An Inclusive Litany


In a ruling that angered some Marvel Comics fans, the U.S. Court of International Trade declared the X-Men characters to be "nonhuman creatures" rather than humans with special mutant powers. The classification was sought by a Marvel affiliate that imported X-Men action figures. Customs law specifies that imports of human "dolls" are taxed at 12 percent while nonhuman "toys" are taxed at 6.8 percent.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is challenging the speech code of Pennsylvania's Shippensburg University as overly broad and vague. The code restricts "unconscious attitudes toward individuals which surface through the use of discriminatory semantics" as well as "presumptive statements" that may "annoy" others.

Comments by Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum on the constitutionality of anti-sodomy laws aroused outrage among gays and lesbians, who saw them as equating homosexuality with polygamy and other practices still considered taboo. "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," said Santorum.

It turns out even polygamists are angry at Santorum. "I think he's an insult to Christianity," said 89-year-old Owen Allred, head of the United Apostolic Brethren in Bluffdale, Utah, the nation's largest pro-polygamy sect. "It makes me so mad I want to swear." Followers of the sect believe that Abraham and other biblical figures engaged in polygamy, and that the practice is blessed by God as a way to multiply the human race, not, as Allred says, "for satisfying the lust of the flesh." Allred said he believes that homosexuality is immoral. "The United States is fast becoming another Sodom and Gomorrah," he said.


A message printed on boxes of Green Tea manufactured by the Republic of Tea:
A simple cup of green tea is imbued with a wisdom beyond wisdom, capable of enlightening both mind and body. We invite you to heat the water, brew the tea and sip its greatness, taking in its teachings.
A similar message on the box of a British Breakfast blend:
Life is impossible and so what? It is in its very impossibility that we find our joy. Tea Mind allows life to live us. It frees us from the hubris of trying to control what cannot be controlled. The life of tea is the life of the moment. We have only Now, and we each sip it in our own cups.

After the city of Boston eliminated free golfing privileges for "duly ordained ministers" at a city-owned golf course, some interpreted the move as racist. "The majority of the people [affected] are black, and we do feel it's unfair," the Rev. James Allen told the Boston Globe. "I don't want to use the race card, but let's be honest. I don't want to make it a racial thing, but it seemed like that's what it was."


To celebrate the 30-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a Johns Hopkins organization called Medical Students for Choice threw a party. The invitation read: "Come learn about what's being done to train new providers and ensure that a woman's right to choose is both safe and accessible! Come and eat birthday cake!"

The last time Laci Peterson was seen alive was Christmas 2002, when she was eight months pregnant. Her husband, Scott, was arrested after her body washed up onto the shore of San Francisco Bay in April, along with a separate body, with umbilical cord still attached, that the Associated Press at various points referred to as her "infant son," her "fetus," her "biological child," a "male fetus," and "the couple's baby."


Troubled by the unsafe appearance of parts of the city of Oakland, a city council committee advocated a plan that would prohibit barbed wire fences around commercial establishments. Aside from unsightliness, "It gives a sense that our community is not a very safe city," said City Manager Robert Bobb. The committee also considered a ban on burglar bars, roll-down doors, and retractable security gates.

The New Haven Register reports on a disability-discrimination lawsuit against McDonald's by Joseph Connor, who applied for a job as a cook there at a job fair. When asked by the franchises' manager what his measurements were so that he could have a uniform fit for him, he replied that he had a 54-inch waist and a 22-inch neck. In fact, he weighs 420 pounds. Management did not call him again, and did not return his phone calls.

ABC's Terry Moran, in a question to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, March 21, 2003:
Have you heard [Bush] talk about the other responsibility which may weigh on him heavily today, and that is the death of innocents, for Iraqi moms and dads and children who may, despite our best efforts, be killed?
Four days later, Moran questions Fleischer about the administration's decision to bypass populated areas to prevent civilian casualties:
Obviously, the Iraqi regime has mined [Basra's] harbor, and that is a wicked thing to do, but the coalition battle plan was to bypass Basra and leave the more than half million citizens there essentially to fend for themselves. Does the administration take any responsibility for the plight of the people of Basra?

