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Last month researchers from Duke University and the University of Texas announced that they've identified an enzyme--calmodulin-dependent protein kinase--that can mimic the effects of exercise on muscles (in mice, anyway). Team leader R. Sanders Williams said that humans might eventually be able to build muscles by taking the enzyme in pill form.

According to an analysis published last month in the New York Times, Verizon Communications executives, faced with a $1.4 billion loss in 2001 that would have denied them their annual performance bonuses, created a $389 million profit by valuing the company's pension fund income at $1.8 billion, though in reality the fund was "swimming in red ink." Securities regulations apparently permit such quixotic valuations as long as they're explained to shareholders (which the executives did in a footnote to their annual report).

Stiff Competition

In March a widower filed suit against Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, alleging that its mortuary science program used bodies from a local funeral home for embalming practice without permission of the deceased persons' families....And in February an internal audit revealed that since 1950 Greenlane Hospital, the premier heart-research facility in New Zealand, had taken the hearts from at least 1,350 dead fetuses and infants without consulting the families.

Can't Possibly Be True

In March candidates for judicial appointments gathered in Seoul to take the annual South Korean justice ministry test, administered in a three-hour session. To prevent cheating, rest room breaks were not permitted, but the ministry provided plastic bags for men and skirtlike covers with plastic pots for women, to be used at the back of the exam room.

Among those accepted or being considered for inclusion in the Guinness World Records are Wang Chuntai of Yaan, Sichuan, China, who pulled a sedan 47 feet with cables attached to his eyelids; Monte Pierce, who propelled a coin more than ten feet by using his earlobe like a rubber band; and B.D. Tyagi of Bhopal, India, whose ear hair is four inches long.

People Different From Us

In March, Derrick A. Cobb of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, was charged with tricking teenage girls into removing their socks so he could run off with them....And a month later David William Christensen of Denver was charged with harassing three women by leaving them Keds shoes with sexually explicit messages written on them.

Love Conquers All

In January, 55-year-old Juanita Konold-McIntosh testified on behalf of her husband of 15 years, Eduardo G. McIntosh, who was being tried for fraud in Boston. Konold-McIntosh had just learned that her husband was not an air force general, that he had another wife, that he'd been lying when he said that secret intelligence missions kept him out of the house six nights a week, that he'd moved thousands of dollars in and out of her bank account to care for his family and pursue other scams, and that he'd been imprisoned for four months in 1994. On the stand Konold-McIntosh declared that she was still devoted to him and hoped they could turn their lives around together.

Our Civilization in Decline

In January a state legislative committee in Victoria, Australia, recommended that children as young as seven who habitually sniff glue be placed in special homes where they could be tutored on less lethal sniffing practices....Last month the British high-end apparel shop Argos began selling padded bras and G-string underwear for girls as young as nine....Also last month the Associated Press reported that more than 100 physicians currently working at federal facilities such as Veterans Administration hospitals have been convicted of crimes or disciplined by state medical boards, including one woman who was convicted in Switzerland of aiding a terrorist organization.

In the Last Month

In Nottingham, England, the firm Drinks Merchants announced that the government had finally issued it a permit to import a vodka from the Czech Republic that contains cannabis seeds....In Ottawa, Ontario, a judge ordered a man to tear down his newly built home because it was 14 feet too close to a park boundary, a fact overlooked by the owner's attorney....In De Land, Florida, a psychiatrist was acquitted of sex abuse after speculating that the victim acquired a sample of his DNA by breaking into his house and stealing his dirty underwear....And a fan participating in an on-line auction bid $600 for a piece of bubble gum briefly chewed by Arizona Diamondbacks star Luis Gonzalez.

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

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