Daily Brickbat

Absurd news bites, served fresh every day.


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They'll Pry This Keg From My Cold Dead Fingers (2/21)
The Alabama Senate has passed as bill, pushed by the Alabama Wholesale Beer Association, that would effectively ban private keg parties. Not to worry, the state House of Representatives probably won't pass it. But it may pass a competing bill that would require retailers to maintain written records of everyone who buys a beer keg and to charge a $1 processing fee that retailers would split with the state. The sponsors of both bills say they are aimed at reducing drinking by people under 21.

Crime and Punishment (2/20)
Russian media have been warned not to publish anything that could be offensive to members of any religion or they could lose their licenses. The warning follows the start of an investigation of a Volgograd newspaper that printed a cartoon showing Jesus, Mohammad, Moses and Buddha watching two groups squaring off. A caption beneath the cartoon read "We did not teach them to do that."

London Watching (2/17)
Staring in March, the British government says it will be able to track the movements of all vehicles on the road and record where they have been over the past several years. That's when a new central database will start operations. That database takes images from thousands of traffic cameras, which are being converted to automatically record license plate numbers of cars. The database will record when each image, some 35 million a day, was recorded along with the precise location of the vehicle. The images will be stored for two years, but the government is already talking about extending the storage time up to five years.

Where the Boys Aren't (2/16)
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has filed suit against the Body Central fitness club. The agency claims the club's women only policy discriminates against men. The agency has previously ruled that the Santa Rosa club violated state law. Under an administrative settlement, the club agreed to, among other measures, eliminate all advertising that portrayed the club as for women only. The new suit says the club violated that agreement.

Fuhrer Furor (2/15)
A thief got an extra two months in prison when Austrian police discovered his telephone voice-mail message contained the phrase "sieg heil." The man got a year in prison for theft and receiving stolen property and two more months for violating an Austrian law banning Nazi propaganda.

Be Seeing You (2/14)
A British court sentenced two men to jail for using government-operated street cameras to spy on a woman in her home. Mark Summerton got four months in prison and Kevin Judge got two months for training the camera on the woman's flat. Images of the woman, including her without her clothes on, were shown on a large monitor of a control room operated by the Sefton Council in Merseyside. Team leader Vincent Broadrick received 200 hours of community service for misconduct in public office in connection to the surveillance.

Swedish Censorship Team (2/13)
The Swedish government took steps that led to the shut down of a Web site that posted a cartoon of Islam founder Muhammad. SD-Kuriren, the newspaper of the Swedish Democrats political party, printed the cartoon to protest censorship and asked readers to send in their own cartoons. But Levonline, which hosts the newspaper's Web site, subsequently took down the site after discussions with the foreign ministry and police. Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds called the cartoons a "provocation." The SD-Kuriren site is still available from a backup server.

Taxman in the Sky (2/10)
The British government has advised tax collectors to use satellite photographs to monitor homes for additions or modifications that can boost the value of the property, and the taxes owners must pay. "Aerial photographs are particularly effective in rural areas where improvements are hard to see from the road," according to a manual for tax inspectors.

Risks of Smoking (2/9)
Three French newspapers have been fined between $950 and $1,180 for publishing photographs of Formula One drivers. The photos weren't obscene. They didn't invade the privacy of the drivers or violate any copyrights. But they did show the drivers in their overalls, adorned with logos from tobacco companies. And a French court ruled that violated French laws forbidding tobacco advertising.

Stop All That Jazz (2/8)
New British entertainment laws require almost all live performers, from circuses to bands to street musicians to traditional Punch and Judy shows, to obtain a public entertainment license before performing before paying audiences. David Locke, who owns a London restaurant that featured jazz, has stopped musical performances, saying the expense of getting a license is too much. According to the Guardian, circuses are also getting hit hard because they must now get a license in every venue they perform in, a process owners say is not only expensive but too time consuming.

State Eye for the Homophobe Guy (2/7)
Christian Vanneste will have to pay a 3,000 euro fine and another 3,000 euros in damages to three gay rights organizations after a French court found him guilty of making homophobic statements. Vanneste, a member of Parliament, said that "heterosexuality is morally superior to homosexuality" and "homosexual behavior endangers the survival of humanity." Vanneste says he will appeal the verdict.

Final Wishes (2/6)
Maniam Moorthy became a national hero in Malaysia as a member of the first Malaysian expedition to conquer Mount Everest almost 10 years ago. He was a Hindu then. In an interview two months before his death, he told TV reporters about his preparations a Hindu festival. And his family says he was a Hindu when he died. So why, despite their wishes, was he buried as a Muslim? A Shariah court in Malaysia ruled he had converted. His family was not allowed to testify at the trial because they were not Muslims, and Malaysian civil courts refused to overrule the Islamic court.

