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Wednesday October 22nd 2014

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News of the Weird 3/21/13


by Chuck Shepherd

Holy Handguns 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.

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 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 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.”

Inexplicable 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.)

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