THE National Rifle Association, the champion of America's right-to-bear-arms, huntin' and fishin' fraternity, has just reloaded its lobbying barrels with some unique ammunition. Loved by all arms-carrying folk, and loathed by liberals who blame the constitution for allowing guns to overrun American society, the NRA is a controversial organisation, and a powerful one at that. It spends millions each year funding the campaigns of politicians, such as presidential hopeful Bob Dole, who are sympathetic to its cause. Without the NRA's arm-twisting style, the current push by Republicans to overturn President Clinton's ban on semi-automatic weapons would not exist. Now, for the first time in its 125-year history, the NRA and its membership of over three million is being headed by a woman - and a grandmother at that. Following the death last week of previous president Thomas Washington, 56-year-old Marion Hammer is now in charge. No matter how many homicides occur on the bloodied streets of America, the association does not bow from its sacred mission of defending the Second Amendment right to bear arms, no matter how anachronistic its critics claim it to be. The NRA says that Mrs Hammer, an avid hunter from Florida, is living proof of why the right to bear arms is vital. She says she was once followed into a garage by four youths who threatened to rape and kill her - until she pulled out her gun and caused them to flee. A long-term advocate of gun ownership, she once headed the United Sportsmen of Florida and helped push through a right-to-carry law which has now spread to Virginia and other states. She says more people need to know what the NRA stands for, and slams the 'emotional hysterics that are thrown at us every time we turn around'. However, hysterics do not account for the fact that over 200 million guns are in circulation in the United States, a vast quantity in the hands of criminals. Even legal guns end up being used in some tragic incidents. One Mrs Hammer might have to do some heavy public relations work on what happened the same day she was named new NRA president. In a Houston suburb, a man who thought there was a burglar in his house accidentally shot his 16-year-old daughter dead when he heard noises in her room and went to investigate. She had merely been skipping school. The killing was by no means unusual: an estimated 500 children and teenagers die each year in America in firearm accidents. In another recent case, a 10-year-old boy shot his younger sister dead because he was left to baby-sit for her, and she refused to go to bed. When the NRA was asked to comment on the Houston incident, it did what it normally does in such circumstances - it declined. MEN are not safe anywhere these days. Even flirting with a casual visitor to the office brings all kinds of danger. We are not talking sexual harassment and the legal sharks waiting to strike offenders. What is at issue is a remarkable growth in companies paid to do nothing but check out whether somebody's partner is open to cheating on them. Once these relatively new agencies get a call from a concerned client they dispatch a good-looking decoy - male or female, depending on the target - to hang around and engage said target in conversation. They often tape the chat, asking leading questions such as 'are you married?' or 'are you happy with your girlfriend/boyfriend?' After the decoy has done the flirting and established contact, they then leave their pager number, suggesting a future date. Whether the victim responds to that is the crucial question. Frank Pugliese, whose Denver firm MateCheck charges US$125 (about HK$965) for its services, says that although many like to flirt, they shy away from making the call which might lead to eventual infidelity. Even so, 80 per cent of male targets do make the call, and 60 per cent of women take the plunge, he said. Mr Pugliese said men are much easier to entrap than the ladies. 'With a woman, you need a knight in shining armour - someone who's going to appeal to her dreams. With a man, it's enough if she's halfway good-looking, or even if she's not.' THAT cheesy TV show Baywatch, where blonde bombshell lifeguards keep their flotation devices inside their swimsuits, has been ridiculed for casting only female leads that resemble Barbie dolls. Proof that life mirrors art has come with the revelation that Mattel, which makes the plastic bimbos, has brought out a Baywatch Barbie for the holiday season. Complete with beach clothes and Pamela Anderson figure, the latest Barbie is a huge hit, sending Mattel sales, and its stock price, soaring. Barbie has certainly come a long way since the home-loving model of family values first back-combed her hair in 1959. Wonder if Mattel breaks the sales figures down into how many of the dolls are being snapped up by 17-year-old boys.