Brickbats

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? An inspection of a fire station in Norfolk, Virginia, found eight fire-code violations, including missing smoke detectors. The fire department there might put out fires, but preventing them is apparently another matter.

? In Durham, North Carolina, road rage seems to be part of the driver's ed curriculum. David Cline, an instructor for the public school system, was suspended after he allegedly ordered a student driver to chase a car that had cut them off. After catching the offending driver, Cline is said to have socked him.

? For some time, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has blamed financier George Soros for his country's economic woes, and he hasn't been shy about noting that Soros is Jewish. Lately he has taken to speculating publicly about whether Jews are trying to topple his government and ruin his country. "We suspect that they have an agenda, but we do not want to accuse," he told Bernama, a government news agency. "The Jews robbed the Palestinians of everything, but in Malaysia they could not do so, hence they do this, depress the ringgit [Malaysia's currency]." Mahathir later said he was misquoted.

? Australia's reaction to Andres Serrano's Piss Christ is even more severe than Jesse Helms's. A display of a photo of the work at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne was attacked, with assailants destroying the photo and injuring two museum guards.

? If you happen to be hiking in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and nature calls, don't worry. You won't have to use a bush. The Park Service has constructed, at taxpayer expense, an outhouse. While it has no running water and is closed during the winter, it's not just any outhouse. It has a slate, gabled roof, cedar clapboard siding, cottage-style porches, and a cobblestone foundation built to withstand those frequent Pennsylvania earthquakes. The cost: $333,000.

? The federal courthouse in Greenville, South Carolina, was originally estimated to cost $2.3 million. It wound up costing $4 million. Of that, almost half was spent on areas that aren't open to the public, such as judge's chambers. Those chambers feature mahogany paneling and private showers with brass showerheads.

? Authorities in Seoul, South Korea, banned a gay film festival at Yonsei University. The university also threatened to turn off the power in the building that was to house the festival.

? Afghanistan's new Taliban government has ordered all pictures of people and animals destroyed, saying that such images are offensive to Islam.

? In Fort Myers, Florida, the school board has approved an elective history curriculum using the Bible as its text. Students will be required to identify events recorded in that book and trace their implications for the future.

? In Miami, singer Gloria Estefan has long been an admired member of the Cuban- American community. But after she criticized a decision by local authorities not to allow a singer from Castro's Cuba to perform in city-owned venues, some of them are mad at her. Estefan said she abhors communism, but "as an American, I am frightened to see one of our most basic liberties being trampled on in the march for political gain." For those remarks, she was accused of sympathizing with communists.

? Judge Joseph Troisi of West Virginia has pleaded guilty to battery and resigned from the bench. His troubles began when he was presiding over a bail-reduction hearing for Ray Witten. Troisi turned down the request, and Witten cursed him as he was taken out of the courtroom. Troisi stepped down from the bench, took off his robe, and bit Witten's nose.

? Last year the Hooters restaurant chain settled a claim that it discriminated against men. Now comes word of new troubles for the firm, which features attractive waitresses in sexy uniforms. Its location in Manhattan is reported to be struggling to find help. It isn't that they can't find enough attractive women. No, what the restaurant can't find is enough New York women who meet its standards of friendliness. Are the rude protected by anti-discrimination law?

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