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This Game Is Not 'It'

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Recess is dangerous. There's all that name-calling, roughhousing and bullying. And the fast running! Why a child might trip, fall, even -- and perhaps more important -- sue.

Given such perils, Willett Elementary School, south of Boston, has cracked down on tag and other "chasing games." Pia Durkin, the district superintendent, told the Sun Chronicle in Attleboro, Mass., that children's energies should be better directed toward "good, sound, supervised play."

Outraged parents have sent a blizzard of e-mails protesting the anti-tag policy. One mother launched a "Keep Tag in Attleboro" petition drive. Another mother suggested sending her son to school garbed in bubble wrap and a helmet.

The principal and superintendent of the district in Attleboro, a town of about 45,000, would not talk to a reporter Thursday. But Robbie Wuilleumier, the School Committee chairwoman who began a phone interview by listing the game's dangers, soon confessed: "Personally, I think that the kids should be allowed to play tag. I haven't told that to anyone."

-- Robin Shulman

Hemp and the Bible Belt

The vacation town of Eureka Springs has long been considered a little different -- at least by the rest of Arkansas. Come Nov. 7, it might have a law to prove it. Voters next month will consider an initiative that would make misdemeanor marijuana violations -- possession of one ounce or less -- the city's lowest law enforcement priority. Violators would face community service and drug counseling instead of jail time.

Similar measures have passed in Seattle and Oakland, but the relaxed law would be one of a kind in Arkansas.

It might not be surprising that petition gatherers -- supported by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws -- got the measure on the ballot. The town, where aging hippies live alongside devout Christians, advertises itself as "The hole in the Bible Belt where the buckle goes through." But will the initiative pass? Some residents are dubious.

"I haven't heard much about it" around town, said Sally Thackery of the city's Advertising and Promotions Commission. Even if it passes, don't expect to see changes in enforcement, since state laws are tougher and supersede local laws, said Assistant Police Chief Morris Pate. "I don't know what the big hoo-ha is," he said.

-- Matthew C. Wright

Human Trafficking, or the Car Kind?

An investigation by two Illinois immigrants rights groups resulted in the filing of a federal class-action lawsuit in Arizona on Thursday, charging Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard with unlawfully seizing $12 million in wire transfers from immigrants nationwide to recipients in Arizona and the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora over the past two years.

The funds were among $17 million seized by the office as part of an operation against human and drug smuggling, obtained under a broad warrant that permitted authorities to seize transfers of $500 or more that were sent from 29 states.

Javier Torres, a Burbank, Ill., truck driver who is one of the three named plaintiffs, said the attorney general seized $1,000, which he had sent to a friend in Arizona to buy a car from her. After being contacted by police, Torres said he was unable to recoup his money because he didn't have a title for the car.

"They think the reason I sent the money is for illegal drugs or a coyote," he said. "I never even sent money before, so I don't know why they think that."

A lawyer for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which identified about 400 people who had transfers seized, said that Goddard's office violated the Fourth Amendment and that people were never advised of their right to challenge the seizures.

In a statement, Goddard said: "Every effort has been made to prevent the seizure of any funds from people not involved in human trafficking." He said the program will continue.

-- Kari Lydersen

Right Back at You, Governor

The banter has gotten hot and heavy between California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and a female state legislator, both of whom are known for making impolitic wisecracks in front of rolling cameras.

Schwarzenegger found himself apologizing for racially charged remarks he made about Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R), who is Hispanic. The governor said she had a "very hot" temperament and speculated on her heritage.

When his remarks became public, Garcia leaped to defend him. She offered to accompany him around the state to show she had no hard feelings. "I know the governor. I know his heart. I know how compassionate he is," she said.

This week, on a visit to a high school, Garcia was the one commenting on Schwarzenegger. She told students she "wouldn't kick him out of my bed." Garcia later apologized and called the remark a "joking answer" to a "silly question."

The governor -- who has been married for 20 years to Maria Shriver and has four children -- brushed off the flippant flirtatiousness. "Bonnie Garcia," said Julie Soderlund, spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger's campaign, "like the governor, has a great sense of humor."

-- Sonya Geis

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