The Fleeting 'F'Bomb and the FCC
It started in a December 2003 broadcast of the Billboard Music Awards, when reality TV star Nicole Richie asked the audience: "Have you ever tried to get cow s--- out of a Prada purse? It's not so f---ing simple." Coming after a similar outburst from Cher, the expletive was too much for the Federal Communications Commission, which declared that Fox had broken broadcast decency rules. While there was no penalty, Fox responded with a lawsuit, arguing that the FCC was departing from how it had historically regulated the slips of the tongue known as "fleeting expletives." A federal appeals court in New York agreed last week, calling the updated rules "arbitrary and capricious" and saying the FCC had taken a "180-degree turn."
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin made no secret of his displeasure. "I find it hard to believe," he said in a statement that drew criticism for its own explicitness, "that the New York court would tell American families that 's---' and 'f---' are fine to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience."
A Deadly Crash for a Lifesaving Flight
Last week's fatal crash of a plane carrying an organ transplant team over Lake Michigan has raised new questions about the safety of such flights, which rush to transport patients or organs in life-or-death situations. In just the past three years, according to a study by the National Transportation Safety Board, there have been 55 similar accidents and 54 deaths. Most were helicopter accidents caused by rushed trips in bad weather.
In the incident, two surgeons and two donation specialists from the University of Michigan were traveling back to Michigan from Milwaukee when their Cessna 550 Citation malfunctioned and crashed into the lake just outside the Milwaukee airport. The team was reportedly delivering a pair of lungs to a patient at the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor. If a new donor is not found, the tragedy could claim another victim.
Divided by a Box and Much Else
A black plastic garbage bagthat was what the National Park Service used to shut down a donation box that has incensed supporters of a Flight 93 memorial site near Shanksville, Pa. The box was installed last week by Mike Svonavec, a local man who owns 273 of the 1,300 acres that families of the victims of the September 11 crash want for the park. He said he needed the donations to help pay security costs caused by visitors.
The park service, as well as the victims' families, took issue with that explanation. And the episode only highlighted the dispute between Svonavec and supporters of the memorial. Svonavec wants $10 million for his remaining land. (The park service has already bought 60 acres.) The families group has offered him $500,000.
Taking Another Shot at Justice
A judge is expected to rule this week in the case of a jailed Georgia man who has generated headlines nationwide for what many lawmakers consider a gross miscarriage of justice.
Genarlow Wilson, an honors student and athlete from Douglasville, Ga., was in court last week arguing his case, which dates back to a New Year's Eve party in 2003. Then 17, Wilson received oral sex from a 15-year-old girl. The act, captured on video, was consensual, but it triggered a 1995 state law that defined it as "aggravated child molestation," leading to Wilson's 10-year sentence. The Georgia legislature has since amended the law, aimed at sexual predators, to make consensual oral sex between teens a misdemeanor. It did not, however, make it retroactive to Wilson's case.
Please Don't Feed the Parrots
In San Francisco, it was a familiar sight: throngs of tourists in Ferry Park feeding the colorful birds made famous by the 2005 documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. And, ironically, it is Mark Bittner, the star of the film, who helped put a stop to the practice. Last week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors banned the feeding, responding to bird-watchers who worried that it would domesticate the creatures.
In Wild Parrots, which was made by his wife, Bittner details how he discovered new meaning in life through his own feeding of the birds. But he stopped feeding them last year, he says, out of the same concern about dependency.
With Nikki Schwab and Chris Wilson
This story appears in the June 18, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.