An Inclusive Litany


A provision in an agricultural bill, passed by the Senate and representing an ostensible scaling back of federal farm policy, calls for the establishment of a Federal Popcorn Board. Since the board could levy assessments on popcorn processors directly, it would not be funded by the federal government. It would still be empowered to issue regulations, violations of which would be subject to civil fines up to $1,000. The proposal enjoys strong support from Republican Senate Agriculture committee chairman Richard Lugar (from Indiana, a popcorn-producing state) and from the Popcorn Institute, a trade association.

The bill also contains provisions calling for $20 million in grants for schools that provide farm education to Hispanics, $15 million to create sewage systems in Eskimo villages, as well as the creation of the National Kiwi-fruit Board and the National Canola and Rapeseed Board.

According to the London Daily Telegraph, a London schoolteacher named Ursula Gregory was denied consideration for a teaching position because she used the word "immigrants." A municipal panel felt that her use of such terms showed a lack of ethnic awareness and sensitivity. "I was worried about the use of words such as 'immigrants' and 'recent African refugees,' " said one panel member. The members did give consideration to a candidate who had taught in Nigeria, because "teaching there was akin to teaching in Lambeth."

The Washington Post, February 8, 1996:
Vast lines of hundreds of people have started forming as early as 5 a.m. to obtain ... tickets [to the Vermeer exhibition]....

... Unknown to most of the public ... pre-approved admittees ... have only to walk up, ask for their "courtesy passes," proceed to the head of the line and enter the exhibit without further ado....

"I don't think we're looking at special treatment here," ventured Tom McMahon, press secretary to Sen. Howell Heflin (D-AL).... "In many cases a member's or staff member's time is limited, and to have the opportunity to go and see something like this is important." ...


The Supreme Court ruled that the family of Rebecca Ann Tebbetts, who died in a car crash in 1991, can sue Ford Motor Co. because her 1988 Escort did not have air bags. Air bags were not an option on that car (though it did have automatic safety belts), and they would not be a mandatory feature until 1998.

The Washington Post, December 18, 1995:
Supporters argue a new capital [city] would boost Japan's sluggish economy. The massive construction project would create many jobs, and the ripples would be felt throughout the nation's economy, they say.

The publisher of director Oliver Stone's autobiography proposed a list of suggested excerpts to magazine and newspaper editors, among them, "Thinking about killing Nixon" (pages 62 to 73); "drunken speech at Golden Globes" (pages 107 to 116); "cocaine use" (pages 126 to 133); and "affairs and the breakup of his marriage" (pages 436 to 497).

A memo from Marie Wilson, president of the Ms. Foundation for Women, March 19, 1996. Responding to criticism that "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" doesn't include boys, Ms. proposed a separate "Son's Day," to be held on October 20, which is ideal since, the memo says, "October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so there will be lots of activities scheduled." Here Ms. Wilson lists various ways to celebrate the holiday, which incidentally falls on a weekend:

  • Take your son—or 'son for a day'—to an event that focuses on ... ending men's violence against women. Call the Family Violence Prevention Fund at 800-END-ABUSE for information.

  • Plan a game or sport in which the contest specifically does not keep score or declare a winner. Invite the community to watch and celebrate boys playing on teams for the sheer fun of playing.

  • Since Son's Day is on SUNDAY, make sure your son is involved in preparing the family for the work and school week ahead. This means: helping lay out clothes for siblings [and] making lunches.
Ms. had already developed an "especially for boys" worksheet, to fill boys' time at school while the girls visit their parents' workplaces, in which boys are asked to "brainstorm" and to question the "male stereotypes" that "box them in," such as, "a 'real man' doesn't do laundry."

In California, $120,000 was spent over two years to provide birth control for approximately a dozen deer that inhabit Coyote Hills Park. The effort was unsuccessful; the deer population continues to grow while the available edible foliage does not, leading to starvation among the animals. Park rangers are considering a more traditional, if less sensitive, method of population control—shooting the excess deer and giving the venison to locals in need of the meat.

Insight, April 22, 1996:
Bernice Harris is back at work in one of Capitol Hill's basement coffee shops after a week of exile, thanks to charges of sexual harassment. Harris, 58, has put in 30 years on the job and plans to retire in May.

The flap developed because Harris likes to refer to her customers as "Baby" and sometimes "Babycakes" or "Sugar." Most customers seem to respond as does Karen Gravois, a Hill aide who describes Harris as "a burst of sunshine, a friendly, wonderful, lovely woman."

