldn't matter much, except he's an alderman in Franklin, Tennessee. And he has convinced a majority of his fellow council members to back a ban on front garage doors on new houses, even though developers say it will require larger lots and hurt the city's push for more-affordable housing. The council will hold two more votes on the measure before it becomes law.
The Gods Must Be Crazy (7/12)
Adel Smith, president of the Union of Italian Muslims, should know Italy has a law against vilifying religion. He has pressed charges against journalist Oriana Fallaci for her criticism of Islam. But Smith himself recently was sentenced to six months in prison, converted to a 6,000-euro fine, after calling the Roman Catholic Church a "criminal association" and calling Pope John Paul II an "able double crosser." He calls the sentence "political" and vows to appeal.
Every Hour on the Hour (7/11)
Montana state troopers have been ordered to stop at least one automobile every hour, even if the driver hasn't done anything wrong. State police Col. Paul Grimstad said the stops will reduce traffic accidents and drunken driving. But officials deny the state police now have a quota system. They say troopers aren't required to actually ticket anyone.
A Penny Earned (7/8)
A British court sentenced Tabrez Khan to six-and-a-half years in prison after he admitted dealing drugs. But that wasn't punishment enough for the police. They took him back to court to seize all his assets. Total value of those assets? About 53 cents American. "We are determined that no one should benefit from crime and although 29 pence may seem minuscule, it sends out a message that the courts will strip such people of every asset that can be found even if it is a few pence," said a police spokesman.
Political Party (7/7)
City workers in 9 de Julio, Argentina, say they were forced to attend a birthday party for Mayor Hugo Uzair. To add further insult, they were charged for tickets. Those who didn't have the money had the money deducted from their paychecks. Uzair has at least one defender, however. "People love my Huguito, people want to celebrate his birthday but we have to gather money to pay for the food and drink we are going to serve," said his mother Fatima.
They Are Here to Preserve Disorder (7/6)
Amnesty International has accused Ethiopian police of shooting and beating people engaged in mainly peaceful protests of a disputed election that apparently returned the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front to power. Authorities have also imprisoned some protestors. Information Minister Bereket Simon refused to say just how many protestors have been detained. "Anyone who incites violence, other than those elected, will have to face the law," he told Reuters.
Final Round of the Draft (7/5)
Sukru Hati has been detained for not reporting for mandatory military service in Turkey—back in 1954. The 71-year-old grandfather was caught when he applied for free government healthcare. Authorities say they have yet to decide whether Hati will be forced to serve, 51 years after he was first called.
Pot Suckers (7/4)
All the great taste of cannabis. None of the great THC. That's what Chronic Candy and Pot Suckers promise from their hemp-flavored candy. And despite the fact the candies contain no mind-altering substances, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions want the suckers off the shelves. The makers say they target the pops at young adults. But anti-drug activists say the candies will entice children to do drugs. After all, once someone has tasted hemp they'll surely crave more. In Michigan, Democratic state Rep. Dudley Spade has already introduced a bill to ban candies that contain hemp or that are hemp-flavored.
The Face of Terror (7/1)
Cecilia Beaman says Transportation Security Administration screeners at Los Angeles International Airport told her they considered her a terrorist and threatened her with a $500 fine. Beaman, principal at Pacific Middle School in Des Moines, had accompanied 37 students to a band competition and trip to Disneyland. During the stay, she made sandwiches for the children. She packed two of the knives she used in her checked baggage. But she couldn't find the other, and she thought she had lost it. The screeners found the 5.5-inch bread knife, which has a rounded tip, in her carry-on baggage. The 57-year-old grandmother says screeners took information from her driver's license, seized and photographed the knife and told her she would go on a terrorist watch list. But they refused to provide her with any documentation of her violation or a copy of the photograph of the knife. "They said 'no' and they said it's a national security issue. And I said what about my constitutional rights? And they said 'not at this point ... you don't have any,'" she told a local TV station.
A Horse Is a Horse (6/30)
British police have charged an Oxford University student with public disorder for making "homophobic comments" about a police horse. Sam Brown came out of a pub early one morning and encountered two mounted officers. He asked one of the officers, "How do you feel about your horse being gay." The officers then arrested him. He spent the night in jail and faces a fine. "It was way over the top—as far as I?fm aware, horses aren?ft that sensitive," said Brown.
You're the Journalist, Investigate!
China has arrested two foreign journalists—Straits Times chief China correspondent Ching Cheong and New York Times researcher Zhao Yan—for espionage and leaking state secrets. But officials have refused to specify exactly what the two men did. When other reporters asked if the government is cracking down on foreign journalists, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told them, "First, as a journalist, you should abide by the laws and regulations. Secondly, once a journalist has violated laws and regulations, he should be punished according to the law and cannot evade punishment just because he is a journalist." But when asked to spell out exactly what foreign journalists should not do, Quan told reporters, "I think you have not learnt enough about China's laws and regulations."
Candid Cop Camera (6/28)
John Bell took a photograph of a Hudson, Ohio, police cruiser being towed out of mud. David Devore, the police officer whose u-turn put the car into the mud, apparently didn't appreciate the move. And Devore's cruiser camera captured the exchange. "Camera and film now. I'm not going to ask you again. I'll give you the count of three or I can make your life a living hell. You made the decision, I'll give you that choice," he told Bell. Then he took the memory card from Bell's digital camera and erased the image. Devore was suspended for one day for his action. But Bell says that isn't enough. He has sued Devore and the city claiming he was stopped without probable cause, wrongfully detained, verbally abused and deprived of his property.
Sleet? Snow? Height? Not Us! (6/27)
Canada Post says it can't deliver mail to an Ottawa woman because her doorstep is 10 centimeters too high. Christine Charbonneau says she found a post office worker measuring her doorstep one day. He found it to be 30 centimeters high, 10 more than standards permit. Canada Post says she must reduce the size of the step to 20 centimeters or move her mailbox or it will cut off delivery. Charbonneau says her elderly mother-in-law and other delivery people regularly use the doorstep without any problem.
Give Till It Hurts (6/24)
Denmark has some of the highest income-tax levels in the world. It also has the world's largest sperm bank, and authorities have noticed they haven't been taxing as income the 500 crown reimbursement Cryos Sperm Bank provides for each donation. They want to change that, but the sperm bank says if donors have to give back a hefty part of their money taxes, many may stop giving - to the sperm bank, anyway.
