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All the news that's fit

News and commercials provide plenty of diversion, at least for those who live dull lives, or are biding their time in recliners waiting for injuries to heal. For the rest of us, just the occasional chuckle.

A while back this paper ran an article describing the death of a would-be tree-trimmer. In his 40s, old enough to know better, the guy climbed a tree and prepared to saw off some limbs. Sensibly, he roped himself to a large branch to prevent a fall.

Less sensibly, that was the limb he decided to saw off. It precipitously towed him to Terra Firma, as though trolling for squirrels.

He was just helping a buddy, and "didn't work for a tree-trimming company," we're told. Ja thank?

* * *

Shinzo Abe (ah-bay), henceforth known as Honest Abe, was recently elected Prime Minister of Japan, defeating center-left incumbents. His party advocates strong nationalism (Japanese exclusivism?), talks tough on China, and espouses a pro-business philosophy.

They're known as the Liberal Democratic Party. Go figure. Here, such Liberal Democrats would be known as Republicans.

* * *

While I was clipping a section from the label on a beef broth can, to help buy actual science books for kids in Texas, I belatedly spotted three words in large bold print, standing out against their fine-print background -- "Do not dilute."

OMG, I thought -- what have I done? I had already added a little fluid to it before I poured it into some simmering pasta sauce.

I just finished my 40 hours of community service for tearing the tag off a mattress, and now this?

Always read the dang label before you use the dang contents of the dang package.

* * *

A TV commercial features a huckstress (female huckster) who confidently announces "research suggests that cell health plays an important role throughout our lives."

Really? Someone needed "research" to figure that out? Was it government-funded? And were the results only "suggestive"?

* * *

The media has been obsessed with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. The Roman popes' lineage uses Roman numerals, of course, which is where the Super Bowl got the idea.

Taking the papal early-retirement cop-out option isn't unprecedented. Public acknowledgement of the context is somewhat unusual, though.

Scandals are afoot, apparently. Corruption has been detected at the highest levels of the Church. Of course, corruption has been endemic in Rome and among its puppets for many centuries, an institutional phenomenon.

It was just easier to conceal before U-Book, Face Tube and Wikileaks came along. Popes had mistresses and, um, undocumented offspring. Armies of soldiers, promoters, used-dogma salesmen and proto-mafiosi made countless persons and princes offers they couldn't refuse, most of a clearly secular nature.

The clergy's sexual exploitation of children and parishioners is nothing new either, but in the past decade or so multitudes of victims have come out of the cloister. The officers of the church have been complicit in concealing these offenses against humanity. (If they were offenses against God, he's apparently in no hurry to remonstrate in a forceful and unequivocal manner. Maybe he's just in a forgiving mood.)

The upshot is that some unnamed spokesmen (strangely, no spokeswomen) have suggested that the next pope be selected less to serve as a figurehead with gravitas, and more to act as a promoter and publicist.

That might be a good idea. In fact, I have some suggestions of my own to help move the church forward, perhaps clear up into the 18th century.

1) Lose the bling. People are clad in rags, dying of malaria, eating tree bark while the Pope wears satin, gold, and diamonds. It would enhance his credibility if he made some personal sacrifices like substituting cubic zirconium for the diamonds and rubies, at least on his underwear. And get rid of those red pixie-shoes, for Heaven's sake -- they look totally gay, which is, as we know, a no-no. He can still dress for success, and free up some money to send nourishing granola bars to impoverished Hottentots.

2) Casual Fridays. The church hierarchy has earned a reputation for stodgy aloofness. Ordinary people could better relate to this group if all clergy monsignor and above appeared to be just folks. Provide employees with blessed blue jeans and cool, comfy, loose-fitting smocks with Shroud-of-Turin images front and back, or just text that says "I worked for the Vicar of Christ, and all I got was this lousy smock!"

3) Resume the sale of indulgences. Rich people can buy their way out of trouble; the rest of us should be able to do so too. The fee schedule could be means-based, so that even the poorest sinner can afford to purchase exculpation in advance.

4) Retail sale of Holy Water. Taste- and calorie-free, this crystal-clear beverage can be marketed for its ability to increase energy levels and bring vitality to the soul. The extra income could be used to pay off the huge damage settlements resulting from uniting church and state -- in court. Every molestation victim could also be given a lifetime supply of Holy brand bottled water, as a token of the church's sin-cerest regrets.

Now that a new pope has been elected and smoke signals have been sent to signify the completion of the process (eschewing those damnable social networks), the media can move on.

It's about time to begin coverage of the next presidential election.

Jon Hauxwell, MD, is a retired family physician who grew up in Stockton and now lives outside Hays. hauxwell@ruraltel.net