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D.C. kids are skilled in sneaking all sorts of contrabandguns, knives, and drugs, for exampleinto their schools. But judging from a recent District law, District pupils are preparing an all-out terrorist attack on the school system. The new statute starts with a reasonable premiserequiring the expulsion of any student who brings weapons to school. Then it goes haywire, defining a weapon as “any firearm and silencer” or “any destructive device,” including any “explosive, incendiary, poison gas, bomb, grenade, rocket, missiles, or mine.” Although the law reads like a public-safety edict delivered by Saddam Hussein, it is in fact modeled after the federal Gun-Free School Act of 1994. Congress forced the council to mimmick the act or risk losing $27 million in federal funds for the school system. Jim Ford, director of the D.C. Council’s education and libraries committee, says the council is well aware that D.C. kids aren’t planting land mines in the teachers’ lounge, but he explains, “There were some things we thought were crazy, but federal dollars were in jeopardy. We were doing what we were told.”
Right to Smear Two weeks ago, Dr. Margaret Byrne, a District gynecologist, discovered that the Virginia-based Abortion Abolitionists had blanketed her Tenleytown neighborhood with letters accusing her of working with a doctor who performs abortions and sharing in the proceeds of the practice. The letter compared her to 19th-century slave traders and encouraged neighbors to protest at her doorstep. Byrne received a note from the group pledging to call off the troops if she got out of the abortion biz. Problem is, she’s not in the biz. Byrne’s horrified neighbor, Richard Bienvenue, distributed 400 copies of his own letter explaining that the right-to-lifers got it wrong: Byrne doesn’t do abortions, nor is she the partner of anyone who does. She’s a solo practitioner who frequently donates her time to treating kids who attend Bienvenue’s alternative school for delinquent boys in Baltimore. Byrne declined to comment on the incident but has yet to entertain any protesters, according to Bienvenue. She has spoken with the FBI about the incident, however, since murders of some women’s doctors have taught her to take anti-abortionists seriously. Bienvenue says, “Certainly it’s no fun to get something like that, but especially when it’s not true.”
Quarter Pounder Alfresco? For years Dupont Circle activists have struggled to fashion their bustling downtown neighborhood in the image of Paris. And in at least one sense they’ve succeeded: On warm days, neighborhood bistros and swanky restaurants sprout outdoor cafes, complete with bright umbrellas and flower boxes. Now McDonald’s is threatening to stain the city’s version of the Place de
l’Etoile with a touch of American gaucherie. Owners of the 17th Street NW Mickey D’s have applied to the city for a 25-seat outdoor cafe. According to Hong Tong, the outlet’s supervisor, neighboring businesses have supported the plan to bring the Happy Meals and Fish Frys outdoors. But opponents are already citing a provision in the city’s public-space regulations denying outdoor cafes to businesses that don’t provide table service or full-time maintenance of the cafe. Hong plans to get around the requirement by assigning an extra employee to the outdoor space, but he’d better come up with an airtight plan to satisfy the army of Dupont Circle skeptics, who have sharpened their teeth on cafe fights involving J.R.’s Bar and Grill and the Fox and Hounds. Hong is still sizing up the opposition. “I really have no idea yet,” he says.