A Cancer on Us All (6/23)
Warning: Just about everything contains at least minuscule amounts of some carcinogen. California's Proposition 65 requires warning labels on products that contain even minute levels of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth effects. And in the almost 20 years since Prop 65 became law, the list of products that must carry the label has grown quite lengthy. State environmental officials are now considering whether foods such as almonds, olives, prune juice, coffee and just about any starchy food that has been baked, roasted, fried or toasted should be labeled. It seems these foods contain acrylamide, a chemical that in high levels has been shown to cause cancer in rats. The federal Food and Drug Administration and many scientists say it isn't clear the low levels found in foods are dangerous to people. But state officials seem ready to force restaurants, supermarkets and food processors to put labels on foods that contain the chemical.
The Olympic Ideal (6/22)
China has razed thousands of homes, restaurants and small shops in Beijing to "beautify" the city before it hosts the 2008 Olympics. When restaurateur Ye Guozhu sought permission to protest the forced evictions of some 300,000 people, he was arrested for disturbing the social order, convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. His family hasn't seen or heard from him in the six months since. When they tried to file an appeal of his conviction, the court refused to accept it, saying Ye would have to sign the appeal himself—in person.
If You've Got the Money (6/21)
Vermont received a $24,000 federal grant to put up billboards remind motorists to buckle their seat belts. Just one problem. Vermont bans billboards. Solution? Take the money and use it to put up billboards in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. That's right. The state put up signs telling people to "Buckle up in Vermont". Since all the billboards near the state lines were already rented, Vermont had to rent billboards smack in the middle of New Hampshire and deep inside Massachusetts. "We had a lot of money thrown at us and a very short time to get it done," said a Vermont official.
Policing the Police (6/20)
Mexican troops and federal agents swarmed into the city of Nuevo Laredo and detained the entire 700-man police force. Residents of the city have long complained of rampant brutality and corruption in the local police force, and Mexican officials say many of the officers have ties to drug gangs. The local officers will be given drug tests, interrogated and subjected to background checks before being allowed to return to their jobs.
All Fired Up (6/17)
A car found near a junkyard isn't the same as one found in a junkyard, as firefighters in Hennef, Germany, have discovered. They reportedly found a car parked alongside a junkyard and, believing it to be a junker, used it to practice rescues. They had cut off the roof and doors before they discovered their error. The car actually belonged to teenager who had bought it just after passing his driver's test. The young man had not even driven the car yet.
Speak No Evil (6/16)
Icononzo, Colombia, has made malicious gossip illegal. Those found spreading rumors face up to four years in jail and hefty fines. According to Ananova, a city spokesperson told local media "People should be aware that using their tongues to speak evil is the same as having dynamite in your mouth."
The Birdman of Ghaziabad (6/15)
After an inmate in an Indian jail died during police questioning, authorities at first blamed his demise on tuberculosis. But after an autopsy showed the prisoner was murdered, jailers tried to pressure another inmate in the Ghaziabad prison into confessing to the crime. When he refused, guards reportedly killed about 100 pigeons the man had been feeding for the past two years by twisting their necks.
Baghdad Blues (6/14)
Villagers in Vila Baghdad, Brazil, say the police destroyed about 100 homes. A judge had ordered the demolition of illegally built houses. But villagers say they had titles to the land. Brazilian authorities say that if that's the case, they'll help the people whose homes were destroyed sue the police and the state.
Garage Banned (6/13)
When you park your car, close the garage door. That may soon be the law in Germantown, Tennessee. The Memphis suburb has proposed an ordinance that would require homeowners to leave their garage doors closed except when entering or exiting the garage or when doing work in the garage.
No Class (6/10)
University of Oregon senior Stephanie Ramey wanted to sign up for a calculus class, but she says she was told by university officials she couldn't because she is white. That class is one of several where the first 10 of 18 seats are reserved for African-American, Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Chicano/Latino, Native American or multiracial students. White students must arrive early in the morning of the first day of classes and meet with an adviser before being allowed to take any remaining slots. University officials deny there's a quotas system at work. The say the classes are designed to make minority students more comfortable.
But Will It Play in Glasgow? (6/9)
Lee Stewart's painting Female Life Study was part of a sold-out show that ran for two months in London. But when it went on display in Stewart's native Glasgow, it met a chillier reception. In fact, five police officers went into an art gallery and warned the owner to remove the painting from a window or face a charge of breach of the peace. They say they'd received a couple of complaints about the caricature-style painting of a nude middle-aged woman.
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runners
More than two dozen people were arrested in Lahore, Pakistan, for taking part in a foot race. The race included both men and women, and it's illegal for women to race in Pakistan. Islamic conservatives attacked women running in a similar event in the Punjab area of Pakistan, leading to the ban. Human rights activists say police beat participants in the Lahore race.
Blogging Kanuckistan (6/7)
Election officials in British Columbia say bloggers will have to register with them if they want to make partisan comments on candidates, parties or referendum items on any ballots. "Under the Election Act, it will fall within the definition of election advertising, and we would ask them to register," says Jennifer Miller, of Elections B.C.
Hoist on Their Own Tankard (6/6)
Scottish & Newcastle brewers got the European Commission to give its Newcastle Brown Ale "protected designation of origin" status. That keeps brown ales brewed outside Newcastle from using the name. Now, the company says it wants to shift production of the ale to Gateshead. The company says it should still be able to use the name Newcastle Brown Ale, but EC officials say they aren't certain about that. The firm is now trying to have the protected status revoked.
An Ye Harm None (6/3)
Both Thomas E. Jones Jr. and his ex-wife Tammie U. Bristol are Wiccans. Not surprisingly, despite their divorce, the two, who have joint custody of their nine-year-old son, want to raise their son as a Wiccan. But Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, inserted a provision into their divorce decree barring either from exposing the boy to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals." Bradford didn't define what a non-mainstream religion is, but Wiccan beliefs presumably aren't mainstream, leading the couple to protest the order, to no avail. Bradford also didn't explain what harm the boy would suffer if exposed to his parents' religion. But a report to the judge by the Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau noted the couple sends the boy to a Catholic school. "There is a discrepancy between Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones' lifestyle and the belief system adhered to by the parochial school. . . . Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones display little insight into the confusion these divergent belief systems will have upon (the boy) as he ages," the report reads. Mr. Jones notes that plenty of non-Catholics have attended non-Catholic school without being harmed, including himself. He and the Indiana Civil Liberties Union have challenged the order.
Feta Compli (6/2)
Only cheese made in Greece should be called feta, according to a legal adviser to the European Court of Justice. The European Commission ruled in 2002 that feta is not a generic name but refers to cheeses made in certain parts of Greece. Cheese makers in Denmark and Germany appealed that ruling to the ECJ. But Advocate-General Damaso Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer has advised the ECJ to rule in favor of Greece. His opinion isn't binding, but the court reportedly upholds the advocate-general's opinion in about 80% of the cases it handles.
