A little of this, a little of that

Throughout the year, I add to a stack of newspaper clippings piled on a corner of my desk with the notion that sometime or other I’ll dig into the accumulation to find inspiration for a column. Today’s that day…

We’re No. 2

Americans like to be first, but the people of Brazil have us pistol whipped when it comes to one category: shooting deaths. According to a report in The New York Times, our South American neighbors grease each other at a rate of 40,000 a year — a pace four times greater than ours.

That amounts to someone in Brazil dying every 15 minutes from a gunshot wound, according to a United Nations report. Dayton nun Dorothy Stang, as we are all sadly aware, was among those.

Authorities, alarmed by the violence, proposed a ban on all guns and ammo and put it to a vote. In news that could only be loved by the N.R.A., Brazilians flocked to the polls to trounce the proposal. And the violence continues.

Jesus saves

“Jesus cares more about your sin and burning in hell than gas prices,” said a sign carried by protestors belonging to the Church of the Divide in Grass Valley, CaKaren Ivan. They were ticked at a rival congregation, the New Life Christian Church, that was offering 50-cents-a-gallon gas discounts to lure parishioners. The gimmick cheapens religion, protestors said.

But New Life’s Karen Ivan had an answer to that: “Jesus said his true disciples would be persecuted.” But what octane would he buy?

Beam me up

The ashes of James Doohan, who played Scotty on Star Trek, will be blasted into space this year on board a rocket to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

If Scotty ends up on Mars, perhaps he will be able to answer the question that has piqued us ever since the French Mars Express satellite discovered that the Red Planet may have areas covered in clay: Clay’s OK, but is there any Playdough?

Gas pains

By analyzing gas bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists have learned that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today is 27 percent higher than it was 650,000 years ago. This, they say, shows that the rising levels of greenhouse gases, viewed by many scientists as a cause for global warming, is not a natural fluctuation, but something to be alarmed about.

Meanwhile, however, yet another study shows that all the pollution in the air disperses sunlight and may help keep the earth cooler.

Go figure.

Monkey business

A panel of scientific experts fretted last year that if stem cells from humans were implanted into the brains of monkeys and apes that it could raise ethical issues.

Unaddressed by the scientists, but an even more nagging question, is this: With the slight uptick in their IQs, how would we tell these monkeys from, say, your average member of Congress?

Bearing revenge

And speaking of stupid human tricks, did you catch the story out of Harrisburg, Pa., about the hunter who was nearly killed by a dead bear? Having shot a 320 pound black bear four times, the hunter approached the downed beast only to be bitten and mauled in its death throes.

Game commission biologists said it was the first time they’d heard of a dead bear attacking a hunter, but it only seems sporting. Of course in Brazil, they’re not nearly so conservative with their ammo, so there’s no chance it could happen there.

It’s a dog’s life

Scientists have now decoded the genome of the dog. Having already done humans and rats, this seemed like a logical next step. What did they learn? All mammals are pretty much the same. Dogs are smarter than mice, but not as smart as people. Both dogs and humans brains evolved faster because we’re social animals.

Oh, and this: It isn’t the brain that has evolved most rapidly in humans. It is the genes in the testicle.

Finally, an explanation for Monday Night Football.

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