Legal news from Down Under

From a man at work who enjoys Men at Work, here now some news tidbits from Australia.

  • The headline says it all: “Ninja students foil Aussie mugging.” Three blokes in the middle of beating a man for his iPod and cell phone fled the scene of the crime when “five black-clad ninjas” came to the rescue. The ninjitsu students were training at a nearby hall when one saw the mugging in progress. Two of the men have been arrested.
  • People entering Australia must now declare at customs if they are carrying pornography. An affirmative declaration allows customs officials to search the luggage to determine if the material is legal. The move has drawn protest as an invasion of privacy by the Australian Sex Party, which notes there is no formal definition of pornography on the customs form.

Now, if you’re like me, your first thought about the second story was, “Australian Sex Party? Really?” At the risk of getting fired, I performed a quick Internet search which indicates that it does in fact exist.

G’day to everyone.

“My One and Only” Baltimore hotel package

Capitalizing on its appearance in the new Renee Zellweger movie, “My One and Only,” Baltimore’s Peabody Court Hotel has come out with a romance travel package as a salute to the film.

The movie was released two weeks ago and also stars Kevin Bacon and Chris Noth. The film’s story line is based on George Hamilton’s upbringing by his mother along the Eastern Seaboard during the 1950s. To see a shot of the Peabody in the opening sequence of the preview, click here.

“My One and Only” was filmed in Baltimore last summer.

The Peabody’s package includes accommodations for two in a deluxe corner king room, breakfast via room service or in the hotel’s George’s Bistro, valet parking and a late check-out time (2 p.m.)

Has anyone seen the movie yet? How prominently was the hotel featured?

Who knows how much business this package will really stir up, but I do think it’s indicative of how local business here like being associated with Hollywood and the stars that pass through here.

Even in Norway, city’s reputation precedes it

The talkative 19-year-old on his way home by train to Oslo, Norway after a year in the navy asked my family where we were from. We gave our typical response to foreigners: Washington, D.C. It’s not that we are ashamed of our Baltimore roots, it’s just easier for non-Americans to place Washington on their mental maps.

Then we started talking about television and the teenager mentioned one of his favorite shows was “The Wire.” So when told him we were from Baltimore, his eyes lit up. “Is it really like that?” he asked. “Does everyone own guns over there?”

So, Charm City’s place in the global community is secure… and if you want to read more observations from my 10-day trip through scenic Sweden, Denmark and Norway, check my post on the Exhibit A blog.

DANNY JACOBS, Legal Affairs Writer

U.S. Olympic delegation to pass on Chinese food

Apparently the phrase “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” doesn’t apply to the U.S. Olympic Committee. According to an article on ESPN.com, the more than 1,000-member delegation of athletes, coaches, trainers and other personnel will be bringing their own food supply to China this August for the 2008 Olympics.

Really.

It’s got the Beijing officials understandably disappointed, although the article also points out that food safety in China has become a major issue for the Olympics. Tainted products and reported use of drugs and insecticides in food production could trigger a positive drug test, ruin an athlete’s career and be a public relations disaster for China, the article said.

While the U.S.’s 600-plus athletes will still be dining in the Olympic Village, the rest of the delegation (which isn’t eligible for meals at the village) will fill up at a training camp at Beijing Normal University, where the committee plans to ship “tons of meat and other foods.”

OK, I understand the drug-testing thing. But if the athletes are eating at the Olympic Village anyway and the U.S. food will be consumed primarily by non-competitors, why the concern?

I’ve never been to China, but I lived in rural Mexico and not once did I get sick off the food. I don’t say that to pat myself on the back, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the water there should not touch your lips or your dishes unless it comes from a bottle.

So what gives? Does anyone think this undermines the spirit of the games and the privilege of being the host country? Or in this day and age is it better to play it safe?

LIZ FARMER, Business Writer

Bush vs. Osama—Child’s Play?

My daughter couldn’t resist. She was walking recently on the outskirts of the medina in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, when the product being hustled by a teenage street vendor caught her eye.

The package said “Path Crash 911—Super Funny Children’s Toy, Ages 3- and up.” Looking closer, she saw a miniature train set featuring small figures of President Bush and Osama bin Laden. The young small businessman had one in operation, and she watched as Bush—armed and in a military vehicle—raced around the track after bin Laden—riding a skateboard—pursuing but never catching him.

The vendor wanted 40 dirham, or about $5, for the toy. My daughter, experienced in the local ways, bargained him down to 15 dirham, or about $2. He was pleased with the transaction so she knew he was still clearing a substantial profit.

Ah, the power of commerce. We may be locked in a struggle involving geopolitics, ideology, culture and religion in the Middle East, but in the midst of all that, there are still enterprising entrepreneurs who know how to capitalize on the situation and make a buck.

Oh, and Tom Friedman would want you to know that the toy was made in China—more proof that the world is indeed flat. Now, inquiring minds want to know if Halliburton has a toy-making subsidiary in China.
-TOM LINTHICUM, Executive Editor

Don’t keep mummy waiting

Want a shortcut to Tut?

You should. The Franklin Institute advises you to get to the museum 90 minutes before the time stamped on your $32.50 ticket for “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs,” and one look at the line snaking up three floors to the exhibit hall is all the explanation you need.

On our Labor Day weekend trip to Philadelphia, my husband and I cheerfully estimated it would take at least another hour, and possibly two, to get from the back of the line to the leather ropes at the front. I say “cheerfully” because we were doing the math while we breezed past the huddled masses (doing our best not to make eye contact as we passed them by, and passed them by, and passed and passed and passed them by), thanks to the VIP passes that came with our hotel package.

You say “elitist,” I say “efficient.” And not a little serendipitous. When we booked the package, we knew the VIP passes were untimed — meaning you can see the exhibit whenever you choose — but we didn’t know that VIPs get their own separate line. (There were four people in ours.)

Which means you can spend 90 minutes waiting in line, or spend the same 90 minutes enjoying a champagne brunch of eggs Benedict and lemon-ricotta pancakes with mixed berries at the Four Seasons, followed by a 10-minute stroll past the Swann Fountain to the museum and into the VIP queue.

Other hotels offer one-night packages starting at $185 per couple. You’d spend almost half of that on two “timed” tickets and parking at the Franklin Institute, if you can find a spot.

Sure, Ben Franklin may have been big on that whole penny-saved, penny-earned thing.

But what would the Boy King do?

—BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor, Law