Brickbats

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If you're going to Santa Cruz, California, be sure to leave any bad feelings at the city line. A group is trying to get a motion on March's ballot to make the city a "hate free" zone. So if someone cuts you off in traffic or your barber gives you a bad haircut, you'll just have to smile.

Other Golden State cities are trying to get rid of another nuisance: tobacco. The state now bans smoking in almost all public places, and some officials are trying to stamp it out in private ones as well. Local governments across the state are urging landlords to ban smoking in apartment buildings and are encouraging people to sue their landlords if the neighbors smoke. One suit has already been filed in Pasadena, where a woman claims a neighbor's fumes killed her dog.

Clerical worker Beverly Lancaster knew just what to do when she felt her employer–the city of Birmingham, England–had mistreated her. She sued it, winning more than $100,000. What had the city done to incur her wrath? It had promoted her. Lancaster took the city to court because the new job left her filled with stress. She told her employers she didn't want the job, but they insisted on keeping her there, despite her claim that she didn't have the proper qualifications.

The Miami-Dade County Aviation Department has banned Cigar Aficionado magazine from Miami International Airport newsstands. The department didn't object to the articles promoting smoking. It was peeved at a story arguing that it's time to repeal the embargo against Cuba. Just considering such a move seems to be taboo in Miami.

Malaysia habitually bars or heavily edits films with nudity, sexual scenes, or other material that might offend fundamentalist Muslims. The latest movie to be banned is Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The picture's actual sexual content is fairly low, but its double entendres and innuendo were too much for censors.

While prudes in the rest of our country are protesting rap music, video games, and Marilyn Manson, the Rev. Stan Craig has more quaint concerns. He was upset when '70s metal band Black Sabbath was booked at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, South Carolina. Where most people saw a bunch of middle-aged men trying to support their families, Craig saw a threat to Greenville's moral health. "I think they need to be censored," he said. In the future, moralists in Greenville might want to try banning Alice Cooper, the musical Hair, and public screenings of Carnal Knowledge.

Police in England have found a novel way to catch child abusers. They don't wait for complaints to come to them; they go looking for them. It's called trawling, and one police official admits it's "the reverse of normal police procedures." The process is simple: Officers go to residents or former residents of institutions for troubled teens and question them about their caretakers. Some 5,000 people, most of whom have never before been in trouble with the law, are now facing charges as a result. Many of the alleged crimes go back 10, 20, or 30 years. Trawling has its critics. "If police officers interview hundreds of damaged young people with long records of deception and dishonesty, with the aim of gathering allegations of abuse against those who once cared for them," observes The New Statesman, "it would be surprising if they did not succeed in provoking a large number of false allegations–particularly when it is known that such allegations can result in thousands of pounds being paid out" in compensation.

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