Highway Patrol, Pre-Crime Division (6/1)
Matthew Smith has worked as a motorcycle courier for 15 years, and he says he doesn't have a single speeding citation on his record. But London, England, police recently sent him a ticket for doing 39 mph in a 30 mph zone. He was allegedly clocked by an automatic camera. But Smith noted the date of the alleged offense was four days after the date the ticket was issued. This isn't the first time motorists have received tickets for future offenses from "speed cameras" in London. Police, at first, insisted these were isolated events. But after Smith pointed out the incorrect date, they dropped charges against him.
Locked, Loaded, and Untrimmed (5/31)
When soldiers with the Georgia Army National Guard's 48th Brigade Combat Team boarded a charter flight from Savannah to Kuwait, they carried all of their personal arms with them: rifles, shotguns, pistols. But they didn't carry any pocket knives, nose-hair clippers, or cigarette lighters. In keeping with FAA regulations, they had to give up all of those items before getting on the airplane, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters embedded with the unit.
Listen Up (5/27)
Officials in Westminster, England, want to put microphones on lamp posts outside bars, clubs and even homes to monitor sounds. The Westminster council says the microphones will help it catch people violating noise ordinances.
The Thin Non-White Line (5/26)
White men who want to join Great Britain's largest police force, the Metropolitan Police, may have to wait up to three years to try. The government wants 25% of officers to be nonwhite by 2009, up from 7% today. So it's giving higher priority to those with "knowledge or experience of a community group" in admissions to its training center. Officials say if that doesn't get them to their target, they may have to adopt quotas.
When the Only Tool You Have Is a Hammer
An 11-year-old boy was arrested in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and charged with carrying an unlawful weapon after school officials found nails in his pocket. His father says the nails were left over from a Boy Scout project. But police say the boy gave them conflicting reasons for having 10 nails, including that they were for self-defense because a suspicious man had been seen in his neighborhood. A police spokesman said anything that can be used as a weapon can be classified as unlawful on school grounds. "Is a pencil a weapon? Is a pen a weapon? Is a paperclip a weapon?" asked the boy's father.
Turkish Delights (5/24)
Turkey's Radio and Television High Council has banned four adult TV channels, including Playboy TV. It says their erotic shows violate legal requirements that programming be "in line with the national, moral, humane, spiritual and cultural values of the Turkish people."
That's Low (5/23)
With gasoline prices averaging $2.20 a gallon in Maryland, drivers in St. Mary's County commended one gas station for dropping its price to $1.999 a gallon. Three other stations quickly followed suit, but state regulators stepped in almost as fast, forcing the stations to raise their price to $2.049 a gallon, after a competing station complained about the low prices. State law bans stations from selling gasoline for less than they paid. One station said it was selling above cost, but it couldn't produce proof of its costs, so regulators used the average wholesale price to determine what it should be charging. Since Maryland passed its minimum-price law in 2001, officials have confirmed 31 cases in which stations have charged customers too little. They say they've never had to issue citations because the stations have agreed to charge more.
Smoky Slippery Slope (5/20)
Fresh from banning drivers from using cell phones, some German lawmakers now want to bar them from smoking. "The dangers of causing an accident rise drastically when you smoke and drive," said Peter Danckert, a member of the ruling Social Democrat party. Driving organizations say smoking is no more of a distraction than eating while driving. That may just give lawmakers their next target.
Greenback Dollar (5/19)
Alfred Kennedy III was handcuffed and taken to a police station after trying to pay for food at a Baton Rouge Jack in the Box with a $100 1974 Federal Reserve note. The note wasn't counterfeit, but no one at Jack in the Box or the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office seemed to recognize the almost 30-year-old note was legal tender. Kennedy was finally freed after about 40 minutes, after deputies confirmed the note was real money. That happened in 2001. An appeals court recently said Kennedy should get a trial on a defamation charge against the restaurant and a false arrest claim against the sheriff's office. Both the Jack in the Box and the sheriff's office opposed that decision. The sheriff's office says Kennedy wasn't really arrested, just detained until the bill could be checked out.
Lights Out (5/18)
When the sun goes down, baseball games at Rochester, Minnesota's Century, John Marshall, and Mayo high schools come to a halt. All the fields have lights, and the school district has paid its electricity bills. But it decided it can't turn the lights on because of Title IX, the federal law that requires equal treatment for male and female students in athletics. Following a complaint from a parent, the school asked the federal Office of Civil Rights to look at its athletic programs. The feds said girls' softball fields didn't measure up to the boys' baseball fields. The school system put in new press boxes, bleachers, batting cages and sound systems, but it didn't have to money for lights, too. So, to even things up, it said the baseball teams couldn't use their lights. School officials say they never had any complaints from softball players or coaches about the quality of their facilities.
Civics Lesson (5/17)
Police locked down Tennessee's William Blount High School after finding an alleged hit list and racial graffiti. Days later, student Bridget O'Neill talked about racial tension at the school to a Knoxville television station, and said another student had made a racial sign. The day after that, the principal called her into the office and suspended her. At a hearing nine days later, the school, agreed to allow her to return to class. O'Neill says she has also been promised she'll be able to catch up on the work she missed.
Fan Fair (5/16)
Vice police in Saudi Arabia reportedly arrested Hisham Abdel Rahman for causing an indecent scene. The winner of Star Academy, an Arabic show similar to American Idol, Rahman was at a mall in Riyadh when several male and female fans approached him to shake his hand and kiss him. The religious police deemed the scene improper and tried to break it up. Local and international newspapers report the singer refused to leave and was detained until a senior government official had him freed. But the singer now says a police official asked him not to stand in the crowd, so he and his family walked away and he wasn't detained.
Justice Delayed (5/13)
Argentine rocker Andres Calamaro was charged with justifying a crime for telling a concert crowd he'd like to smoke marijuana. He made the remarks more than 10 years ago. He was brought up on charges at the time, and a judge dismissed them. But recently, another judge reinstated the charges.
A Man's Man (5/12)
Ann Margarette Fegen is a woman. She has always been a woman. But her new passport lists her gender as male. Fegen can't understand why all of the other information on the passport is correct, but that is wrong. And when she asked South African authorities to correct the error, they told her she'd have to bring a written note from a surgeon saying she had not had a sex-change operation. "Everyone makes mistakes and I was fine with that, but I could not understand why they treated me in such an unprofessional way," she told local reporters.