But Christopher Held, a part-time aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, complained to his office manager and wrote Harris a letter saying he felt uncomfortable being called "Baby" and suggested it could be sexual harassment.

Harris' supervisors moved her out of the shop, but reconsidered in response to a big show of support from customers....


A new fissure has opened in American society. Members of the transgender community have become critical of transsexuals, since transsexuals ascribe great importance to belonging to one sex or the other. Transgenders, on the other hand, regard such a distinction as a social construct.

Hermaphrodites (represented by the Intersex Society of North America) have also protested nonconsensual sex-reassignment surgery performed upon them as children. The goal of this procedure, which doctors perform on those rare infants who are born with sexual organs of both sexes, is to quickly steer children towards the sex to which they bear the closest anatomical resemblance. Hermaphrodite activists regard the surgery as mutilation, depriving them of an important part of themselves, while medical authorities believe it benefits the child later in life by improving its ability to form a stable sexual identity.

The manufacturer of an air freshener that was intentionally used an inhalant was held liable for an auto accident resulting from misuse of the product.

From a syndicated column by George Will in the Boston Globe, April 19, 1996:
When the [Tufts University student] senate cut $600 from the Chinese Culture Club's budget, Kim Tran, co-president of the Asian Community at Tufts, said that although the cut was not "face-to-face racism," it reflected institutional bias against Asians. Carol Wan, the CCC treasurer, called the cut an attack on "the legitimacy" of her culture. A portion of the cut pertained to Chinese takeout food that the CCC ordered for a Chinese New Year observance, and Wan said the cut "questioned the authenticity of takeout food as part of our culture." The student newspaper reported: "Several times during her speech, Wan began crying. 'It's sad that this is happening at Tufts, where it's supposed to be intercultural,' she said."


The New York Post:
The New York Yankees pay an average of $127,945 a year to rent their namesake stadium—about a quarter of what the city collects from the top hot-dog vendor ... Last year, the city signed a deal worth $488,000 to let a hot-dog vendor set up two carts on Fifth Avenue off 82nd Street, outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art,

Robert Atwood, a Florida man sentenced to five years for his fourth drunk-driving conviction, filed over 200 lawsuits against his jailers—one over a chilly cell and one over a turkey leg with too much gristle on it.

In Michigan, six killers and a rapist sued for coffee mugs, coat hangers and other items that could conceal drugs or be used as weapons. The case has dragged on for more than seven years and has cost taxpayers over half a million dollars.

A New York inmate who claimed that he was improperly locked in his cell for taking an extra piece of cake in the mess hall was awarded $200 in damages by a federal court.

A Utah inmate was awarded the Buddhist prayer beads he sued for; he then filed another suit to obtain Native American religious paraphernalia. The inmate filed 57 lawsuits in all, one under the theory that he is an Australian Aborigine.

A South Carolina inmate who is a former police officer sued the police and sheriff departments for issuing him the gun with which he shot his wife.

An Arizona convict sued the Board of Pardons and Paroles for failure to rehabilitate him properly since, after he was paroled, he was arrested and convicted of another crime.

A Florida multiple murderer sued members of the media who called him a "serial killer."

Stanley Bartlett in the April/May 1996 issue of Earth Star, a periodical freely distributed in the Boston area, in a column on "Feng Shui (Fung Shway), The Chinese Art of Placement":
Q: Where is the best place to put the boss's office? We are redoing our offices and I want to be sure to put my office in the best Feng Shui place.

A: Your intuition is guiding you quite well. Indeed the location of the boss's office is important to the success of the business. The energetic environment of the boss's office affects everyone in the business. Ideally, the boss would be located in the wealth corner of the business according to the BaGua octagon. This is the left rear section of the business relative to the front door. The boss's desk should likewise be located in a commanding position relative to the doorway into his office. I am reminded of a boss that I once had who's [sic] desk was poorly positioned behind the door. Every time I entered his office I felt uneasy. I never knew what kind of surprise he would have for me. Make your office a sacred harmonious place of creation so that anyone entering it will be at peace and feel your loving commitment to them and the business. The old ways of using power and control to run a business are no longer working. It must come from the heart. Blessings to you and your business.

Q: How can we use Feng Shui things at the entrance to our building to bring in more business and money?

