Censorship

Brickbats

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? Want to use a public restroom in San Francisco? You may have trouble. The city installed 20 new street toilets at public expense, but they have become havens for junkies who want to shoot up. The French firm that made the toilets warned the city that would happen if they used large booths. Indeed, the makers recommended the smaller models they've installed throughout Europe with few problems. But the city opted for the larger version, saying the others were too small for people in wheelchairs to use.

? The Iranian city of Ramsar has banned women from riding bicycles, even if they are covered from head to toe as required by Iranian law. Conservatives fear that bicycles give women too much freedom to move about and hence will lead to promiscuity.

? When the Mayfield, Ohio, school system hired Brian Hug to help make sure its computers were Y2K compliant, they thought they'd gotten someone more than capable of doing the job. They didn't figure on state and local laws barring the employment of anyone under 14. Hug is apparently quite computer savvy, but he's just 11. So it looks like he'll have to forego the $5.15-an-hour job.

? John Bothe has an unusual job for someone who claims that compulsive gambling once nearly ruined his life: He's the announcer at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey. The track asked Bothe to start announcing the odds of races over in-house TVs set up for patrons. Bothe, fearing talk of odds could ignite his problems once again, refused. So the track cut his pay. Bothe is now suing his employers claiming that his gambling addiction is a disability that they have to accommodate by restoring his pay without requiring him to announce the odds.

? Micahun Johnson, a student at Southern Utah University, had to write a paper on censorship. While doing research on the Internet at the school library, she went to a Web site with erotic images. The computer lab monitor told her to close that page. She did, and soon her searches took her to a site with photos of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. That prompted the lab monitor to kick her out. It seems Johnson violated a school policy barring students from viewing "objectionable material" on the Internet, even if similar material is available on library shelves.

? Lexington, Massachusetts, is planning a big celebration for the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington next year. But a planned re-enactment of the skirmish may have to be ditched unless a new state law is changed. The law requires trigger locks and gun lockers for firearms. The extra-long muskets the actors use can't fit into the typical rifle locker, and the trigger locks the state requires would clash with the realistic uniforms. An even bigger problem is getting carry permits for all gun-toting participants. These problems are so large that the group that performs the battle, the Lexington Minute Men, had to attend the governor's inauguration without their weapons.

? With the European Union contemplating cutting back subsidies, some ranchers and farmers may have to find other lines of work. But don't worry about the livestock, especially in Italy. Many of those animals are little more than figments of the imagination. The Italian Agriculture Ministry found that a full 41 percent of the sheep, goats, and cattle claimed by that nation's farmers don't exist. When they applied for subsidies, farmers would borrow each other's animals to make their flocks seem bigger. Inspectors only caught onto this when they started tagging animals with paint to make sure they didn't miscount.

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