Brickbats

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? Five-year-old Ryan Hudson just knew that his parents had a little device that made cool noises. He didn't know that it was a beeper. And he didn't know that his Newport News, Virginia, school system has a policy that forbids students from bringing beepers to class. He does now. Ryan took the beeper when his parents weren't looking and brought it to kindergarten. A teacher found it, and Ryan was suspended from school.

? Meanwhile, in the neighboring state of Maryland, Baltimore school officials are tackling equally weighty matters. They've been looking into a certain Mr. Froggy and his courtin' style. Specifically, they put together a committee that recommended not allowing elementary school students access to a book that illustrates the song. Seems that some parents didn't remember the song very well. They read the book and were shocked to find that Froggy did more than just ride, uh hum, uh hum. He smoked, caroused, and carried concealed weapons. They decided that this wasn't the sort of message impressionable young children should hear.

? No country has done more to eliminate trash than Germany. That's why they are looking desperately for some. Reduction and recycling laws have cut waste dramatically, but that leaves government-built incinerators and landfills idle. To remedy this situation, Germany is importing trash. The city of Dusseldorf tried to order one firm to stop shipping waste to a Belgian cement factory, which paid for it, and send it to a local disposal plant, which charges to take it. The factory got a temporary injunction, and the Belgians have petitioned the European Union to bar "garbage protectionism."

? Get ready for the latest toy sensations: Sara and her brother, Dara. Sara comes dressed in Islam's traditional floor-length gown, the chador. Dara is dressed like an Islamic cleric or mullah. They are Iran's attempts to fight off Western imperialism, specifically Barbie, which is quite a popular doll in that country. Said Sara and Dara's designer, Majid Ghaderi, "Barbie is an American woman who never wants to get pregnant and have babies. She never wants to look old, and this contradicts our culture."

? Malaysia has seen a troubling uptick in abandoned babies. But one local politician thinks he has the solution. Nik Aziz Nik Mat, chief minister of the state of Kelantan, has warned women not to wear "excessive lipstick." Says Nik Aziz of the abandoned babies, "I am sure 99 percent of the mothers involved wear cosmetics."

? In Venezuela, astrologer Jose Bernardo Gomez predicted that President Rafael Caldera will die this year. That doesn't seem like a terribly risky prediction, considering that Caldera is 80, and Gomez cautions that death is just "symbolic language that could be physical or something of another order." But it proved quite risky for the stargazer. He was detained and questioned for two days by the widely feared Department of Intelligence and Prevention. The intelligence officers wanted to know where Gomez got his information.

? In Capetown, South Africa, 1,500 people marched on parliament chanting, "We want justice. We want peace." They demanded that the police do something to stop the violence in the city's mixed-race townships. And they had good reason to complain. The marchers were thieves, murderers, and drug dealers, and they are alarmed by the growing, and often deadly, vigilante actions against them.

? What would you do if you were a suspected thief being chased by a police dog? One Miami man had an idea. Ricardo Culberson bit the dog on the neck. The dog is fine. The bite didn't even break the skin. But Culberson was pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, and taken to jail, where he faces charges of armed robbery, carjacking, and biting a police dog.

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