Odds & Ends
By Devin D. O'Leary
AUGUST 17, 1998:
Dateline: Germany--A lobby group for the unemployed in
Bonn, Germany, has announced they will be pressing their demands
for more paid vacation time for unemployed workers. The German
government currently grants three weeks paid holiday each year
for citizens without jobs--half as much vacation time as those
with jobs. Apparently that isn't enough. The lobby group is demanding
a full six weeks holiday for the unemployed. Apparently, not working
in Germany is hard work.
Dateline: California--A newly installed metal detector
inside Redwood City's Hall of Justice has nabbed its first piece
of dangerous contraband--a bread maker. The $917,000 system helps
officials intercept anything entering the courts that could be
considered a weapon. The bread maker was seized from an unidentified
gentleman under the building's new zero-tolerance policy. When
asked what threat a bread maker posed, authorities pointed out
that it had wires and a timer. "He doesn't need to be walking
around with a bread maker anyway," added Deputy Carole deGery.
Dateline: Nebraska--An Omaha, Neb., teen is accused of
using his dog to mug another boy of a Super Nintendo video game.
Patrick Swolley, 14, was approached by a boy of about 16 and a
large black-and-white dog as he walked to his mother's house.
The older boy told Swolley, "Give me your game, or my dog
will bite you." Swolley refused, and the dog bit him on the
arm. The interspecies muggers grabbed the game and fled. If the
dog and his larcenous owner are not located, Swolley may have
to get a rabies shot.
Dateline: Houston--Prompted by the unrelenting 100-plus-degree
heatwave plaguing his hometown, city councilman Jay Roach has
drafted the "Houston Heat Relief Act." The new ordinance
encourages the city to adopt a dress code barring employers from
forcing workers to wear neckties or pantyhose for the rest of
summer. "An employer who fails to follow this resolution
shall be publicly humiliated by any means necessary," the
Dateline: Arizona--Mad scientist alert! Writing in the
Journal of Biological Chemistry, an international team
of researchers has announced the startling claim that aspirin
can help ease pain and suffering in plants as well as it does
in humans. Researchers in the past have found that plants do register
"pain" and can release chemical signals to alert other
plants in the area. An acacia tree, for example, sends out a chemical
signal to alert other trees when a browsing animal is nearby.
The neighbors respond by producing a chemical in their leaves
that tastes bitter. Ralph Backhaus and Zhiqiang Pan of Arizona
State University and colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture
and the Institute de Biologie Moleculaire des Plantes in Strasbourg,
France, all collaborated on the study, which sheds new light on
the so-called "pain" mechanism that plants possess.
According to the scientists' research, aspirin blocks the production
of jasmonic acid, a hormone that is produced when plants are in
distress. The scientists have yet to propose a practical use for
Dateline: Wisconsin--Meanwhile, mad scientists in the northern
states have proved that rats that have listened to Mozart sonatas
since birth learn faster than other rats. Francis Rauscher and
colleagues at the University of Wisconsin announced in the journal
Neurological Research that rats exposed to the work of
Mozart completed mazes more rapidly and with fewer errors than
rats raised on other sounds, including compositions by minimalist
composer Philip Glass.
--compiled by Devin D. O'Leary