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News of the Weird

Holy Handguns

One of the many decisions greeting Pope Francis, as pointed out, is whether to officially recognize a Patron Saint of Handgunners—as urged by a US organization of activists for more than 20 years. According to legend, St. Gabriel Possenti rescued an Italian village from a small band of pillagers (and perhaps rapists) in the 19th century by shooting at a lizard in the road, killing it with one shot, which supposedly so terrified the bandits that they fled. No humans were harmed, activists now point out, signifying the handgun was obviously a force for good. The head of the St. Gabriel Possenti Society has noted that, however far-fetched the “lizard incident” may be, it was rarely questioned until US anti-gun activists gained strength in the 1980s.

Can’t Possibly Be True

• Though Americans may feel safe that the Food and Drug Administration approves a drug only for certain specific uses, the US Court of Appeals in New York ruled in December that drug company salespeople have a First Amendment right to claim that drugs approved for only one use can be marketed for nonapproved uses, as well. Doctors and bioethicists seemed outraged, according to the Los Angeles Times, generally agreeing with a University of Minnesota professor who called the decision “a complete disgrace. What this basically does is destroy drug regulation in the United States.”

• Denials of disability allowances in the town of Basildon, England, near London, are handled at the Acorn House courthouse, on the fourth floor, where afflicted people who believe they were wrongly rejected for benefits must present their appeals. However, in November, zealous government safety wardens, concerned about fire-escape dangers, closed off the fourth floor to wheelchair-using people. Asked one woman, turned away in early February, “Why are they holding disability tribunals in a building disabled people aren’t allowed in?” (In February, full access resumed.)

• Among the helpful civic classes the city government in Oakland, Calif., set up earlier this year for its residents was one on how to pick locks (supposedly to assist people who had accidentally locked themselves out of their homes), and lock-picking kits were even offered for sale after class. Some residents were aghast, as the city had seen burglaries increase by 40 percent in 2012. Asked one complainer, “What’s next? The fundamentals of armed robbery?” (In February, Mayor Jean Quan apologized and canceled the class.)

• We Must Kill This Legislation Because Too Many People Are for It: In February, the North Carolina House of Representatives Rules Committee took the unusual step of pre-emptively burying a bill to legalize prescription marijuana (which 18 states so far have embraced). WRAL-TV (Raleigh-Durham) reported Rep. Paul Stam’s explanation: Committee members were hearing from so many patients and other constituents (via phone calls and emails) about the importance of medical marijuana to them that the representatives were feeling “harassed.”


• Two teachers and three student teachers at a Windsor, Ontario, elementary school somehow thought it would be a neat prank on their eighth-graders to make them think their class trip would be to Florida’s Disney World, and they created a video and PowerPoint presentation previewing the excursion. The kids’ exhilaration lasted only a few days, when they were informed that plans had changed and that they would instead be visiting a local bowling alley. Furthermore, the teachers captured the students’ shock on video, presumably to repeatedly re-enjoy their prank. (When the principal found out, she apologized, disciplined the teachers, and arranged a class trip to Niagara Falls.)

• Solutions to Non-Problems: (1) Illinois state Rep. Luis Arroyo introduced a bill in March that would ban the state’s restaurants from serving lion meat. (2) Georgia state Rep. Jay Neal introduced legislation in February to ban the implantation of a human embryo into a nonhuman. Rep. Neal told the Associated Press that this has been a hot issue in “other states.”

Unclear on the Concept

• Imprisoned British computer hacker Nicholas Webber, 21, serving time for computer fraud, hacked into the mainframe at his London prison after officials allowed him to take a computer class. Like most prisons, the Isis facility attempts to rehabilitate inmates with classes to inspire new careers, but apparently no one made the connection between the class and Webber’s crime. (One prison staff member involved in the class was fired.)

• Dustin Coyle, 34, was charged with domestic abuse in Oklahoma City in January, but it was hardly his fault, he told police. His ex-girlfriend accused him (after she broke up with him) of swiping her cat and then roughing it up, punching her, elbowing her and sexually assaulting her. Coyle later lamented to police that she and he were supposed to get married, but for some reason she changed her mind. “If she would just marry me, that would solve everything,” but, according to the police report, he would settle for her being his girlfriend again—or a one-night stand.

The Redneck Chronicles

• Gary Ericcson, 46, was distraught in January at being charged with animal cruelty in shooting to death his beloved pet snake. He told the Charlotte Observer that he is not guilty, as the dear thing had already passed away and that he shot it only “to get the gas out” so that other animals would not dig it up after he buried it. He said he was so despondent (fearing that a conviction will prevent him from being allowed to have even dogs and cats) that in frustration he had shot up and destroyed a large cabinet that housed his Dale Earnhardt collectibles.


• First-World Products: The DogTread Treadmill is a modification of the familiar exercise machine in homes and health clubs, with special features for dog safety—a helpful invention in a nation in which over half of all pet dogs are too fat. (A somewhat higher percentage of cats is overweight, but it is unlikely that marketing a cat treadmill has ever been considered.) The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention points out that pets can develop type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis, and that the problem stems from insufficient exercise and overindulgent owners. (The DogTread Treadmills sell for $499 to $899.)

Readers’ Choice

• (1) Teri James, 29, filed a lawsuit recently in San Diego against San Diego Christian College because it fired her for being pregnant and unmarried—a violation of specific employee rules. She said the firing was obviously illegal gender discrimination because her job was quickly offered to the next-most-qualified candidate—James’ fiance, who was openly cohabiting with James all along and is the baby’s father. (2) In a Philadelphia courtroom in February, alleged assault victim John Huttick was on the witness stand tearfully describing how miserable his life has become since he lost his left eye in a barroom fight with the defendant. Right then, however, his prosthetic eye fell out. The judge, certain that it was an accident, quickly declared a mistrial (especially since two jurors, seated a few feet away, appeared sickened).

Armed and Clumsy (All-New!)

• Among the Americans (all males, as usual) who accidentally shot themselves recently: A 19-year-old man, with the AR-15 assault weapon he had just stolen (Independence, Ore., March)*. An angler, shooting salmon (Thurston County, Wash., October). An 18-year-old man, shot in the “groin” while cleaning his gun (Port St. Lucie, Fla., September). A 59-year-old poor-multitasker, who tripped and fell holding his shotgun while talking on the phone to his girlfriend (St. Matthews, S.C., September)*. A police officer serving an arrest warrant (shot in the buttocks) (Mercer Island, Wash., November). A 54-year-old man at a gun show, mistaken about whether his gun was loaded) (Des Moines, Iowa, January). A 22-year-old man, showing off and flummoxed by whether a bullet was still in the chamber (Stamford, Conn., September)*. An 18-year-old man, similarly flummoxed (and suffering the same fate) (St. Petersburg, Fla., January)*.

(* indicates people who will never make that mistake again, or any other)

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