Instead of just saying no, Pope John Paul said, "I'll have another." The pontiff decided he'd rather ward off altitude sickness than follow Nancy Reagan's advice. While visiting Bolivia recently he sipped two cups of "mate de coca"—tea made from coca leaves. "It helps," says a monsignor.
Nine months after California State Treasurer Jesse Unruh died, the state purchased a $50,000 life insurance policy on him. Jim Mosman, director of the Department of Personnel Administration, says Unruh's widow is entitled to the money. The policy is part of a program that provides automatic life insurance coverage for managerial-level state employees. At the time of Unruh's death, he hadn't been included in the program. Asked whether the insurer had objected to issuing life insurance to a corpse, Mosman replied, "It is our contention the person met the eligibility requirement."
That's the way the cookie crumbles. Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Midway are finally munching on 402 boxes of Girl Scout cookies that traveled from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Atsugi, Japan, and then back to Texas. Japanese customs officials had blocked the shipment of cookies and assessed a $2,000 duty. The cookies were returned to Texas, but intervention from state legislators finally got them out to sea.
A U.S. Appeals Court admits it is powerless to help a Texas woman who lost $1,100 because she trusted Uncle Sam. Marie Jones wanted to know if she could receive early retirement benefits and later use her former husband's work records to increase her benefits. The Social Security Administration told her that if she accepted benefits based on her own work record, she'd be barred from receiving the larger, divorced-spouse benefits when she reached 65. The information was wrong and cost Ms. Jones $1,100 in early retirement benefits. "This case is an example of how the Government's brain often fails to control the movement of its fingers," the court said.
The landscape police were out in force in Smithville, New Jersey. They issued fines to people who stored trash on the wrong side of their houses, ignored pine needles that fell in their front yards, or, most heinous of all, didn't have enough stones in their driveways. The architectural review committee of the development's community association issued some 140 landscaping citations in one week. Outrage from the guilty prompted the association to rescind all the citations, which one official called "an expression of overzealousness in the extreme."
Mayoral candidate Leon Barth spent the day before the election ripping down posters of himself and urging residents of Roosevelt, New Jersey, to vote for someone else. Despite his efforts, the Princeton University professor beat his opponent, Edward Moser. The write-in campaign for Barth gained steam after the borough council—on which Moser sits—passed an unpopular bond ordinance. "What we had was a taxpayers' revolt," says the defeated Moser. "We weren't thinking about the election; we were thinking about pushing the ordinance through." Barth could have lawfully declined to serve, but he says "that would have been a terrible slap in the face" of voters.
Don't look a gift gazebo in the mouth? A small Pennsylvania company that manufactures gazebos wanted to donate a $10,000 shelter to the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington. But almost three years later, there's still no gazebo. The garden's charter allows donations only of plants and books. The company sought an exemption from the architect of the Capitol, who controls the garden, but he explained that Congress would have to provide special permission. A bill has been introduced but is languishing in committee. "It's been a real civics lesson," says the gazebo company's vice-president.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".