Brickbats

The cover of Colorado Free University's latest course catalog pictures a Japanese swordsman in traditional uniform wielding a large sword. The picture, submitted by a teacher of Japanese fencing and martial arts, has caused a stir. Many local residents called and wrote letters protesting the "Arabian soldier." Others complained the catalogue looked like a terrorist publication. Said one caller, "I'm going to protest your college until you don't have no more college students going to your college."

In Montgomery County, Maryland, police paid informers to hire prostitutes for sex during investigations. The men went into massage parlors, had sex, and then reported their activities. The police then raided the parlors, arresting the women working there.

A national audit of the Immigration and Naturalization Service found that 61,000 items worth nearly $70 million were missing. Among the lost items were 539 weapons, including a gas-grenade launcher and 39 machine guns. Six missing guns were later linked to crimes.

Since 1998, 12 Ohio state agencies have paid a total of $50,986 to a humor consultant. The man charges up to $2,000 an hour and unzips his pants in public. His job is to reduce stress among state workers. He does this by cajoling them into laughing out loud. When that fails, he unzips.

For months, Charles Schrader of Inverness, Florida, had been complaining about the local school board opening its meetings with Christian prayers. Finally, Schrader, a Wiccan, started saying his own prayers out loud during the invocations. That's when school board chair Patience Nave had him removed from the meetings, citing a state law that prohibits disrupting an educational function.

In these troubled times, some say children need to be shielded from scenes of violence. So Michael Morris, principal of Jefferson Middle School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, had a mural of the school's mascot, a colonial minuteman, painted over to remove the soldier's musket. "This sends a stronger, better message about patriotism," Morris said.

In Bangkok, police officers are notorious for extorting money from street vendors. Gov. Samak Sundaravej is trying to crack down on the practice. Having had little success through political methods, he has now placed a curse on all the crooked cops.

The Gininderra Christian Church in Canberra recently passed out a leaflet to members warning of the perils of Harry Potter books. The tract, purporting to show how the books seduce readers into Satanism, was largely plagiarized from the satirical Web site The Onion. No one realized the piece was fictional. "We just wanted to let people know what was happening around the place and what people were saying," the pastor explains.

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