A: Make sure that the access from the street or sidewalk to your business is clear so that customers can easily see the entrance door to your business. The flow of traffic should follow the predominant flow from the street. Signage should be simple to read and have strong colors such as red to activate the Chi. Make sure that there is a clear path to the front door, clearly marked or color-coded so that as the customers enter the property they sense clearly where to go. The front door needs to be large and easily accessible for this is the "mouth of the Chi." Ideally, the front door should face south or east according to Feng Shui principles. Also, it is best if the building is level with or higher than the street or sidewalk. Avoid locating right next to major powerlines or electric transformers.

Q: Does Feng Shui have an opinion on sloped ceilings? My desk is positioned in a room that has a sloped ceiling. It is lower behind me and higher in front of my desk.

A: Sloped ceilings cause imbalance. Lower ceilings compress your auric field thereby limiting the flow of Chi. The physical result of this may be headaches, sinus difficulties, and restricted breath. If possible, reposition your desk so that you will be sitting under a higher ceiling area. If this is not possible creative Feng Shui techniques will help. The traditional solution is to place two Chinese bamboo flutes on the lower part of the sloped ceiling hanging from red ribbons with the mouthpieces pointing down. To determine the spacing of the two flutes, imagine an octagon between the ceiling and the floor. This will tell you how far apart to place the flutes and the angle between them. If your aesthetic tastes do not resonate with the Chinese flutes then you can place lights on the floor pointing up toward the ceiling or upward growing plants. Another creative solution is to paint a cloud/sky scene on the ceiling thereby lifting it visually.

[Ed.: Responding to a call for more "Feng Shui questions," I sent the following e-mail to the author:

I found the copy of Earth Star, in which I read your previous column, mixed up with newspapers and leaflets on a raised platform in the window of a coffee shop, to the extreme right rear as I walked in the door. I also saw a copy in my local health food supermarket, stacked in a neat pile by the cash registers, at a perpendicular angle to the left of the front entrance. Is this a concern of Feng Shui? What would be the best Feng Shui place to put the magazine?
Mr. Bartlett, either not getting it at all or finding an inscrutable New Age way to tell me to go screw myself, responded:
"Everything is a concern of Feng Shui. Everything is connected to everything so the placement of the magazines certainly mattered as it found you. Blessings. Stanley"
...and there the issue rests.]

In Alabama, Dr. Ira Gore, a local physician, sued BMW after discovering that his car had been slightly refinished because of acid rain damage received during its shipment from Germany. The cost of the refinishing job was $600, but a jury awarded Dr. Gore $4,000 in economic damages and $4 million in punitive damages, later reduced to $2 million by the state supreme court.

An Associated Press story from Lady Lake, Florida, March 17, 1996:
Residents were told to stop flying Old Glory outside their retirement villas. It's a multinational community and flying the American flag may offend some people, the management said....

Monica Andersen, a spokeswoman for the developer said The Villages need to consider the residents from other countries.


Paul and Linda McCartney announced their intention to help the suffering victims of the war in Bosnia. Bosnians soon received a shipment of 22 tons of dried vegetable-burger mix, enough to make a million meatless burgers. The McCartneys are passionate vegetarians who produce their own line of frozen-vegetable dinners.

[Ed.: At the time, artillery would have also come in handy.]

After Barry Som pleaded guilty to welfare fraud, having allegedly cost the state of Washington and the federal government hundreds of thousands of dollars, he was fired from his job with the state Department of Social and Health Services. He then applied for unemployment benefits, and is now collecting $300 a week.

A school district in Eureka, Illinois, ordered a high school English teacher to stop discussing Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales because some parents claimed that this landmark in English literature was "too raunchy."

The New Republic, April 15, 1996:
Commenting on the stay of a female American astronaut aboard the Russian Mir space station, a Russian space program official said Mir's "micro-climate will definitely be improved," since "the fans will be taken care of in a more timely manner because we know women love to clean, and they will take care of the fans in order to allow less dust into the environment."


A Palmdale, California, school teacher was placed on leave pending investigation into accusations that he loudly scolded a classroom of students for not doing homework. Parents contacted school officials after a 12-year-old student secretly taped the month-long veteran angrily saying, "I am tired of you not doing any work in this whole class. Enough. Go about it. Enough's enough. You got it?"

Shane Emmett of Williamsburg, Virginia, faces expulsion from Lafayette High School for violating the school's weapons ban after authorities noticed a toy dart gun in his car.

The Toronto Globe & Mail, February 2, 1996:
The timing of the book is exquisite. It's not every author who must interrupt a book tour in order to testify before a grand jury; it's not every witness who is asked by a grand juror to autograph her book. Clinton has forced into the open the kind of issues—ideals and ethics—that will be at the heart of the presidential campaign that has just begun.

