In keeping with his campaign promise to help D.C.’s “offender” community, Mayor Marion Barry has asked the D.C. Council to pass a bill that would empower him to grant clemency to people who break District laws. At first glance, the bill would transform Barry into Gerald Ford, allowing him to pardon a long line of friends, wives, and associates convicted of criminal offenses. But according to a council staffer, as currently written the bill would only allow the mayor to pardon petty criminals prosecuted by the D.C. Corporation Counsel, not the more serious criminals prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney. So rather than pardon, say, mayoral assistant and convicted murderer Rhozier “Roach” Brown, Barry would be limited to liberating folks like “Carwash,” the homeless guy who occasionally pees on the side of D.C. Superior Court. At-Large Councilmember Bill Lightfoot has invited Barry to testify at a June 19 hearing on the bill. No word yet on whether the mayor will attend.
Bogus Lotus In 1979, when Diane Hendel took up Transcendental Meditation (TM) under the paid tutelage of the D.C.-based World Plan Executive Council, the group promised her she would learn to fly, levitate, become invisible, and walk through walls. Today, Hendel cannot fly, nor can she levitate, become invisible, or walk through walls—and her knees are shot from too much time in the lotus position. As a result, Hendel wants her money back. But after seven years of litigation against the council and its founder, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Hendel is still a long way from seeing green. D.C. Superior Court Judge Arthur Burnett ruled earlier this year that Hendel could not sue the group for fraud and unfair trade practices because TM is a religion, and the suit would involve the court in “excessive entanglement in religious beliefs.” Still, a Chicago-based watchdog outfit, the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), has investigated the council’s marketing claims, and several other alleged victims have squeezed big bucks out of the TM organization. Hendel is now appealing Burnett’s decision with pro bono help from one of D.C.’s biggest law firms, Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn. Firm partner David Bardin says, “I don’t think anybody considers meditation as such a cult activity. But there have been many people who have complained about this group.”
Free-Range Tofu Last Sunday, animal rights activists affiliated with United Poultry Concerns (UPC) swarmed around brunchers dining on the patio of the Belmont Kitchen in Adams Morgan. Staging its Sixth Annual Spring Mourning Vigil for Chickens, UPC used graphic posters of hundreds of hens crammed into battery cages and close-up shots of gruesome chicken tumors to make its point. UPC President Karen Davis, who runs a chicken sanctuary in Maryland, says that during egg production hens suffer painful debeaking, starvation, and severe electrocution. She hopes the protests will encourage people to “take an interest in the lives of chickens and understand them more compassionately.” But Belmont Kitchen owner Jane Anderson was none too thrilled that the UPC protesters, who rode in from tony Potomac, Md., chose to stage their demonstration at her storefront during peak business hours. “I know chickens are abused, but we can’t change 100 years of agricultural production by protesting in front of a community restaurant,” says Anderson. “We have had tofu on our menu a couple of times and we had to throw it all out. We give people what they want.”