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A recount in a parliamentary election in November in Murcia province, Spain, saw the Socialist Workers Party candidate win over the communist United Left candidate by 50,412 to 50,411. The victory gave the Socialist Workers a majority in parliament, 176 to 174.

Science Fair

Officials at the Stepan Company in New Jersey, which manufactures a cocaine-derived anesthetic ointment used in surgery, complained recently about the low quality of cocaine they receive from Peru and Bolivia. One said it is "difficult to buy good coca leaf down there" because the best stuff is diverted for illegal trade.

Stanford University researchers recently ended a long-standing debate among owl specialists as to which sense owls most rely on to detect food at night. In a September journal article determining sight to be most important, they reported fitting owls with eyeglasses.

Skin-care expert Constance Schrader, quoted in the U.S. Postal Service Guide to U.S. Stamps, says people can temporarily banish skin wrinkles by pulling the skin over a wrinkle taut, then licking a stamp, applying it to the wrinkle, and pulling it off, which produces a "healing rush of blood" to the affected area.

Researchers studying solar radiation in eight major U.S. cities recently found no significant increase despite fears about ozone-layer depletion. According to Dr. Joseph Scotto of the National Institutes of Health, the likely reason is that increased radiation is being blocked by increased smog.

After a three-year study, the Pig Research Council announced in Canberra earlier this year that slapping pigs raises their blood pressure and reduces their fertility.

The Futurist magazine reports that by the year 2000, artificial replacement parts will have been devised for every major human organ except the brain and the central nervous system. Already humans receive nearly four million artificial body parts each year.

Georgia Tech researchers recently offered volunteers $15 each to tumble down a flight of stairs for videotapes about how a body falls. Research sponsors included advocates of energy-absorbing construction materials.

Weird Enthusiasms

London's 111-year-old Saville Club announced recently that it would experiment with a "new custom" of permitting conversation at breakfast. Responded historian Lord Dacre, "Good God! I shall resign at once."

According to a Wall Street Journal story on the MTV show Remote Control, one contestant impressed the producers by snorting a piece of string up his nose, coughing one end of it out of his mouth, grabbing both ends, and pulling it back and forth.

To settle a lawsuit involving a man who died during a construction accident in Houston, his relatives agreed to forgo their claim on $50,000 from one of the defendants, Derr Construction Company, if Derr's lawyer (the lawyer most disliked by the relatives) would allow them each to punch him in the face.

Hu Changfu, 81, was cited in a New China News Agency story in August for his hobby of killing an estimated 4,000 flies a day in Beijing. The Neighborhood Sanitary Committee, which buys the flies by the pound, pays him $1,000 per year. During the May student protests, Hu collected 5.5 pounds of flies from the garbage and human waste around Tiananmen Square.

Grown-ups

Indian authorities in New Delhi claimed in October to have broken up a ring that smuggled boys as young as five to Persian Gulf countries to be strapped on the backs of camels during races so that their screams would excite the camels to run faster.

Officials at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Ireland, disciplined lecturer Andrew Waterman in October for punching Professor Brian Manning. Waterman claimed Manning started it by punching Waterman four times for claiming that Moll Flanders was "boring" and inferior to Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews.

In an editorial praising the contribution of the 1960s counterculture, the Newark Star-Ledger referred to Abbie Hoffman's most notable book as "Revolution for the Heck of It."

Arrest warrants were served in August on the Reverend Michael Meade and two friends in Southington, Connecticut, after five adolescent girls were baptized in the friends' home without parental permission. The friends' daughter had invited the girls to a party to "eat pizza and talk about God" but had not mentioned baptism.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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