Have a Coke and a smile—but not if you're visiting the French village of Sainte-Marie. The town of just 255 people has slapped a 300 percent tax on Coca-Cola. Town officials say they are doing this because the drink lacks "traceability," which means the ingredients of the soft drink's syrup are secret. "This is absolutely not about disguised protectionism against American products," says Mayor Bernard Herman.
Virginia State Sen. Warren E. Barry wants to expel schoolchildren who won't recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. Other lawmakers, pointing out that only felonies are grounds for automatic expulsion, want to amend the bill to let school districts decide what punishment dissenters should face. Barry's response: Those legislators are "spineless pinkos."
Thailand now requires TV stations to remove all scenes depicting smoking from programs and movies. The government admits that this violates freedom of expression, but argues that it will reduce smoking among young people.
Egypt's education ministry has disciplined 36 teachers for attending a workshop on teaching democratic values. The educators were docked 19 days to two months of pay, and some were transferred from active teaching posts. The ministry explains that the course was "unconstitutional."
Police in Gloucester, England, have begun going undercover in local restaurants, eavesdropping on diners to make sure they don't say anything racist about their fellow customers or the staff. "Racist behavior is unacceptable," explains Chief Inspector Dean Walker. "The constabulary is now taking a proactive stance in relation to racist offenses rather than waiting for people to report them to us."
Barbara Graham was a speaker at last year's Million Mom March and a member of a group that co-sponsored that rally for gun control. Now a District of Columbia court has convicted her of shooting the man she thought killed her son. Her victim, who police say was not the murderer, is now paralyzed.
When Ed Elliott retired as president of Central Missouri State University, the school guaranteed him $621,000 over three years, plus other perks. When the campus newspaper, The Muleskinner, tried to ask the school's Board of Governors about the retirement package, the school's attorney told them not to bother the board. The journalists then sent their questions by certified mail. That led the school's provost to write a memo to the dean who oversees the Department of Communication: "It seems to me that we need to teach our students to respect an individual's time, job responsibilities and position within an organization."