Youth Movement (5/11)
The Swedish group Social Democratic Youth has admitted signing 73-year-old Kjell-Olof Feldt as a member without his knowledge. The youth wing of the ruling Social Democratic Party says that it padded its membership rolls to get more government funding.
Barred From Work (5/10)
Indian authorities have closed more than 600 bars in Bombay. They say the bar girls, who dress in colorful costumes and sing songs from Bollywood movies, are a bad influence on society. The girls stay fully clothed, and customers aren't allowed to touch them, but police say the bars are fronts for prostitution. Officials say closing the bars will cost 150,000 people, including bartenders and bouncers, their jobs.
Organ Grinders (5/9)
Robert Mihaly's legal troubles had just started when he was sentenced to prison for theft. During a routine physical examination, Romanian prison authorities discovered he was missing a kidney. He told them he'd had it removed because of medical problems. But they couldn't find any hospital records to back up the claim. Instead, police claim he sold the kidney in 2001 to a woman who has since left the country. He has now been charged with illegal trading in organs.
Pimpin' Ain't Easy (5/6)
The Nevada Legislature won't impose a new tax on the state's legal brothels. And that's apparently bad news for the brothels. Industry lobbyists had actually asked for a tax of 10% on all food and drink served in brothels and a $2 per customer fee. "Look, if we contribute and do nice things for the state, maybe the state will like us better," brothel lobbyist George Flint said. Lawmakers said they had better things to do.
Can You Whip Me Now? (5/5)
Lawmakers in Saudi Arabia are considering a bill that would make it illegal to use cell phones to distribute pornography. Those convicted of breaking that law would receive up to 1,000 lashes, up to 12 years in prison and a hefty fine.
School Uniform (5/4)
San Bernardino, California's Pacific High School suspended James Herndon for wearing black lipstick and red eye makeup. Neither the school code nor state education rules ban makeup, but the school says its handbook bars clothing that "creates a safety hazard" or that "constitutes a serious and unnecessary distraction to the learning process or tends to disrupt campus order."
Making a Point (5/3)
Police in Thames Valley, England, have set up a point system they say will help officers prioritize their work. The goal for each officer is to amass at least 200 points a month. They'll get 10 points for stopping a drunk driver, or for arresting a rapist. Pulling someone over for not wearing a seat belt or talking on a phone while driving must be half as important, because that will get an officer five points. And catching a shoplifter brings just two points.
Stripped of Her Identity (5/2)
Michelle Szuhay used Haley Dawson's driver's license and Social Security number to hide her identity while working as a stripper. But she didn't commit identity theft, says Miami County, Ohio, prosecutor Gary Nasal. And neither did the state liquor-control agents who gave Szuhay Dawson's identity. Nasal says state law permits law enforcement to use anyone's identity as part of an investigation, but he admits Dawson could suffer problems because her identity was used. Szuhay danced nude for about three months, while state agents watched, as part of an investigation of club Total Xposure in Troy. Troy police officers also watched Szuhay strip on the Internet, using an account they created in the identity of a dead man, which they say is also legal. Investigators believed the club was linked to drug-trafficking and prostitution, charges they could never confirm. But they did bust the club on two misdemeanor counts of furnishing liquor without a license and a civil nuisance charge that helped shut the club. Troy police officers wound up charging Szuhay with perjury and obstruction of justice for associating with club employees during the investigation. Those charges were dismissed, but Nasal reportedly plans to refile the obstruction charge.
Illicit Temples (4/29)
Saudi officials razed what they say was a makeshift Hindu temple and deported three men they say worshipped there. The nation bans all forms of worship other than Islam. Officials apparently stumbled across the temple while searching for booze and porn, which are also illegal in Saudi Arabia.
Know When to Fold 'Em (4/28)
Louisiana law bans most gambling. But for years prosecutors and law enforcement have said that businesses can host card games so long as they didn't take a cut or charge admission. But that was before the state legalized casino gambling and before Texas hold 'em poker games became popular. Now, the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control says that bars that host poker games are profiting from gambling—thus breaking the law—by selling food and drinks. This new interpretation of the law is disputed by bar owners, as well as some local law enforcement officers and the chairmen of the legislative committees that oversee gambling in the state. But that hasn't stopped the state police from raiding bars and arresting owners, managers and dealers.
Goddess of Irony (4/27)
Bengali novelist Sunil Gangopadhayay should know that India has laws against insulting religious beliefs. After all, two years ago, he was part of a government committee that suggested banning a novel on the grounds it could offend Muslims. But the Hindustan Times reports Gangopadhayay said in a Bengali newspaper that he was aroused by a stature of the Hindu goddess Saraswati and that he fondled the clay image. A retired government official has reportedly filed a complaint with the police.
Detective Work (4/26)
Alice Gawronski doesn't think law enforcement officers should use stun guns, and after seeing the 5-foot, 10-inch, 290-pound Orange County, Florida's Sheriff Kevin Beary on TV, she thought he wasn't fit enough arrest anyone without a stun gun—and said so in a letter to the local paper. Beary wrote her back saying her remarks were "slanderous." Gawronski says he was trying to intimidate her; A sheriff's spokesman says he was just addressing a citizen's concern. Beary got her address by having his aides use driver's license records to track her down. He says that was legal, but some experts say the department violated federal privacy laws.
Boarded Up (4/25)
The Norwegian government says all companies must have boards of directors that are at least 40 percent women by 2007. Those that don't meet the quota will be forcibly liquidated. Overall, just 11 percent of board members in Norway are women, and business leaders say the strict quotas may force them to add less qualified members to their boards.
Meth in Tennessee (4/22)
Suffer from allergies? You may want to avoid Tennessee. A new state law is forcing many stores to remove over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines from their shelves because they may be used to make methamphetamine. Those medicines can now be sold only in pharmacies, which must keep them behind the counter.
The yearbook is called the Snoho Mojo, and the official district Web site refers to "Snoho traditions." But Washington's Snohomish High School suspended senior Justin Patrick for wearing a T-shirt to school that read "Snohos." School officials say the word contains a slang term for prostitutes. Patrick says he and his friends have worn the shirts other times without complaint. But when he refused to cover up the shirt, he was suspended for violating the dress code, sexual harassment and "gross insubordination."
In the 72 years it has been open to the public, not a single person has been injured on the "cake walk" run by Charles Manning's Amusement Park. But British authorities say the moving walkway doesn't meet current safety standards, and they've ordered it shut down. "It gets harder and harder each year to please the inspectors and find rides which the youngsters will find interesting," said Manning.
