One of the many decisions greeting Pope Francis, as Salon.com pointed out, is whether to officially recognize a Patron Saint of Handgunners–as urged by a U.S. 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 U.S. anti-gun activists gained strength in the 1980s.
BAD DRUG REPS
Though Americans may feel safe that the Food and Drug Administration approves a drug only for certain specific uses, the U.S. 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 non-approved 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.”
THIS IS A JOKE, RIGHT?
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.)
GOVERNMENT IN ACTION
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.
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.)
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.)