In 1983, Takoma Park residents voted to make their city one of the country’s first nuclear-free zones, banning government purchases from companies that produce nuclear weapons. Now Takoma Park is capitalizing on its politically correct politics to raise a few bucks for the city coffers. The Takoma Park Public Works Department is collecting leaves and twigs, grinding them up, and selling them back to residents as “Nuclear Free Zone Mulch.” At $100 for seven cubic yards (including a $30 delivery charge), the nuke-free mulch is competitive with Hechinger’s, but it’s still a lot more costly than the free mulch provided at the nearby Montgomery County Recycling facility. Of course, next winter Takoma Park residents could also save themselves some cash by simply neglecting to rake their yards; come springtime, they’ll have their own free nuclear-free mulch.

Smells Like Bacon The D.C.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has an unlikely new managing director: 25-year Montgomery County Police Department veteran Rick Swain. Swain and PETA first joined forces in 1981 when Swain served a search warrant on the Institute for Behavioral Research. That raid led to the first-ever conviction of an animal experimenter on abuse charges. But animal rights activists are also notorious for civil disobedience as well as for breaking into labs to free research animals. How a man sworn to uphold the law will direct an organization that attracts members so willing to break the law remains to be seen. PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk says the job will be a challenge for Swain. She says, “We tell people what to do legally. But if the Animal Liberation Front breaks into a lab and sets animals free, my heart sings.”

Spitting on the Fringe The minions of fringe presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche have few peers when it comes to force-feeding the public petitions and flyers. Small wonder then, that the District’s Democratic State Committee (DSC) muzzled a pack of LaRouche supporters who muscled in on its monthly meeting last week. Twice DSC Chairman Bill Simons declared the LaRouchites out of order as they heckled a plan to exclude them from an upcoming meeting. But the real fireworks flew when Simons adjourned the meeting without allowing the guests to address the committee. “This is a violation of the Voting Rights Act, spitting on the people who died, who fought for the right to vote,” thundered LaRouche supporter Ernest Schapiro. The LaRouchites continued to rant about how the Democratic Party snubbed the Million Man March and how they plan to keep inner-city youths from “dying on the streets.” But their ravings were ignored by DSC members who quietly gathered their belongings and headed for the exits.

Penny Pincher After the Firehook Bakery on Q Street NW was robbed in broad daylight last November, management installed a surveillance camera to ward off other would-be robbers and to help catch the stickup man responsible for a string of local robberies. But so far the camera has recorded only one bandit, a criminal mastermind who made off with a jar of pennies labeled, “Help Feed People With AIDS.” The charity jar, intended for the Whitman-Walker Food Bank, disappeared just a few days after the camera was installed. Bakery owner Pierre Abushacra says the camera captured the thief’s sheepish look as he skulked off with the pennies, but the police never apprehended him.