No Nudes Is Good Nudes (4/19)
The sheriff's department and zoning officials in Bartholomew County, Indiana, have ordered the owner of a local business to move about 10 statues out of public view because they are obscene under Indiana law. The statues are copies of classic works, including the Venus de Milo and Michelangelo's David. Officials say they have received two complaints about the statues.
Tackle First (4/18)
Melvin Ainsworth's walks across the Carquinez Bridge in Vallejo, California, aren't usually exciting. But on one recent stroll, Ainsworth says he was just minding his business when he was tackled from behind. Not by a mugger, but by police officer Jeremie Patzer. It seems Patzer had been told a man in his 20s or 30s was either dangling a baby over the bridge or about to jump—a man wearing a San Francisco 49ers jacket. Ainsworth is 77 and wasn't dangling a baby, but he was wearing a 49ers jacket, which apparently is close enough to tackle. Patzer says he told Ainsworth to stop, but he didn't respond. The tackle left Ainsworth with a sprained wrist and six stitches above his eye.
Sunshine Go Away Today (4/15)
The Maryland legislature is considering a bill that would allow students to wear sunscreen when they go out on sunny days. Why would lawmakers need to even consider such legislation? Well, four counties, including Montgomery County, allow students to use sunscreen only if they bring a doctor's note. Eleven counties, including Howard County, require a parent's signature, and eight, also including Howard, insist students must store their sunscreen with the school's health officer. The legislature is also considering a bill that would require schools to permit students to keep their own asthma medicines.
Porking Violation (4/14)
Leroy Trought says that when he put a sign in his pub's parking lot designating it a "porking lot", he was just paying homage to the fact that the neighborhood was once home to numerous butcher shops. But a court in Bristol, England, says it was, in fact, an anti-social act and has ordered him to remove the sign and told him he can't display any other signs that may be threatening, insulting or abusive. Threatening? Insulting? Abusive? Apparently, that's what Muslims who worship at a nearby mosque felt the "porking lot" sign was. Following complaints from them and others, the city council and police force filed charges against Trought.
Official Corruption (4/13)
After officials were accused last year of stealing money, the Mauritanian government promised to reduce corruption. Its solution to the problem is now at work: Cabinet ministers voted themselves 600 percent raises. They reportedly now take home $3,333 a month. The average income in the country is just $40 a month.
Conversion Charges (4/12)
Hamid Pourmand is scheduled to go on trial in Iran for converting to Christianity from Islam and seeking to convert others to Christianity. He faces the death penalty if convicted. Pourmand, a member of the Assembly of God church and a former colonel in the Iranian army, has already been convicted by a military court of lying to his superiors about his conversion. Christians are not allowed to serve as officers in the army. Pourmand was sentenced to three years in jail at that trial. He also lost his pension, and his wife and children were evicted from their home.
Sneak and Peek (4/11)
Attorney Brandon Mayfield was jailed for two weeks after the government incorrectly matched his fingerprint to one found on detonators near the scene of a bombing in Madrid, Spain. It now turns out that the FBI performed a secret search of his house under provisions of the Patriot Act. In response to a letter from his attorneys, the Justice Department admitted to seizing three hard drives, taking several DNA samples, taking 335 photographs of his personal possessions and performing other "physical searches." Mayfield's attorneys are asking for more information, such as the exact nature of the photographs and how the DNA samples were analyzed.
A Fairness Doctrine for Education (4/8)
Conservative lawmakers in Florida are pushing for a state law mandating a "fair and balanced" curriculum in state colleges. The House Education and Innovation Committee has already passed a bill that would allow students to demand their beliefs be taught in classes. If they aren't, students could sue. Supporters say the bill will protect conservative students from being indoctrinated by liberal professors. Critics say that will mean biology classes would have to give time to creationism, and classes on the Holocaust would have to present the theories of Holocaust deniers. Sponsors of the bill don't seem to be doing a very good job of dispelling those claims. Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) cited as an example of how conservatives are persecuted by left-wing faculty his first day in a college anthropology class, when the instructor allegedly told him: "Evolution is a fact. There's no missing link. I don't want to hear any talk about intelligent design and if you don't like that, there's the door."
Smoking Gun (4/7)
Rhode Island law prohibits anyone from smoking within 25 feet of a school, and district policy in Providence also forbids anyone from smoking on school grounds. So when sophomore Eliazar Velasquez snapped a photo of principal Elaine Almagno puffing away just outside a school building door and posted it on the Internet, the school, of course, suspended Velasquez. He was accused of disrupting the learning environment of the school. But after the media picked up on the story, district officials reversed the suspension.
Mocking Beards (4/6)
Hamza al-Muzaini, a linguistics instructor at King Saud University, has been sentenced to 200 lashes and four months in jail for "mocking long beards." The sentence came after an instructor of Islamic culture at the same school accused Muzaini of insulting him. Abdullah al-Barak, who is reportedly adheres to a strict form of Islam, said Muzaini questioned his knowledge in an article he published. Muzaini, who is appealing the ruling, was also barred from publishing more articles.
Family Matters (4/5)
When police in Kentucky stopped a car with a broken taillight, they ran a check on all of the occupants and found a warrant out for Larry Casteel. His crime? He hadn't attended a court-mandated parenting class for divorcing parents. Why not? Well, Casteel was in Iraq serving in the U.S. Army when the court mandated the class. That didn't make any difference. He was arrested on his first night back in the United States. He was released after spending the night in jail, and he has agreed to attend another class before he ships back out.
Musical Crimes (4/4)
Police in Germany and France are cracking down on those who dare to take classical music to the masses. According to The Wall Street Journal, police in those countries have been raiding concerts and arresting conductors who bring in musicians from Eastern Europe. Promoters and conductors say employing musicians from Western Europe would make concerts too expensive to take into small venues profitably. Not surprisingly, French and German musicians' unions say the conductors are guilty of unfair competition and exploiting Eastern European musicians. In any event, promoters have been charged with illegally importing labor and underpaying performers.
A Different Drum (4/1)
Authorities in Rajahmundry, India, have a novel way of dealing with those who don't pay their taxes, and their neighbors. The city sends groups of drummers to play outside the houses of those who haven't paid their taxes. They don't stop until the taxes are paid. In just the first week, the city got 18% of its back taxes paid.
Smoked Out (3/31)
Jean-Paul Sartre smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and several pipes full of tobacco. His love of smoking is well known. But for the poster for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth, the French National Library airbrushed a cigarette out of a photograph of Sartre. The library's director said the cigarette had to be removed to keep the poster from violating French laws against advertising tobacco. He said the library also wanted to avoid scaring away sponsors of the exhibition.
