Brickbats

March 2007

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• Four eighth-grade girls in Marion, Indiana, were suspended from school for five days. They say it's because they all wore matching outfits one day, and school officials thought that if they were dressed alike they must be in a gang. Principal Michael Shaffer told local media the girls were suspended for violating school rules, but he refused to say what rules they broke.

• A German court has fined Juergen Kamm more than $4,000 for selling anti-Nazi merchandise. Kamm put crossed-out Nazi symbols on buttons, stickers, and T-shirts and sold them to opponents of the far right. But German law forbids any reproduction of Nazi symbols unless it's done for educational purposes.

• In October temperatures dropped to near freezing in DeKalb County, Georgia, but local school officials refused to turn on the heat. They say it's school policy not to turn the heat on until October 30. And once the heat is on, it stays on at all schools even if the weather warms up again.

• The Indonesian edition of Playboy contains no nudity. In fact, it's reportedly tamer than some other magazines that are sold in the country. But its editor, Erwin Arnada, faces up to 32 months in prison on charges of publishing indecent material for running photographs of women in their underwear. Some of the women reportedly had partially exposed breasts.

• Angela Hickling of Derbyshire, England, says she looked for but could not find a ball her neighbor's son allegedly kicked into her garden. That apparently didn't satisfy the neighbor. The next day an officer from the Derbyshire Constabulary showed up at her door, said he was investigating the theft of the ball, and insisted he had photographic proof it was in her garden. He looked around the house but didn't find anything. So he arrested her and took her to the local police station, where she was questioned for 90 minutes. The police also took her fingerprints and a DNA sample. Police later dropped the charges, but they say Hickling will have to file a formal written request before they'll remove her DNA from their database.

• Kallen Ford and a friend were playing hacky sack outside Colorado's Boulder County Courthouse when a police officer approached. The cop took their sack and issued Ford a $250 fine for "releasing projectiles on the mall."

• Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has banned trucks from selling beer on the street. "I want the National Guard to stop the beer trucks and take them to the nearest command post. No more trucks," he said in a televised speech. When his call was met with silence, Chavez assured the audience that he was not going to ban drinking alcohol.

• Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmonov has prohibited state employees from having gold teeth. Gold and silver crowns are considered a sign of affluence in Central Asia, and some reports indicate up to half of all current government workers will have to resign or have their gold teeth replaced. Rakhmonov says the move will improve the country's image abroad.

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