NewsQuirks 508

First-Amendment FolliesAfter Sam Claiborn, editor of the student newspaper at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., wrote an editorial criticizing football's culture of violence, a member of the school's football team took offense and beat him up.The Washington Times canceled first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's weekly column, "Talking It Over," after she refused editor Wesley Pruden's request to spice it up by defending her husband during his impeachment woes and attacking conservatives. "We dropped it for the same reason that a lot of papers never picked it up," Pruden told U.S. News & World Report. "It just doesn't say very much."The Honeymoon Is OverLinda Stewart, 39, told police in Columbia, Tenn., that she burned her house down to teach her husband of two months the dangers of smoking in bed. "According to her, he had fallen asleep the night before and left a cigarette burning, and it burned a small area on the bed," Detective Mickey Jones said. "So she said she was going to show him what could happen if she didn't catch it." Tim Stewart was not home when the fire started and returned to find the house gutted.Giant StepsAfter scientists from Edinburgh and Leeds universities surveyed 100,000 trees in the Amazon rain forest, they concluded that the trees are growing faster and bigger as a result of soaking up greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.Researchers announced last November that after transplanting ovarian tissue from African elephants into laboratory mice, several of the mice developed egg-producing follicles -- and one contained a mature egg. The scientists, headed by Purdue University researcher John Critser, did not try to impregnate an elephant because they didn't believe the egg was healthy enough to produce a successful pregnancy. "It's a very important step," said Randall Prather, a professor of animal science at the University of Missouri at Columbia, "but it's clearly going to be a long time before anyone is going to make an elephant out of this."Nevertheless, Thai embryologists at Mahidol University in Bangkok said a month later they had received permission from King Bhomibol to try to clone a prized white elephant ridden by King Rama III in the 19th century, using fragments preserved in alcohol.Shadow of His Former SelfCanadians awoke on Groundhog Day to learn that Wiarton Willy, their version of Punxsutawney Phil, had died. The next day, Canadian papers published a photograph of a dead groundhog, identified as Willy, in a small coffin clutching a carrot. After the public viewing, Wiarton Mayor Al Given admitted that the corpse was not Willy. Groundhog Day organizer Bill Walker explained that when a handler pulled Willy from hibernation for his annual prognostication, the body was badly decomposed, indicating he had been dead for weeks, and was "not presentable for public viewing." The stand-in corpse was a previous Willy, who had been stuffed years before.Daughter of the YearBenita Pearce, 33, of Truro, England, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of her 62-year-old mother, admitting that she left the woman lying on the floor of their home for a week, even vacuuming around her. The daughter testified that her mother suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and often collapsed and remained on the floor for several days. Isabella Pearce died two days after a doctor visited the home and found her lying propped against a doorway.Spelling CountsWang Xinzhang, a resident of China's Zhejiang province, sued the Red Flag Publishing Co. for violating his consumer rights after finding 984 typographical errors in the 883-page picture book "Five Thousand Years of China."Lee Williams, 23, sued a tattoo parlor in Roseville, Mich., for misspelling the word "villain." Williams, who didn't notice the word "villian" on his right forearm until a friend made fun of him, needed plastic surgery to cover up the mistake and, according to his lawyer, Paul Clark, was left with a "scar as long as his forearm."Oops!When the Hampton, Va., City Council passed a law banning people from shining laser pointers at others, the measure was inadvertently given the same statute number as a law banning public urination, eliminating the existing measure. Lawmakers waited a month before passing a new ban on public urination.Animal HouseChicago police arrested a man for endangering the life of his four children by turning his home into a chicken coop. The city's animal control unit confiscated 93 birds, including chickens, roosters, hens, pheasant and quail.High StrungAn anti-drinking group in Finland reported that teen-age girls there have been getting drunk by inserting tampons dipped in vodka, hoping the alcohol will be absorbed into the bloodstream. Noting the girls believe the method gets them drunk without their parents being able to smell alcohol on their breath, Tapio Jaakkola, executive director of the Irti Huumeista drug and alcohol center, commented, "I believe tampons are supposed to keep things in and not let them seep out."Strange RitualsShawn Padden, 24, was convicted of murdering his friend Greggory Meissner, 18, while the two were practicing hangings. Prosecutors in St. Cloud, Minn., described Padden as a man obsessed by hangings who practiced hanging with Meissner several times before. They said in this particular instance he pulled the chair away from under Meissner before the victim was ready, then watched him dangle and die.Stratton Peay, 22, was convicted of shooting one teen-ager to death and wounding another after the two got caught between a crossfire when Peay and Wilbert "Bay" Shepard greeted each other, as they customarily did, with gunfire. "Me and this dude, Bay, from Wyalusing Avenue, we got this thing. Every time we see each other, we shoot at each other," Peay said, explaining that this time while they were firing, "the young boys just got in the way." Despite Peay's contention that the incident "was just an accident," Philadelphia prosecutor Gail Fairman said the law does not entitle him to "a bonus for hitting the wrong guy while shooting at someone else."Gluttons for PunishmentThousands of Romanians spent Christmas in hospital emergency rooms after stuffing themselves with pork, pickled cabbage and prune alcohol as part of their national tradition of overindulgence. The Bucharest newspaper Libertatea reported that some 3,500 people called ambulances over the Christmas weekend and thousands more were treated elsewhere for ulcers and gastritis caused by overeating.CORRECTION: Three weeks ago, this column contained an item about a woman spreading contraceptive jelly on toast. The item was totally false.Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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