Brickbats

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? Pamela Damon had a $1,200 tax refund coming to her. So she called the IRS to find out why it hadn't arrived. Can't send it, said the agency, you've been dead 26 years. Of course, that begs the question of how she paid taxes to begin with. Still, the IRS refused to send her refund until she proved her existence. Must've been a computer error, said the IRS, after she proved her point.

? The IRS has spent $4 billion over the past few years upgrading its computers, but obviously that hasn't helped. In fact, in a report to Congress, the agency admitted that the computers "do not work in the real world." So now the IRS is contemplating hiring a private firm to come in and process tax returns.

? A judge has thrown out Clifford Goldberg's $7 million lawsuit. Goldberg claimed that he lost his hearing after attending a particularly loud Mötley Crüe concert. The judge said Goldberg assumed the risk when he attended what he knew would be a raucous concert. Besides, anyone who thinks Mötley Crüe makes good music really isn't going to miss his hearing too much.

? Victoria Franks Rios is using a variation on the same theme to sue a nightclub. In 1995, she entered a hot-dog-eating contest and claims to have almost died during the competition. According to her lawsuit, she seeks unspecified damages precisely because "the predictable result…is that a contestant attempting to win the contest will choke on the hot dog."

? In Montana, state Sen. Casey Emerson has made it his goal to revive corporal punishment in schools. Now, several former students have stepped forward to say that Emerson doesn't just talk the talk–he walks the walk. Emerson was a junior high gym teacher in the '60s and '70s, and several former students have come forth to accuse him of slamming one student against the wall to get him to confess to a small theft, holding another's head in a urinal and flushing it, and pushing a third down a staircase. Emerson says the charges are politically motivated: "I've made my views on homosexuality known, what's wrong with the schools, and they intend to get me."

? Baltimore bills itself as "The City That Reads." But a study of local regulations shows that the city prohibits newsstands entirely. Guess they just don't read magazines and newspapers.

? In Accra, Ghana, a mob beat two men to death and injured several others after accusing them of using magic to make men's genitals disappear. No word on the men's motives for vanishing the penises.

? People who call government offices in Chelan County, Washington, won't have to listen to country music when they're put on hold anymore. Seems the sheriff complained that the music was always talking about "no good, low down, poor white trash." Fortunately, white trash have no lobby to protest the discriminatory practices of Chelan County.