Pissed Off (3/30)
When Antonio Wheeler was arrested on drug charges, he allegedly told Orlando police officers he had used cocaine. He was then taken to Florida Hospital, where he was asked for a urine sample. He refused, so he was handcuffed and strapped to a bed, and hospital staff tried to forcibly catheterize him. When he struggled, Officer Peter Linnenkamp reportedly jumped on the bed and kneeled with both knees on Wheeler's chest. When that didn't subdue him, Linnenkamp hit him twice with 50,000 volts from a Taser. Wheeler then agreed to give a urine sample.
Cover Charge (3/29)
The Tennessee Film Commission wants to attract more filmmakers to the Volunteer State. And it says a $2 per admission tax on strip clubs would do just that. The money would be used to provide incentives to filmmakers, but only if they promise to make movies that show women, and the great state of Tennessee, in a positive light. Critics say the plan would tax one industry to subsidize another and get government bureaucrats involved in decisions about which movies will be made.
Unintended Consequence (3/28)
Ohio lawmakers swear they didn't mean to force people to get a license to sell things on eBay. But that's just what a recently passed law will do. The law was intended to regulate online auctions. But as written, it requires anyone selling on eBay to use a licensed auctioneer or become an auctioneer. To become an auctioneer one must serve a one-year apprenticeship to an auctioneer and attend classes, among other requirements. The Senate already voted to change the law, but the House hasn't yet approved the changes.
See No Evil (3/25)
If a bill passed by Utah's legislature is signed by the governor, state officials will have to comb the Internet looking for sites that appeal to the "prurient interest in sex" of children. Those sites, whether they are legally obscene or not, will be placed on a list of sites that are "harmful to minors." Internet service providers would then have to block the sites or provide customers with software that could block them. And Utah companies that build or maintain any of those sites would have to label them as "harmful to minors." Anyone who breaks the law would face up to one year in prison and/or a $2,500 fine. Opponents say the bill's wording also makes it applicable to e-mail companies, search engines, and hosting companies.
If at First You Don't Succeed (3/24)
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe admits that his policy of forcibly taking land from white farmers hasn't boosted farm production. Far from it, he says just 44 percent of the land is being fully utilized for farming. And maize output has fallen by almost half since the government began seizing land. Mugabe has warned the black farmers it was given to that the government won't hesitate to redistribute it again if they don't shape up.
It's Good to Be the Chancellor King
State University System of New York chancellor Robert King has not one but three full-time drivers, paid a total of $174,700 a year to drive him and other top university officials. King is also paid a $250,000 annual salary and receives a $90,000 housing allowance. He recently proposed a $600 a year tuition hike.
Juvenile Court (3/22)
Bangladeshi judge Ali Noor said he was a "bit surprised" when he saw four accused criminals in his courtroom. The four, charged with looting and causing criminal damage, are a little younger than most other criminals he's seen: The oldest is just two years old. Press reports say it's easy to file criminal complaints in the country, and they are often used harass people. Noor says that may well be the case here, but he's going to wait for a police investigation. The children were released on $50 bond each.
Barber Poles (3/21)
Barbers in the Polish city of Slupsk have been ordered by health officials to cover up. Cracking down on popular bikini-clad female haircutters, local inspectors say regulations require the ladies to wear protective covering. But, they add, transparent smocks over the bikinis just might comply with the law.
Eye of the Tiger (3/17)
Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea and his family own 25 pets, including six dogs, five tortoises, three French hens, two chinchillas, two ferrets and a rooster. That's about 20 animals too many for their neighbors in Belleair, Florida. They complained to the city that the animals were a nuisance, and the city has told Bollea to get rid of the animals, citing a city ordinance that says "No person shall keep or maintain upon any residential property within the town more than a total of or any combination of five domestic animals at any one time." The Bolleas have agreed to cut back to six pets: four dogs and two birds. They say they'll still be in compliance with the law because each of the four people in their family should be allowed to keep up to five animals. They vow to fight any efforts to further reduce the number of animals they keep on their 2.3 acre home.
Funeral March (3/16)
Donovan Lightbourn is eight years younger, 5 inches taller and 60 pounds heavier than accused murderer Kareem Lightbourne. He also wears his hair in dreadlocks, while Kareem reportedly favors short hair. But detectives at Florida?s Broward County Sheriff's Office still thought the two men looked alike. That and a tip to a Crime Stoppers hotline is why they arrested Donovan Lightbourn while he was attending his grandmother's funeral. Witnesses said the grandmother had just been lowered into the ground when detectives stormed the gravesite, grabbing Lightbourn, handcuffing him and shoving him into a sheriff's vehicle. The sheriff's office says it released Lightbourn as soon as officers figured out he wasn't the man they were looking for.
No Whites Need Apply (3/15)
A prospective parole officer got quite a shock after applying for a job with the Correctional Service of Canada. Prison authorities sent the applicant a letter saying the Ontario section is hiring only "aboriginal and visible-minority candidates." Conservative politicians hit the roof when the letter was made public. But CSC officials are unapologetic, saying aborigines and visible minorities are underrepresented in their labor force.
Lesson Learned (3/14)
A homeschooling group in Simpsonville, South Carolina, chose a local park for its meetings because it was next to a police station. They figured they'd be safe there, but they've since reconsidered their reasoning. A man allegedly began shouting at two of the boys in the group during one meeting and pushed one to the ground. One of the mothers ran to help the boy and the man pushed her and the baby she was carrying to the ground. At that point, a uniformed police officer showed up and confirmed the first man was a plainclothes officer. The boy was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon—a small knife on his belt—and the woman was arrested for assaulting a police officer. The officer has since been fired and the charges against the woman and boy dropped.
Gang Colors (3/11)
Raven Furbert says her red, white and blue beaded necklace is a display of patriotism and support for American troops, including three relatives in the military, one of whom is stationed in Iraq. But officials at her Schenectady, New York, middle school see it differently. They say the necklace is gang-related and have banned her from wearing it. Her family also says that since Furbert stood up for herself, the 12-year-old, who'd never been in trouble before, has been hit with in-school detentions and other disciplinary measures. The school colors are red, white and blue.
If you want to go dancing in Beaufort County, South Carolina, don't dress as a Quizno's cup. County officials forced the sandwich shop's mascot to stop dancing and waving at people along U.S. Highway 278. The county says the promotion is illegal under county ordinances banning moving signs and off-premises signs.
