Brickbats

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• Trevor Parker survived a car crash over a 150-foot seaside cliff in western England because he didn't wear his seat belt. Now, because of a law that's been dumped in the laps of the British people, he may be prosecuted and ordered to pay a fine of $80. The cad actually violated the law that makes wearing seat belts compulsory after January. "It's a miracle he's alive. He wouldn't be around if he had been wearing a seat belt," said policeman Terry Whitts after the accident. "He was flung clear through the windshield. The car was completely destroyed when it hit a ledge and burst into flames." Parker landed safely in the sea. He survived the plunge, but now the law is going to belt him in the wallet.

• The squeamish may want to turn the page at this point. A Tioga County, New York, sheriff's deputy was suspended without pay for three days for eating a live racing mouse in an Owego bar. Arnold Creeley was betting on a mouse race at the Rainbow Trail tavern when he told the mouse that if it didn't win, he was going to eat it, according to bar owner Donald Wheeland. The mouse lost, so Creeley put ketchup, salt, and pepper on it and swallowed the rodent. Sheriff James Ayers says Creeley brought discredit to the department. The sheriff should be happy Creeley wasn't betting on the horses.

• Great Moments in Government Planning: After spending more than $700,000 to renovate part of an office building near the Capitol, the Veterans Administration has left the space vacant for more than a year because agency officials can't decide how it should be used. The agency has paid more than $1 million in rent on the unoccupied office space. Part of the problem is that the building is in such a high-crime area that few VA employees are willing to locate there. Empty space is indeed a problem, particularly when it's between the ears of bureaucrats.

• British courts have ruled that television viewers can't legally buy England's version of TV Guide. The BBC and Independent (?) Television Publications, both public monopolies, were able to prevent the magazine Time Out from publishing weekly lists of selections from their advance schedules. The court ruled that both BBC and ITV guides and schedules were "literary works, prepared with a great deal of skill and labor, and therefore protected from being copied." So British viewers will continue to be denied the convenience of a single reference guide. Since the BBC and ITV are public monopolies created by Parliament, their program schedules must surely belong in the public domain. Not in the eyes of British Justice.

• Bellicose boo-boo: the crew of an Australian navy patrol boat blasted a hole in the ship's bow while practicing a 15-gun salute that never made it past "Fire one!" No one was hurt, but the H.M.S. Buccaneer will be in dry dock for a few weeks for repairs. Said an Australian navy spokesman: "The gun should not have been able to fire while it was pointed towards the shipâ€"theoretically, that is." Back to the drawing board.

• Thomas W. Ward, the mayor of tiny Berlin, Connecticut, appointed a What To Do With the Statue Committee, which decided to sell the weird-looking piece of municipal art back to the sculptor. The town bought the statue, named "Star Dancer," sight unseen to sit in front of the new municipal complex. But no one expected what was unveiled. The statue has seven legs attached to a common rump. Sculptor Andrew Coppola says it represents a "cartwheel of expression," but local vandals and lovers of whimsy have placed plaster casts on all the legs and have even diapered the statue. "This was clearly an uninformed, Philistine reaction," complained Coppola. "The public has no background. They would never think to question someone doing brain surgery. But when it comes to art, the people who know the least say the most."

• From the government that brought you WIN buttons, cost overruns, and the cheese give-away program, the latest in the federal commitment to public service: Legionnaires Disease. The combination of a strong federal push for energy conservation during the 1970s and safety measures enacted by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals may have been a factor in the growth of the bacteria causing Legionnaires Disease, according to a study by Ohio State University. Hospitals reduced their maximum hot-water temperature from 140 to 110 degrees to comply with new federal rules. Bringing the temperature down to 110 degrees provided the ideal temperature for the growth of the organism that causes the dread illness, which flourishes in both large and small water systems, causes an often fatal form of bacterial pneumonia.