Brickbats

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Let's hear it for the American public education establishment. A nationwide survey of high-school students shows what billions of taxpayers' dollars have gotten us. Almost 30 percent of the 1,000 students questioned said the president most closely associated with the Vietnam war was Franklin D. Roosevelt; 10 percent said Jimmy Carter. One in nine students thought Joseph Stalin was a French leader, and 10 percent believed British actor Peter Ustinov had a major role in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Simple mistake. They must've gotten him confused with Warren Beatty.

Squash the jamboree? Maybe it's time for a new voting rights campaign for the South. Georgia state officials won't have to count write-in votes for Mickey Mouse and other nonexistent candidates anymore, thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Joe Frank Harris. Write-in votes will no longer be counted for any candidate who fails to announce his candidacy at least 20 days before the election. Why? Because we don't like you.

Political cartoonists in "democratic" India had better beware. Magazine editor S. Balasubramanian was sentenced to three months of hard labor for publishing a cartoon depicting government officials as bandits and pickpockets. He refused to apologize to angry members of the Tamil Nadu State Assembly, who have the power to act as a court. "Only people with a troubled conscience will get angry" at the cartoon, says the editor. "Others will simply laugh away the whole matter."

The Defense Department isn't the only federal agency that knows how to throw money away. The State Department is replacing 156,000 pieces of silverware at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world because it wants one common pattern for the sterling, rather than the four presently being used. And how much is the department forking over to replace the silverware? Just a mere $2 million. Rep. Jack Brooks (D–Tex.) has a few cutting remarks about the idea. He plans to hold hearings to find out why diplomats need new silverware at a time when budget deficits are soaring and the Reagan administration is requesting billions of dollars to protect American officials abroad from terrorist attacks. Representatives from the State Department and the General Accounting Office will testify.

Federal highway officials have ordered the Michigan highway department to document the effectiveness of new "smile" road signs. The yellow and black signs have a frown at the beginning of a construction area and become happier as the motorist approaches the end of the site. Drivers seem to like 'em, but the feds complained that the signs don't technically conform to the manual of uniform traffic devices. Try to keep smiling as your wallet gets lighter.

Looking for love in all the wrong places? A severe water shortage didn't stop Sri Lankan officials from putting a damper on love in public parks. Though the capital city of Colombo is under water rationing, with some areas cut off for up to 14 hours a day, the fire department dumped 5,000 gallons of cold water on young lovers in a city park to discourage "nefarious activities." The firemen aimed their hoses at shade trees and bushes, drenching dozens of couples as well as children and passers-by. Police have also been chasing "umbrella lovers" who kiss behind parasols. Several women with umbrellas have been detained for questioning.

A paper company wants to reopen a mill that until five years ago had been the largest employer in tiny Mechanic Falls, Maine. But state officials say the mill's discharge would make Little Androscroggin River too hot for brook trout. The discharge won't kill fish, admit the authorities, but it "would result in an area in the river where the fish would avoid, which by law should be available to the fish." No word yet on whether the trout will hire their own lawyers or depend on the ACLU to file on their behalf.

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