UNPLUGGEDEuropean and U.S. studies indicate that classical musicians may end up with more hearing problems than rock-and-rollers. Thirty percent of rock and pop musicians sustain some form of permanent hearing loss, according to surveys, but the rate for classical orchestra members jumps as high as 52 percent. One reasons, scientists said, is that orchestral music generates sounds that go directly into the musicians' ears, not into loudspeakers pointed at the audience. Other scientists explain that classical performers' hearing is more affected because they play and rehearse more than other musicians.BIRD BRAINSWhen sanitation workers in Uniondale, N.Y., arrived at the home of Roderick Baker, 70, to clean up his garbage-filled yard, he tried to keep them from removing the 20 tons of debris by holding 140 chickens hostage at knife point. After threatening to kill one chicken a minute until the sanitation crew left his property, he killed three of the birds before authorities intervened. "We showed up, and the guy went a little bit psycho, took out a large knife and started cutting off the heads of chickens," said Larry Wallach, special investigator for the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "We told him to stop, then the sergeant came over and arrested him."Japanese police investigating a series of train mishaps identified the culprits as crows. A surveillance camera caught one bird placing an egg-sized rock on the tracks. Authorities said crows are responsible for three cases of stones being placed on tracks. "I cannot tell if the crow was expecting to cause this chaos," bird expert Koichi Karasawa, the author of a book called Why the Crow Is So Smart, said after viewing the police video, explaining, "it looked as if the crow was just playing, enjoying trying to put the stones on the rail."PERILS OF PROSPERITYAt Bangladesh's first national conference of muggers, held in April, the association representing the criminals declared that the city of Dhaka was prosperous enough to support a doubling of its daily muggings, from 60 to 120. The 100 or so muggers who attended the confab acclaimed their leader, Mohammad Rippon, for pulling off a record 21 attacks in just two hours.THANK GOODNESS INDEPENDENCE DAY WASN'T SHOWINGFollowing a weekend of severe thunderstorms and flooding in May, a tornado tore through southwestern Ontario. Niagara Regional Police reported the tornado smashed 2-ton tractor-trailers on Highway 20, flattened homes and barns, and blew away a St. Catharines drive-in theater that was showing the movie Twister.CURSES, FOILED AGAINLos Angeles police arrested Michael Johnson, 38, on suspicion of trying to collect $400 by passing off 3,804 pennies as dimes. He reportedly put the pennies in dime rolls and presented them to a bank teller. But the mass of coin bundles and a wanted poster identifying Johnson as a suspect in two similar incidents, alerted bank officials, who checked the rolls and called police. Without an automatic coin counter, officers spent 5-1/2 hours counting pennies to build their case against Johnson.Police in West Lafayette, Ind., arrested Jeffrey J. Pyrcicoch and Heather M. Green, both 19, for passing checks filled out with purple disappearing ink. Even though five merchants who were victimized found the bogus checks blank when they went to cash them, police had no trouble tracking down the suspects because the checks had Pyrcicoch's name imprinted on them -- in permanent ink.After Philadelphia police received a report that Jeremiah Allen, 29, had kidnapped his ex-girlfriend at gun point and driven her to his apartment, an officer called Allen and asked him to drop by the police station. The suspect not only complied, but also brought the woman with him. And his gun. "You know the guy can't be a rocket scientist," one officer said after Allen was arrested, "if he brings a gun with him to a police station."BREWING UP TROUBLEThe LEP Collider, a 17-mile ring under the Franco-Swiss border where subatomic particles are smashed together at close to the speed of light, was brought to an abrupt halt in June. According to the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) , after scientists spent five days trying to get it started, a team that entered the accelerator found the problem: two empty beer bottles in a vacuum chamber.After Felix Rivera found his neighborhood Pik Nik convenience store closed for the night, the San Antonio, Texas, resident greased up his body with used cooking oil from behind the store and slid in through a roof vent. Even so, he got stuck, with his legs dangling from the store's ceiling. His break-in also set off the store's burglar alarm. Eight fire fighters took an hour to pull him up through the vent. Store manager Joe Castellano, who had been called to the scene, said Rivera "walked up to me and said, 'Sorry, man. All I wanted was a beer.' Because of the alarm, he was pretty deaf after he left."SAFETY IS AS SAFETY DOESThirty-two German tourists on a walking tour in central Norway were stranded for five hours in a deep gorge after their guide fell into a river and died.DRUMMING UP BUSINESSNew York State Police in Buffalo arrested James Isaac Mitchell, 22, on arson charges. Investigators said Mitchell, who is a volunteer firefighter, set fires at two vacant houses, a hunt club and a rural church, then returned with his fire company to fight the blazes.Polish authorities charged a volunteer firefighter with starting 10 fires that caused damage of more than 100,000 zlotys ($37,000) so that he could later help put them out.Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306. Odd-news hounds will enjoy the latest compilation, "Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: True News of the World's Least Competent People," by John J. Kohut and Roland Sweet (Plume/Penguin).