And just as Clinton is calling on Americans to rethink their priorities, she's getting her own lesson in what's uppermost in the public's mind. A television interviewer grilled her recently on the scandals plaguing her presidency. Then, he concluded, "let's talk about those disadvantaged children for a couple of seconds."


A survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that most people seeking to be listed under a "multiracial" category are now listed as American Indians, rather than as blacks, whites, or Asians.


A translation of a letter sent by Oliviero Toscani, advertising and creative director of Benetton, the Italian clothing company, to Subcommander Marcos, leader of Mexico's Zapatista rebels. Marcos declined Toscani's request:
Most respectable Commander Marcos:

My name is Oliviero Toscani, and for twelve years I have conceived the communication of United Colors of Benetton. For a long time United Colors of Benetton has chosen to use a large part of its advertising budget to address the most dramatic problems of this century: AIDS, war, racism, intolerance. It's a way to create a different dialogue with the "consumers," who for us are first of all "men and women." We have always chosen to photograph "true persons"—not models—in the places where they actually live. In this way, we have highlighted the beauty of the Chinese, of the Turks, of the inhabitants of a little Italian village, and, recently, of the Palestinians of Gaza.

Today, we address ourselves to you because we sense that you know that communications can be a form of struggle. We ask you to give us an opportunity to photograph you with the men, women, and children of your group, the Zapatista National Liberation Army. We would like to give you a chance to show the beauty of the faces of those who struggle in the name of an idea. We believe that an ideal brightens the eyes and lights up the faces of those who fight to realize it. We do not believe in the beauty myths propagated by consumerism. For this reason, we ask you to receive us among your people and to give us the opportunity to find another way of making your lives and your history known.

Oliviero Toscani

[Ed.: Oliver Stone reportedly visited Subcommander Marcos in connection with a possible film about the Chiapas rebels. Marcos gave Stone a rebel's ski mask, which Stone wore as he rode with Marcos on horseback into the jungle. Of course, there was no need for Stone to conceal his identity, since everybody knew who he was.]

In Cutud, the Philippines, volunteer Catholics are crucified each year with real nails to commemorate Easter. Fourteen people endured this agonizing pain in 1996, which marked the first year that HIV-conscious townspeople were assured by church leaders that only clean nails were used.


Wyoming's Casper Star-Tribune, April 2, 1996:
An article about Rodney Skurdal, a leader of the Montana Freemen, claims that he was involved in an accident in 1980 "when a rig tower collapsed" and fractured his skull.

According to U.S. District Court records, several witnesses were prepared to testify that Skurdal's behavior changed drastically after the accident.

Leonard Atkins of Billings, Mont., his gunnery sergeant in the Marines, told Skurdal's attorneys that after the accident he was "preoccupied with constitutional rights."


At the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, some members suggested that the word "English" be dropped from the title of their organization because it didn't reflect the diversity of languages taught in school. Some wanted to remove "National" because the word appeals to nationalism. Others wanted "Teachers" dropped because they would rather be known as facilitators or guides. There were no reported objections to "Council of."

In the wake of the outbreak of "mad cow disease," the British government contemplated the destruction of potentially infected cattle, but not before several useful alternatives were suggested. Believing cows to be sacred, the World Hindu Council offered to build a shelter for "the cows that have gone mad and ... homeless cows." The Cambodia Daily had a similar proposal, though not with the cow's interests at heart: "The English have 11 million mad cows, and Cambodia has roughly the same number of equally mad land mines. Surely the solution to Cambodia's mine problem is here before our very eyes." The plan was to ship the cows to Cambodia and let them wander around vigorously (due to their madness) and detonate the many unexploded mines left over from years of fighting. According to the editorial, "The plan is simple, practical, and will make mincemeat of the problem overnight." But Dr. Elliot Katz, president of the animal-rights group In Defense of Animals, suggested that the cows should be given away to people as pets. "The best of all possible worlds," Katz said, "would be to, say, let them become companion animals. People have horses and they don't eat them, and they enjoy pasture, they enjoy their lives."

Meanwhile, two British sculptors tried to cope with the impending cow shortage by offering their artistic services. "We're worried that it's going to leave the countryside looking desolate," said Chris Gilmore. He and partner Paul Meedham planned to provide farmers with life-sized cardboard cows to set in their fields "to fill the gaps." The cardboard cows are blank so that the artists can "paint on demand" to mimic any breed. Gilmore's prototype went on sale for £250.