News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*According to an April Associated Press report, the University of Illinois managed to find women to fill fifteen laboratory positions in which the only job is to sniff pig manure. They work three hours per week at $15 an hour attempting to recognize certain chemical markers in the manure so researchers can ascertain which foods are responsible for making pig manure so foul-smelling. The university sought only females because estrogen improves sensitivity to smell.

*The Agence France Presse news service reported that the official government newspaper of Baghdad, the Ai-Thawra, played an April Fools' Day joke on its readers, claiming on page one: "Good news: from today, bananas (two pounds), Pepsi (a case), and chocolate (50 pieces) to be included in rations." Elsewhere in the newspaper, the editors revealed their story to be a hoax, and said the monthly government food ration continues to be small amounts of tinned cheese, flour, rice, sugar, tea, cooking oil, powdered milk, and salt.

Science Fair
*Two researchers from the University of Vienna told a British Psychological Society conference in February that vaginal pheromones appear to block men's ability to distinguish beautiful women from plain ones. After men were given synthetic copulins, they judged plain women more attractive as to face and voice, and the less attractive the women initially, the greater the jump in their ratings. (Birth control pills, however, appear to block the production of copulins.)

Crimes Few People Care About
*Two fifteen-year-old boys, on a break from volunteer duty in a Winston-Salem, North Carolina, courthouse in March as part of a sentence for vandalizing a telephone booth, were captured on surveillance videotape urinating in a coffee pot used by lawyers, according to an Associated Press report. The coffee pot was left on all night, creating a particularly pungent cooked-urine smell the next morning. Said one lawyer who often uses the coffee room, "[The boys] are going to have to get [someone] from out of state to defend them on this one."

Recurring Themes
*In 1997 "News of the Weird" reported that a man on trial for attempted murder in Newmarket, Ontario, was released when the foreman cleared his throat before uttering the word "guilty," causing the judge to interpret the verdict as not guilty. (The defendant turned himself in three days later.) In April 1999 Alan Rashid was sentenced to two years in prison in Cardiff, Wales, when the jury foreman coughed during the "not" portion of "not guilty," causing the judge to believe the verdict was guilty. (A few minutes later, the jury returned to the courtroom to clear up the matter, and the defendant was released.)

Undignified Deaths
*In Bucharest, Hungary, in March, Romanian professional soccer player Mario Bugeanu and his girlfriend accidentally passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning in his car while having sex. And in New York City in March, software salesman Douglas R. Buchholz, age 36, was pushed out a window to his death from the thirteenth floor of his office building during horseplay with a colleague while celebrating a business success.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

 
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