Illegal Parking (3/9)
Irish police are known for aggressively clamping vehicles parked outside the arrivals entrance at Dublin International airport. Still, no one expected them to clamp an ambulance parked just outside the entrance, especially since it was parked in an area reserved for emergency crews. But that's just what they did. The police also refused to allow the ambulance crew to use a company credit card to pay the fine, forcing them to withdraw their own money from an airport ATM before they could leave in the ambulance. The ambulance was at the airport to pick up a man badly injured while on a ski vacation.
Safety First (3/8)
Michigan officials are looking into whether three Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies broke state workplace safety regulations. Are they accused of reckless discharge of firearms? Unsafe driving? No, they ran into a burning building and pulled people to safety. The Ypsilanti Township and Washtenaw County gave them awards for bravery. But someone lodged an anonymous complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The department faces fines and other sanctions if OSHA finds deputies broke the law. In fact, the agency is reportedly looking into other instances when deputies entered burning buildings and a collapsed trench. A sheriff's department official told local media he had reason to believe the complaint was filed by someone in the Ypsilanti fire department. Members of the fire department and the firefighters union denied that charge.
Booze Cartel (3/7)
Since 2001, Northwest Airlines has lost $2.9 billion, so it obviously is looking for every way it can to save money. And that includes buying wine and liquor in Minnesota, where it's cheaper, and trucking it into Michigan to be placed on planes. Not so fast, say state alcohol wholesalers, state law says Michigan companies have to buy only from them. The airline says that would cost it an additional $3 million a year, and it's fighting the ban. (It did, however, agree to buy its beer in Michigan.) Other airlines fly in booze for their flights, which is perfectly legal, and Northwest did too until it shifted its wide-bodied planes to long-haul flights in the mid-1990s. The matter is now in court.
Baby Love (3/4)
Don't have dinner with your children in North Carolina—not if you plan on drinking alcohol. State Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, has introduced a bill that would forbid an adult driving an automobile with a child under 17 in it from having any amount of alcohol in his or her body. That means someone who has recently consumed even a glass of wine or a single beer could be charged. Brock says he got the idea from a similar proposal in Utah.
Leave Those Kids Alone (3/3)
Students trying to start a conservative club at Massachusetts' Hudson High School found their posters removed by school officials. The officials also blocked access to a Web site for high school conservative clubs mentioned on the posters. The Web site includes videos of beheadings by Iraqi insurgents. The students say the videos show what the United States is fighting in Iraq. And they say the school censored them for their views. But school principal John Staplefeld disagrees. Sort of. He told the Boston Globe the videos implicitly condone violence as a way of "solving problems." And he said the videos don't address the more central problem of growing anti-Americanism in other nations. "Unfortunately, we really haven't dealt with the fact that we're not well received in the world anywhere," he told the paper. "That's the issue."
In God's Name (3/2)
Gerhard Haderer has been given a six-month sentence for blasphemy by a Greek court. The move comes after his comic book The Life of Jesus was banned by the country. The comic depicts Jesus as a hippie who surfs and is friends with Jimi Hendrix. It has sold some 100,000 copies in the rest of Europe. Haderer faces imprisonment if he enters Greece. His Greek publisher and booksellers were acquitted of blasphemy charges.
They Are the Champions (3/1)
China jailed more journalists in 2004 than any other nation, says the Committee to Protect Journalists. It finished ahead of runners-up Cuba, Eritrea, and Burma. But in fairness to those countries, their combined populations wouldn't even equal China's. This marks the sixth straight year China has imprisoned the most journalists.
Make Time, Do Time (2/28)
Men in Costa Rica can now be sent to prison for flirting with women. Ananova says local media report a new law allows women to have men arrested for paying them unwanted compliments. Those found guilty face up to 50 days in jail.
Cop vs. Cop (2/25)
David Laing was quite upset when a Texas police officer pulled him over, asked for his identification and asked to search his car. Laing, a Canadian police officer, knew Canadian law didn't allow that type of search. What's that got to do with anything? He was stopped in Canada. The Texas officer was there to show Canadian officers how they catch drug dealers in the Lone Star state. After Laing asserted his rights and left, another Texas officer, this time accompanied by a Canadian police officer, pulled him over again. They told Laing he was under the influence of marijuana and demanded to search his car. This time, Laing agreed, but they also searched his two-year-old son, who was with him. They found no drugs, and despite asserting minutes earlier that Laing was under the influence, they let him go. Laing sued the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who settled out of court with him, but the RCMP defends its actions. The RCMP also says Laing was evasive when asked what his job was. Laing says he simply didn't want any special treatment because he is a cop.
Nip and Tuck (2/24)
If you are thinking about having your face Botoxed or your boobs enlarged, then you might want to avoid Illinois and Washington. Their state legislatures are considering "vanity" taxes on plastic surgery. The taxes would not apply to reconstructive surgery for burn victims, women who have undergone mastectomies, or others who have surgery done for "medical" reasons
Killing Time (2/23)
Why has homicide risen 450 percent in North Wales, United Kingdom, since 2003? Deputy Constable Clive Wolfendale blames Quentin Tarantino. "In today's society, more people are likely to spend their evenings watching a Quentin Tarantino DVD than reading a Jane Austen novel. Perhaps we should not be surprised by the consequences," he said. Attempted homicide has also climbed 50 percent since 2003. So apparently, a lot of people rented Kill Bill last year.
You Haven't Come a Long Way, Baby (2/22)
Whoops. After earlier saying women would be allowed to run for president in the June elections, now Iran's Guardian Council says they can't run. It didn't say whether the first announcement was an error or whether it changed its mind. But reform-minded critics say the council probably changed its policy under pressure from conservative religious clerics.
A Shot in The Dark (2/18)
Sean Roisten and his family were at home when someone knocked at the door of their apartment. Two men in ski masks allegedly pushed their way into the Brighton, Massachusetts, home. Roisten got his own gun and shot one of the men, who was holding Roisten's wife at gunpoint. Police, of course, arrested Roisten for assault and battery with a deadly weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Straighten Up and Fly Right (2/17)
Helicopter pilot Jeremy Johnson is being hailed as a hero by people in southern Utah. He braved strong winds to rescue a family stranded in a flood. He then raised money for the family—which had its trailer, mobile home, and camper washed away—by flying people over the flooded area. But the Federal Aviation Administration isn't impressed by Johnson's efforts. It says he broke federal laws by not giving seven days advance notice of his flights. It also says he may have broken the law when, at the request of local authorities, he flew explosives and an explosives expert across a river to blow up debris that was contributing to the flooding.
Fidel Bloomberg (2/16)
Cuba has banned smoking in most buildings open to the public. It will still be permitted in restaurants, but only in designated areas. The law also bans cigarette vending machines and the sale of cigarettes within 100 meters from schools
Badges? We Don't Need No Stinking Badges!
