Academia

Brickbats

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? The state of Florida is looking for a few good women. They must be willing to work nights. They must be U.S. citizens. And they must be willing to shed their clothes before drunken men. The state's search began when a strip club owner said he just couldn't find enough local women to dance at his joint. He wanted to bring in foreign dancers, and he asked for the state's help in getting work visas for some girls. But U.S. law says the state first has to confirm that the club can't get any Americans to fill those jobs. So it took out ads in various newspapers throughout the state looking for exotic dancers.

? In Rennes, France, teachers at a middle school went on strike. Were they upset over pay? Did they think their working conditions were dangerous? No, they were outraged that the school district ordered them to enroll a 12-year-old Muslim girl whose parents insisted she wear a head scarf to class. The teachers contend the scarf is a symbol of the oppression of women and prevents foreign students from integrating into French society.

? The Illinois Senate is considering a bill that would criminalize sending Internet messages about cannabis if the author knows the information might be used in an illegal activity. Supporters say the bill doesn't infringe the First Amendment. But critics say that sending information on how to cultivate marijuana, which would be legal if printed in a book, could be illegal under the bill.

? "I'd like to help, but I'm out of cash" may not work any more if you're trying to get away from a homeless person in San Francisco. Mayor Willie Brown has proposed giving beggars credit card machines to process donations.

? When the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, Florida, was told by a building and safety code inspector to remove a pile of junk from its grounds, it quickly complied. But what the inspector called junk was actually "kinetic sculpture" created by Marc Leviton, the center's artist-in-residence. Leviton resents the trashing of his artwork and is suing the center under the federal Visual Artists' Rights Act. Since that law protects only the works of "recognized" artists, the center claims that the man they made artist-in-residence isn't really an artist, or at least not one whose talent is recognized by others. In the end, a jury will decide whether Leviton really is an artist.

? Jay Montfort runs a stone quarry in Fishkill, New York. Each spring, local timber rattlesnakes come out of hibernation and slither en masse onto his land. Montfort naturally had some concerns and put up a fence to keep the snakes out. But the state of New York says the rattlers are endangered. It accused Montfort of "disturbing, harrying and worrying" the snakes by keeping them off his land and ordered him to take down his fence.

? Several California cities have declared themselves smoking free or nuclear free, but Oakland may become the first in the state to be spanking free. A child-welfare activist has asked the city to become a "No Spanking Zone" to discourage parents from hitting their kids. No word on whether the ban will apply to consenting adults.

? West Virginia's Randolph County School District has decided that all teachers and students must wear ID tags with a photo and bar code. The school district, which also brings in police and drug-sniffing dogs for random searches of students, says the tags promote safety. But some students and teachers refuse to wear the tags because the Bible warns against assigning numbers to people. The school says those who don't wear the tags will face disciplinary action and, in the case of faculty, loss of their jobs.

? Is one of your car tires a little low on air? Then you might pull into a service station to inflate the tire. And that station might charge you a quarter for the air. No big deal, right? Well, California state Assemblywoman Nell Soto says it is a problem. She has introduced a bill to force service stations to offer free air and water. Stations, especially those that don't offer air or water at all now, say it'll cut into their profits and that other services that people want more will suffer.