Odds and Ends
By Devin D. O'Leary
JULY 5, 1999:
Dateline: Italy -- In what will surely be a boon to tourism, Italy's Parliament passed a law last Tuesday decriminalizing some 100 minor offenses, allowing Italians to be ruder, drunker and more belligerent than ever. The new law is intended to streamline the current penal code and will eliminate scores of misdemeanors or downgrade offenses from penal to civil status. Italian citizens are now free to duel, insult the flag, blaspheme, insult public officials and beg "in a repugnant or tormenting manner." Public drunkenness and "insulting behavior" toward the deceased are no longer crimes, while offering to ghostwrite a student's thesis and "incitement to libertinism" no longer carry prison sentences.
Dateline: England -- Police in riot gear, backed by dogs and horses, were called upon to defend Stonehenge from more than 1,000 nature-crazed New Age invaders during last Monday's Summer Solstice celebration. Under cover of darkness, hundreds of travelers stormed through the fences surrounding the prehistoric monument on England's desolate Salsbury Plain. Police eventually cleared the stone circle and arrested some 22 people. Stonehenge has long been a site of worship for Druids, but recently, assorted New Age religions, ecological protesters and anti-authority demonstrators have claimed the monument as their own personal sacred site. "There's a disappointment and also a great sadness," Emma Restell-Orr, joint chief Druid of the British Order of Druids, told BBC radio. "The greatest sadness is perhaps seeing people standing and dancing on top of the stones. It's not only dangerous for them, it's desecration of a sacred site." The Druids were prevented from celebrating the Summer Solstice this year due to the massive influx of Johnny-come-lately stone-huggers. Damage to the 5,000-year-old monument is still being assessed.
Dateline: Washington -- The arts council of Seattle's funky Fremont neighborhood may not know art when they see it -- but they're more than willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Witness the council's recent decision to allow buff bike-riding in this year's annual Solstice Parade. For the past four years, a gang of nude bicyclists has crashed the parade. Two men were arrested at last year's parade -- much to the dismay of the crowds, which booed as the birthday-suited bicyclists were hauled off by police. When the Seattle police department asked for "no nudity" signs to be posted at this year's parade, the neighborhood arts council demurred. Although council members aren't sure what kind of statement the stripped cyclists might be trying to make, council president Bradley Erhlich said publicly that nude bike riding might be a form of artistic expression. "If it is art, then the arts council should support it," Erlich said.
Dateline: Florida -- Three bodies were pulled from a pond at Walt Disney Co.'s "Celebration" community in central Florida, bringing to at least four the number of people who have died in the water there in recent months. The three bodies were discovered in a sport utility vehicle at the bottom of the pond near an interstate highway at the end of World Drive in Celebration. Scott Renquin, 35, Dan Nelson, 32, and Roger DesVergnes, 31, had disappeared on Sept. 28 during an Orlando vacation. The Orlando Sentinel reported that authorities have pulled at least half a dozen vehicles from the pond in the past few months. At least one of those other accidents resulted in a fatality. According to police, any driver who misses a stop sign and fails to turn left off World Drive onto Celebration Boulevard can end up in the deadly drink. Celebration is a town built by Disney near the company's sprawling Walt Disney World theme park. Celebration is intended to replicate traditional "small town" America, complete with neighborhood feel, leafy streets and tightly controlled building guidelines. ... Not to mention deadly, life-sucking water hazards.