When a San Jacinto Count, Texas, deputy constable pulled over driver John Pickens, they didn't give him a citation for the expired plates on his car. They didn't even give him a warning. In fact, they just seized his cash—some $4,000—and jewelry. They said it was connected to drugs, even though they didn't find any drugs in Pickens' car. But it had to be tied to drugs, they said, because Pickens was coming from a "known source city," Houston, and had a criminal history. After a local television station started investigating the story, the local district attorney told the constable to return the money seized from Pickens, as well as cashed seized from another motorist
Is That an Orange in Your Pocket? (2/14)
Tennis player Dominik Hrbaty was fined $139 by New Zealand authorities for having two mandarin oranges in his pocket when he arrived in the country. He'd brought the fruit with him from Australia, not realizing it is illegal to bring them into the country.
Cry, The Beloved Country (2/11)
Police in Greater Manchester, Great Britain, have been banned from referring to local patrol divisions as townships. "The term township has been deemed unsuitable for use by the force. There are clear connotations with this term and [the] apartheid regime of South Africa and the discriminatory treatment of black Africans," said police chief inspector Jeff McMahon. The term has been removed from official letterheads and notepaper, and signs with the word township have been changed to read "partnership."
Sweet Home Alabama (2/10)
Mac Holcomb says America was better back in the 1940s. You remember? Back when homosexuality was "a despicable act" and "an abomination." Well, that's what the Marshall County, Alabama, sheriff said in a letter to citizens on his official Web site. Alabama sheriffs apparently possess sweeping powers, because Marshall also pledged to work to restore prayer in schools and to remove nudity and profanity from television. After complaints, Holcomb removed the letter from the county Web site, but placed it on his own personal site. He says he stands by the letter.
[Note: The original brickbat posted for February 10 involved an apocryphal story debunked by Snopes. Apologies to our readers.]
Traffic Enforcement (2/9)
"You don't cite people to punish them. You cite them to teach them something. In this case, the deputy knew what she did was wrong." That's what a Hillsborough County, Florida, sheriff's spokesman said when the St. Petersburg times asked why a deputy who ran a stop sign and slammed into another car, injuring the driver, didn't get a ticket. The paper found some law enforcement agencies in the area routinely refuse to hand out tickets to officers they catch breaking traffic laws. The agencies say they handle the matters internally, and offending officers face various sanctions, including losing safe-driver bonuses. But they don't have to pay fines, nor do they accumulate points on their driver's licenses and face higher insurance rates like normal motorists would. The Florida Highway Patrol will ticket its officers when they are caught violating traffic laws, unless they are responding to emergencies. And the FHP says it will investigate crashes involving officers from other departments. But when they make it known they will cite the officer if he or she is found to have violated the law, most departments don't ask for their help.
Too Cheeky (2/8)
Melbourne, Florida, has outlawed wearing thong bathing suits in public. If anyone over the age of 10 is caught wearing a thong, they face a $500 fine. The new ordinance also cuts the city's designated adult entertainment zone from 937 acres to about 40 acres.
Big Drip (2/7)
Texas State Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) says cold and allergy sufferers will just have to endure their ailments for the public good. Estes wants to ban common cold remedies that contain pseudoephedrine because they may be used to make illegal methamphetamine. His bill would still allow liquids and gel capsules that contain pseudoephedrine along with other ingredients. Meth can be made from ingredients other than pseudoephedrine, and law enforcement authorities say much of the meth consumed in the U.S. comes from Mexico.
Flagged Down (2/4)
Florida officials estimate there are 156,000 U.S. flags in the state's classrooms. But many of them aren't the right kind of flag. A new state law mandates requires classroom flags to be 3-feet by 2-feet. Education officials estimate that some 15,000 flags are the wrong size and will have to be replaced. The law says schools should first try to pay for the flags through fundraisers and donations, but if that doesn't work, they'll have to dig into their own pockets.
Frenched Up (2/3)
Two nurses at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital have lost their licenses because they failed a written French grammar test. The French test is required even though the hospital is an English-language institution. The hospital said the two were excellent nurses, and the province is currently facing a nursing shortage, so it wants to keep them. But the lack of a license means they must look for work outside Quebec.
The Georgia Department of Revenue seized 280 bottles of high-priced wines from one of Atlanta's most exclusive restaurants. Tax officials say the restaurant didn't purchase the wine from a wholesale dealer. The restaurant's owner, Richard Lewis, says there's a reason for that: The wine belongs to some of its regular customers. It simply holds it for them to drink when they eat there. No dice, say the revenuers, that's still illegal. Lewis says he didn't know the law forbids restaurants from storing wine for customers. And Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham, a customer of Lewis's, says he didn't know that, either. So the department, instead of auctioning off the wine as it is legally entitled to do, will allow customers to reclaim the wine. But the restaurant still faces fines or other sanctions for breaking the law, and state officials say they'll crack down on other restaurants caught storing wine for customers.
Well, It's a Plan (2/1)
During an emergency evacuation of Westminster High School, two students in wheelchairs were left in a second-floor stairwell as it filled with smoke. It turns out that wasn't a mistake. Local media report official emergency policy at the Carroll County, Maryland School, calls for teachers on the second floor to lead students to the stairwell and leave them there for fire crews to rescue.
The tsunami that struck Asia left thousands of children orphans. But international authorities seem determined to stand in the way of some who would adopt those children. UNICEF and other nongovernmental groups are warning Westerners against adopting the children, and Asian governments have said they will not allow children under 16 to leave their countries. Meanwhile, the French government has ordered a six-month suspension of adoptions from the region.
Weighty Matters (1/28)
The Israeli parliament is considering a bill that would require fashion models to obtain licenses before they can work. The bill would require aspiring models to be examined by a government doctor. Those deemed to have a healthy weight would obtain a license. Those who are too thin would be given nutritional advice and allowed two months to put on weight.
Kiss This (1/27)
Dubai is one of the most liberal Arab nations, but there's a limit to its freedom, as two tourists found out. An unidentified Italian man and an Egyptian woman were fined for hugging and kissing each other in the back of a taxi. The man was forced to pay $3,000, and the woman $500.
Television Detectives (1/26)
Paul Oldham doesn't own a television and doesn't want one. But he can't seem to convince the British government of that fact. He keeps getting demands from the government that he pay his television license fee, which funds the BBC. And when he writes back that he doesn't have one, they tell him to expect a visit to his home. The government also requires retailers to report everyone who buys a television. Some 3 million Britons have their homes searched for a television each year. The government sent 20 people to jail for not paying the fee in 2003.
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.