Gangs of New Jersey (2/3)
Paterson, New Jersey, cops knocked in Michelle Clancy's door at 5:50 a.m. one morning. They shouted "rudely" at her before realizing they had burst into the wrong home. Then they forced her and four family members, including her 13-year-old daughter, to stand outside in the cold while they raided the right building. Clancy says they had to wait 20 minutes. The police department says it was only 10. "Even when you are in your own home you can be held hostage like that," said Clancy. The police department promises to pay for any damages to the Clancy home, but officials don't seem very apologetic. "These things do happen," said Lt. Anthony Traina.

Getting Hosed (2/2)
The ads promised a shower that feels like a tropical waterfall, and they showerheads delivered on the promise. That's why the city of Seattle is seeking federal sanctions against the manufacturer. Federal law requires that shower heads not exceed flow rates of 2.5 gallons of water a minute. But the five models tested by Seattle Public Utilities had flow rates of 7.62 to 13 gallons per minute. "This has the potential to significantly undermine all our efforts to encourage and achieve water conservation," said Al Dietermann, a conservation official with the utility.

Oiling the Machinery of Justice (2/1)
A Venezuelan court has sentenced Carlos Ortega to 15 years in prison for inciting civil unrest. Ortega, a former union leader, was convicted for his part in leading a two-month strike of the nation's oil industry that began in 2002.

Warrants? We Don't Need No Stinking Warrants! (1/31)
When two strangers tried to force their way into his Baltimore home, David Scheper slammed the door on them, called 911 and grabbed a gun as they smashed in the glass in his door. That was his big mistake. It turns out the two men were Baltimore detectives, and Scheper was charged with illegal discharge of a firearm. The detectives, who Scheper said didn't identify themselves as police officers, were looking for a housemate Scheper had kicked out weeks earlier. They didn't have an arrest warrant or a search warrant when they first tried to enter his home. But they did get a search warrant around two hours after arriving at his home. Prosecutors later dropped charges against Scheper. But he still hasn't gotten back guns, personal records and $1,440 in cash seized by the police. Nor has be been compensated for the $3,700 in damage to his home he says the police caused.

Fairy Tale (1/30)
Developer Marcus Salter says fairies have cost him big money. Well, not fairies, as much as the Scottish villagers who say they believe in them. When he started to move a big rock in the middle of his development, neighbors in St. Fillans complained he would disturb the fairies that lived underneath it. At first, he thought they were joking. But when the local community council started talking about complaining to planning authorities, he took the claims much more seriously. The planning commission's guidelines say nothing about protecting fairies, but they do say "local customs and beliefs" must be taken into account in approving development. Salter decided not to even fight. He's having the project redesigned to leave the rock in place.

Your Papers Please (1/27)
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft has signed into law a bill dubbed the "Ohio Patriot Act" by critics. The bill allows police to arrest anyone who refuses to provide their name, address, and birth date, even if that person isn't suspected of any other crime. The law also requires those applying for a driver's license to sign a form saying they haven't supported any terrorist organizations.

Swatting M. Butterfly (1/26)
Beijing police shut down a festival of films and seminars on homosexuality, and when about 30 participants decided to move the event to a nearby bar, police surrounded the bar before they arrived, closing it for "review." Police say organizers didn't have permission for the festival.

Drunk Tank(1/25)
If you can't beat 'em, house 'em. Some chronic street alcoholics can make up to 30 trips a year to Seattle hospitals. Officials estimate they can cost the city up to $100,000 a year each in jail stays, hospitalization and emergency services. So the city has decided to house up to 75 of them in their own apartment building. There will be medical personnel on hand, but residents will be allowed to come and go as they please and to drink on premises. Neighbors say the building, which hasn't yet opened, has already hurt their property values.

Cock and Bull(1/24)
The Honolulu Police Department has paid out around a quarter of a million dollars to five offices placed on paid leave nine months ago while the FBI investigates whether they accepted money from illegal cockfighting operations.

Water, Water Everywhere(1/23)
In the past two years, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has spent $1 million trying to convince residents their tap water is not only safe to drink but high quality as well. In that same period, the DWP also spent $88,900 on bottled water. DWP officials say that at least some of that water was handed out at community events or in places where water service had been interrupted, but critics note the agency bottles its own water that can be used for those purposes.

Trimming the Budget Deficit(1/20)
Italy has imposed a 25 percent tax on all hardcore pornography. The law, which is similar to one already passed in France, applies to all films and magazines, as well as merchandise sold in sex shops. Italian officials say they need the revenue to meet European Union limits on the size of its budget deficit.

Snow Porn?(1/19)
Jessica Scherer, her boyfriend, and another friend decided to celebrate the arrival of winter by building a giant snow penis. She says people walking by laughed at it, and people driving by honked their horns. But the New Windsor, New York, police say they got complaints about it. So they beat it down with shovel while no one was at home, even though apparently there are no laws prohibiting giant snow penises. "We probably weren't 100 percent correct in going on the property and knocking it down. But our intentions were pure. Some people were offended," said New Windsor Town Supervisor George Meyers.