The Tallahassee Democrat reports that graphic references to women's body parts that were plastered all over an inside wall of the Women's Center at Florida State University and intended to provide a feeling of empowerment among women, were instead widely found offensive. Fearing lawsuits over a hostile work environment, university officials said they would remove the posters.

While much of the world's attention was drawn to the war in Iraq, the Castro regime rounded up over 75 dissidents responsible for circulating a petition demanding human rights in Cuba, a crime for which many received 27-year prison sentences. Also, three men who attempted to hijack a ferry to the United States were executed immediately following summary trials. (The men were given several days to appeal their sentences, but they were executed first.)

In response to these affronts, HBO decided to remove "Comandante," Oliver Stone's adulatory "documentary" about Fidel Castro, from its May schedule. "In light of recent alarming events in Cuba," an HBO spokesman explained, the network decided "not to air Oliver Stone's film in May as scheduled. Had we aired the film in March, I don't think we would have had an issue with it. But now, the arrests and trials are an important piece of what's going on in Cuba, and the film's incomplete."

[Ed.: And what do you know? Cuba just won another three-year term on the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which appears to value alternative viewpoints.]


In Massachusetts, thousands of fourth-graders will retake the state's standardized assessment test because it asked students to write a story about a snow day spent away from school, which put those from warmer climates at a particular disadvantage.


On April 15, the Seattle City Council issued a statement of support for U.S. troops fighting in Iraq. This came just as U.S. Marines, encountering unexpectedly light resistance, entered the city of Tikrit, their last major military objective in the war. The Seattle Times reports that "it took the council over a month to craft the resolution," somewhat longer than it took the armed forces to defeat Iraq's military forces.


The Des Moines Register, April 14, 2003:
"It looks now like this was just a Third World country—there were people fighting with tennis shoes on, on the Iraqi side," [Iowa Senator Tom] Harkin told reporters. "I don't know what else we're going to find, but they didn't fly even one airplane in the air. They had almost nothing."

"So if they were that weak, where we could just roll over them like that, tell me again how [Hussein] was such a big threat in the past?" the senator added.


Robert Fisk reports from Iraq in the Independent, April 9, 2003:
On my way back past the Ahrar Bridge, I found a crowd of spectators standing on the parapet, watching the American tanks with a mixture of amusement and fear. Did they not know what was happening in their city, or—an idea that has possessed me in recent days—are the poor of Baghdad kept in such ignorance of events that they simply do not realise that the Americans are about to occupy their city? Could it be that the cigarette sellers and the bakery queues and the bus drivers just don't know what lies down on the banks of the Tigris?

From an editorial in the New York Times, April 9, 2003:
When violent crime rates were higher, many politicians were afraid to be seen as soft on crime. But now that crime has receded and the public is more worried about taxes and budget deficits, it would not require extraordinary courage for elected officials to do the right thing and scale back our overuse of jails and prison cells.


The National Park Service complained about a television advertisement in which an actor dressed as a park ranger is asked how Old Faithful's eruptions are kept so regular, and he is shown pouring Metamucil into the geyser. A Park Service spokesman warned of the dangers of approaching hot springs and geysers and said the ad "suggests that it's okay to pour some substance into a thermal feature." As a result, the ad will henceforth appear with the following caption: "Dramatization—please obey Park Service rules."


According to various complaints, Larry Jester, principal of Clarkston High School in DeKalb County, Georgia, threatened to kill staffers and himself, blared gospel music and sermons from his office, spoke about ridding the school of demons, and bragged of having a cache of stolen weapons. Jester was fired, but only after being allowed to stay on the job while undergoing a psychological evaluation. Teachers note that if the allegations had been made against a student, that student would have been removed from school immediately.


The El Paso Times reports that twelve-year-old Sal Santana II was suspended from Magoffin Middle School for three days after he "stuck his tongue out at a girl who declined his invitation to be his girlfriend," a gesture that school officials viewed as sexual harassment.