News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In November, to improve lagging sales, the Liko-L tourism company in Kiev, Ukraine, announced a new attraction: a daylong visit to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which has been closed to the public since the catastrophic accident there in 1986. Liko-L said the government, in need of tax revenue, had given the plant special permission for the tours, claiming the radiation count is low and "not dangerous."

*The journal Animal Reproduction Science reported in October that Purdue University researchers had grown a microscopic elephant egg inside a specially bred mouse and that the team, after a little more tinkering, could breed such eggs for pregnancy. The primary use of the technique, they said, would be to breed endangered species eggs inside nonendangered animals.

Least Competent Teachers
*In November several teachers at Lindsay Thurber High School in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, reacted to a bomb-threat note found in a classroom by sending students out to search lockers in a quest to find the bomb. One teacher allegedly offered a prize to the person who found it. And in November at William S. Hart High School near Los Angeles, science teacher Thomas Magee led students in making a tennis-ball-firing cannon propelled by methanol; however, something went wrong and the resulting explosion left two students severely burned. A school official said it was a "common" physics experiment, but a retired college chemistry professor quoted in the Los Angeles Times called it "strange."

There's Big Money in Failure
*In November Frank Biondi Jr., fired as chief executive of Universal Studios, received a severance package worth $30 million on top of the $15 million severance pay he received in 1995 when he was fired as chief executive of Viacom. Also in November former BankAmerica chief executive David Coulter, age 51, was dismissed by new owner NationsBank and began drawing a pension of $5 million per year for the rest of his life. Months before buying BankAmerica, NationsBank bought Barnett Banks of Florida, whose chief executive, Charlie Rice, received a severance package of $150 million.

Nauseating Newspapers
*In November a team of doctors from the main Russian health inspection agency announced upcoming crackdowns on newspapers and publishers, not because of the stress of that country's relentlessly bad news, but because of the quality of paper (thin and porous pages could give readers headaches) and ink (which gets on fingers and might contaminate food). The agency said it planned to issue "certificates of hygiene" to publishers who comply with the law.

Get 'Em When They're Alert
*The 1300-student Lourdes College, near Toledo, Ohio, announced in December that it would offer two courses for the spring term (in chemistry and psychology) that meet once a week from midnight to 2:30 a.m.

-- By Chuck Shepherd


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