Clothing Optional, Helmets Mandatory

It wasn't so much the overall nudity a local government official in New Zealand objected to when he tried to cancel an annual bike race — it was the naked heads he was skittish about.

John Hurley, the major of the Tasman District on the South Island in New Zealand, said the "clothing optional" race shouldn't take place because bikers wouldn't be wearing helmets, The Associated Press reports. Never mind that they also wouldn't be wearing anything else, either.

Hurley said police should enforce laws mandating that all cyclists wear protective headgear. He warned authorities that they'd wind up looking like "fools" if they allowed participants to race around Golden Bay, their heads shamefully exposed, for the third consecutive year.

"They have ridden bikes in the past down the road with no crash helmets, no nothing on and people say that's a double standard," he said.

Local residents have complained about the birthday-suit bike event, but police determined there was no action they could take to put a stop to it.

"We have taken advice on the legality of their proposed action and have been advised that it falls short of an offense," Sergeant Arthur Clarence said Friday.

The in-the-buff race aims to promote safe cycling and alternative energy.

That'll Teach Them

BRITAIN (LONDON TIMES) — A pub must pay a fine for a murder on its premises more than 300 years ago.

Auditors discovered the long-forgotten penalty for The Swan in Ipswich, Suffolk, while balancing the books for the town’s St. Mary Le Tower Church Charities.

The annual bill of 40 shillings, equivalent to £2 or about $3.50 USD, seems to be a punishment for a killing in 1664 when Charles II was king.

Rowell Bell is the clerk to trustees for a number of small charities, including Parker Gift 1664. He found the fine in a book called An Account of the Gifts and Legacies that have been given and bequeathed to Charitable Uses in the Town of Ipswich — with some account of the present state and management and some proposals for the future regulation of them.

It reads: “Mr. J. Parker to give 40 shillings a year to be paid out of The Swan Inn of this parish to buy coals for the poor (to be distributed on St. Thomas’s Day).

“The gift is alleged to be for a perpetual fine imposed in 1664 consequent upon a murder committed at The Swan.”

It was a huge amount of money in 1664 — a laborer would have to work for six months to earn 40 shillings.

Simon Trenter and Pam Wilson, who run The Swan, have agreed to pay the fine, which includes backdated payments to 1999, when the bill was last paid. Ms. Wilson said: “We are all intrigued. We like being part of history.” Little is known about the murder although it is mentioned by guides who conduct tours of Ipswich.

He'll Show You Free Speech

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A motorist believes the constitutional right to free speech includes obscene hand gestures.

Thomas Burns, of New Castle, Pa., contends he was denied his First Amendment free speech rights when he was cited for giving an obscene hand gesture to a construction worker in April, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday in Pittsburgh.

Burns had become frustrated with a traffic delay and showed the gesture at a construction worker. The worker reported it to a police officer, who cited Burns for disorderly conduct, according to the lawsuit.

The citation was dropped, but Burns filed a lawsuit because he believes he was maliciously prosecuted.

The "finger gesture was not accompanied by any verbal threats, taunting or communication and was never visible to anyone other than the workers," the lawsuit states. "The gesture, albeit insulting, had no sexual meaning, did not appeal to anyone's prurient interest, and did not create a public disturbance or breach of peace."

The chief of the police department that cited Burns — in Center Township, Beaver County — declined comment Tuesday, saying he hadn't had a chance to discuss the case with the department's attorney.

In recent years, Pennsylvania courts have ruled that the gesture doesn't automatically constitute disorderly conduct, because it is not "obscene" as defined by the law, unless it is used in a clearly sexual context.

Think They'll Take the Hint?

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — State environmental officials have given Charleston a $3,000 grant to install dispensers in 15 city parks that give out bags to encourage dog owners to clean up after their pets.

The bags typically have a cardboard handle and a wire support to hold the bag open and facilitate scooping.

Charleston already had an ordinance requiring people to pick up after their dogs, but the city has found that there's more compliance when free bags are available, spokeswoman Barbara Vaughn said.

"The city has been providing bags in some parks for a long time," she said. "This is an expansion of that program."

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control is giving the city the grant.

Cats and dogs in Charleston are capable of producing 10,000 pounds of waste a day, according to DHEC, which didn't explain how it came up with the estimate.

Buried Treasure Finds a Good Home

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Buried treasure will help the Red Cross pay for summer camp in Ohio.

More than $10,000 in cash was found last year while a crew excavated old basement foundations in the Akron area. Yesterday, the money was given to the Red Cross.

The money may have been buried a half-century ago. The owner was never identified.

Three property owners and the company that hired the excavator were competing in court for the cash. The Red Cross was chosen as a compromise.

The Red Cross will put the money toward summer camp expenses.

Compiled by's Cassie Carothers.

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