Brickbats

Absurd news bites, served fresh every day.

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Cherry growers in Washington state bring in thousands of migrant workers each year to pick their crops. The jobs last just a few weeks, and there's always a question of where to house the workers. The growers thought they had a solution: tent camps. The camps would give the workers a place to sleep with hot showers, toilets, and clean drinking water. But then the Labor Department stepped in. It said the camps didn't meet federal guidelines, which mandate tents with 7-foot-high walls and solid floors. The feds also said the camps had to have refrigerators and stoves. The growers said that was too expensive. So they put up no camps. The result: Thousands of workers wound up sleeping in their cars or in sleeping bags in the forest.

Bernard Rocquemont was recently fined close to U.S.$15,000 by a French court. His crime? He had an enthusiastic work force. Rocquemont headed the firm Thomson Radars and Countermeasures. Government inspectors found that executives and engineers at the firm were often putting in more than the legal 39-hour work week without claiming overtime. So they prosecuted Rocquemont for those crimes. That should send a message to French industry.

Seminole County, Florida, forbade nude entertainment in places that serve alcohol. No philistines, officials understood that many patrons of the arts rely on booze between acts to make it through a night's offering. So they made an exception for theatrical performances. The exception lasted until topless clubs started staging plays such as Macbeth starring naked women. The county reacted to that dramatic turn by banning all nudity in places that serve liquor.

Authorities in Quebec have some problems with Michael Calomiris' Web site. No, it isn't dirty pictures that has Calomiris in trouble. It's dirty language: English. Quebec requires that all commercial Web sites be run in French. Calomiris has refused to change the language on his site or to put up a French duplicate. So the government has fined him U.S.$477, an amount that will double each time he's cited and refuses to comply.

Throwing a party in Chicago? Don't ask friends to bring in any fireworks. Cook County authorities voted to let the sheriff's department seize any cars it finds carrying pyrotechnic material. Under the law, if cops find even one firecracker or sparkler in a car, they can take it from the driver. But don't worry, the sheriff says he won't go that far. He promises to seize only cars carrying 10 pounds or more of firecrackers. The sheriff's word is the only guarantee that a bottle rocket won't cost you your car.

Are you really good at video and computer games? Then the New Zealand government needs you. Under law, each game sold in that nation must be rated by censors for sex and violence. So the censorship board spends countless hours playing games. The problem is that the censors often aren't good enough to reach the higher levels of games to see what's there. Lawmakers are trying to address this problem, and a leading idea is to hire expert gamers as censors. (Another is to let censors rate a game based on a general impression, not a detailed analysis.)

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