Go Fly a Kite(1/18)
Police in Lahore, Pakistan, used clubs to breakup a protest outside the national Supreme Court. The crowds were protesting a ban on kite flying, which the court had earlier upheld. The court said it banned kites because several people have been killed by them.

Radio Free Europe(1/17)
British police are investigating children's rights advocate Lynette Burrows. The investigation follows Burrows' appearance on a radio show where she said that homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt children. Someone complained to the police, and they began an investigation into the "homophobic incident." Burrows said the officer who contacted her told her that her remarks were not criminal but the police were still required to investigate.

Don't Mess With Nessie (1/16)
During the 1980s, senior British government officials spent quite a bit of time debating how best to protect the Loch Ness Monster from poachers, according to recently released memos. "Unfortunately, Nessie is not a salmon and would not appear to qualify as a freshwater fish under the Salmon and Fisheries Protection (Scotland) Act 1951," wrote an official with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Officials ultimately determined Nessie is protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and would not require special legislation.

Tokenism (1/13)
When Donald Pirone saw that a fellow MARTA rider was having trouble with a token vending machine, he figured he'd be helpful. He gave the man a token, but the man insisted on paying him face value for it. Unfortunately, an Atlanta transit policeman saw the exchange, and he handcuffed and arrested Pirone for selling the token. It seems state law bars people from selling MARTA tokens, even at face value. MARTA says the officers did the right thing. "There are customer service phones for people who are having trouble getting tokens out of the machine," said spokeswoman Jocelyn Baker.

Sheet (1/12)
Not quite sure about the lyrics to one of your favorite songs? Planning to look them up on the Internet? Better look fast. The U.S. Music Publishers Association says it is going to pursue legal action against Web sites that post lyrics and song scores. The MPA, which represents sheet music publishers, says it isn't just looking to shut the sites down or even reap monetary rewards. MPA president Lauren Keiser says that throwing some people in jail would make their campaign even more effective.

Take My Wife, Please (1/11)
The Central African Republic has banned songs that might encourage men to leave their wives from being broadcast. Communications Minister Fidele Ngoundgika says "music of a misogynistic character" shouldn't be allowed.

Eminent Domain (1/10)
Police fired upon about 1,000 demonstrators in China's Guangdong province, killing at least two. The protestors were demonstrating against the seizure of their land for a new power plant, land for which they haven't been compensated.

Dammit, They're Policemen, Not Doctors (1/9)
Christopher Nielsen had a seizure while driving and drove his car off the road into a landscaping company. When officers from the Boulder County Sheriff's Office and Longmont, Colorado, police arrived, they found Nielsen still disoriented. When they asked his name, they could barely hear his response. He did not respond to their commands. So they Tased him. Six times. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle stands by the officers. "The Taser is not an attractive option. But none of the other options are attractive, either. Had they used batons, I'm sure he would have been hurt," he said.

Mark of the Beasts (1/6)
Terry Wilkins spent three days in jail for refusing to tag family pets. Ohio law mandates that pet owners must place a transponder tag under the skin of native reptiles that are kept as pets. Wilkins, who owns a pet store, refused to tag his family's snakes and turtles, saying the tagging causes health problems, even death, in reptiles. A judge sentenced him to 90 days in jail, but suspended all but three. Wilkins sent his pets to a family friend in Florida rather than tag them.

The Sound of Music (1/5)
Australian work rules say an employee can't be exposed to sounds that average more than 85 decibels a day. And that's causing major headaches for orchestras. A performance of Sleeping Beauty by the Australian Ballet required four separate sections of horns, strings, etc. that worked in relays. That added $100,000 to the cost of the performance, and performers say it affected the ballet as well, since dancers respond to changes in the orchestral performance in their dance.

As He Lay Dying (1/4)
Washington, D.C., police insist Charles Atherton was conscious when they gave him a ticket for jaywalking. But witnesses insist Atherton was unconscious and struggling to breathe, and no wonder, since he was lying in the street after being struck by a car. Atherton soon after died of his injuries.

Give Till It Hurts (1/3)
He may have looked like a panhandler, but the sign the man held up said "Happy Holidays Buckle Up." And the man standing on the street in Spanaway, Washington, was actually a state trooper. Some of those who weren't paying attention and pulled up to give him money got an unpleasant shock. Troopers ticketed 30 for not wearing seat belts. They also arrested one on drug charges and six for outstanding warrants. The tactic was first used in Vancouver, Washington, where troopers ticketed 19 people in two and a half hours for not wearing seat belts.

Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? (1/2)
It may not be against the law to be sexy in Spring Hill, Tennessee, but it illegal to advertise that fact. City building officials have told Cindy Landis, owner of the Studio 4 Hair & More, that she can't advertise Sexy Hair concepts, her best-selling product line, on an electronic sign outside her shop. Officials say the word "sexy" violates a city ordinance banning lewd language on signs. "Sexy" is lewd? It is if someone finds it offensive, and officials say two people have complained about the sign.