An April Wall Street Journal report highlighted several states' elementary school "anti-bully" policies that have banned rough-housing, name-calling, pointed gossip and even "mean looks," and encourage teaching the little kids a language of sensitivity and tolerance. However, one problem some kids fear from such training and language is that, as they move up to middle schools and run into other kids who will be baffled by such sensitivity, the tolerance-trained kids are even more likely to get beaten up.
War of words
In mid-March, as war started in Iraq, a resolution was introduced in the Seattle City Council offering support for U.S. troops. However, some council members wanted to use the resolution to express opposition to the war, while others wanted to go beyond troop support to commend the war itself. When the Council finally agreed on a politically bland-enough resolution on April 14, it meant that the members had been fighting over the wording of the resolution for a longer time than it took U.S. troops to enter Iraq and capture Baghdad.
Methods of Mayhem
At a March rock concert in Oslo, Norway, the part of the act in which the lead singer of the death-metal band Mayhem carves up a dead sheep went wrong, and the sheep's head was knocked into the audience, where it struck a fan in the head, requiring hospitalization. (Fan or not, he pressed charges.)
A British rock-music fan offered to sell his own flu germs derived from Paul McCartney's recent bout of the flu (which the fan said he caught from a backstage session with McCartney), via either a coughed-into plastic bag or a vial of mucus.
The Rent Stabilization Board of Berkeley, Calif., which regulates residential rates and fights landlord abuses but which is increasingly frustrated by the sky-high cost of local housing, adopted a tactic in February that could not be successful in many places besides Berkeley: It sponsored a "poetry slam" that invited local citizens to rant against the problems of tenants. The winner of the $100 first prize attacked the "platonic master/slave relationship" and recalled how his last landlord so traumatized him that he "chose to be homeless for nine months just to escape the memory."
A 17-year-old boy lost sight in both eyes in a "potato gun" accident in Denton, Texas, in April. The "gun" (a length of pipe in which a household explosive is ignited, propelling a potato out the other end, although in this case, it was not a potato but a frog) was being experimented with by several teenagers but failed to fire, and the victim, who had been a mere bystander, stepped up to have a look down the pipe to see what might have gone wrong, just as the gun finally fired.
In February, Wesley Fitzpatrick applied to a Kansas City, Kan., judge for, and was granted, a temporary restraining order against a female whom he said was stalking him (making him "scared, depressed and in fear for my freedom"). However, the order was rescinded when Fitzpatrick showed up to ask that it be made permanent, in that the "stalker" was actually his parole officer carrying out her lawful supervision. In fact, Fitzpatrick was immediately arrested for not having met with her. (Temporary restraining orders are usually granted by judges without investigation.)
In December, Saskatchewan's Court of Queen's Bench upheld a ruling of the province's human-rights commission that four Bible verses referred to in a newspaper ad created illegal hate speech because they subjected gay men to "ridicule." The ad consisted of citations to verses that are considered by many Christians to condemn homosexuality, and a silhouette of two men holding hands, inside the symbol for prohibited behavior.
Jeannie M. Patrinos, 32, was sentenced in February to five years probation for sexual assault. A judge in Lancaster, Wis., found that Patrinos, who was estranged from her husband, broke into his home, climbed into bed with him, and was "having sex" with him, against his will. The husband's girlfriend was asleep in the same bed, until the man's protests woke her up.
Buy, buy, bye
Door-to-door salesman Gerald L. Thompson, 19, was arrested in St. Augustine, Fla., in February after he had become exasperated that no one was buying his magazine subscriptions. Allegedly, he forcibly prevented one homeowner from closing the front door, then screamed obscenities, pounded on the door and refused to stop ringing the doorbell.