All toppings, no droppings 

Clemson University animal researchers announced in October that they have reduced the odor at some poultry houses in South Carolina by adding garlic to chickens' diet. Said professor Glenn Birrenkott: "It makes the poultry house smell like a pizzeria instead of manure."

Surreal estate

In December, a deer hunter on upscale Nantucket Island, Mass., stumbled across the hatch that leads to the 8-by-8-by-7-foot-deep underground squatter's apartment of Thomas Johnson, 38, which he said he built 10 years ago when he was on the lam from drug charges in Italy. Johnson's apartment has cedar paneling, a Belgian stone floor, walls lined with books, makeshift shower and toilet, queen-size bed, stove, refrigerator and, not surprisingly, according to local authorities, several building-code violations. Johnson, a painter-carpenter by trade, said he shuttles between Nantucket and similar residences in four other states.

Breakdown ahead

Researchers at a large Russian biological and medical center told New Scientist magazine in December that they had begun work on breeding a combination of bacteria that not only will decompose the human waste accumulated on space shuttles but will even decompose cosmonauts' cotton underwear and produce enough methane in the process to help power the spacecraft. One of the space station Mir's 1997 catastrophes was caused by the weight of the capsule carrying dirty laundry.

Ordered chaos

In November, thousands of normally tranquil monks of the Chogye Buddhist order in Seoul, South Korea, began weeks of vicious internal brawling with rocks, clubs and firebombs over who will lead the order. In late December, police finally stormed a downtown temple, but the occupying monks had welded the doors shut, and supporters pelted the cops with firebombs and bottles. Eventually, about 100 monks were arrested, but sporadic fighting continues over the order's $9 million budget and authority to appoint 1,700 monks to various jobs.

Doing thyme

Doing thyme

Vermont social activist George Singleton, 49 and black, with hip-length dreadlocks, was acquitted in October of DUI in Vinita, Okla., where he had been arrested because of the bag of suspicious herbs found in his car. Rather than charge him with mere careless driving, police kept him in jail for 15 days even after two blood tests showed him to be clean and the herb was found by the laboratory to be just rosemary.

Mercy in the first

Graham W. Davis, 34, was indicted in Soldotna, Alaska, in September for murdering his cousin, Gregory M. Wilkison. The grand jury rejected Davis' version of the events: He said that he awoke to find Wilkison on the floor, twitching from a self-inflicted gunshot, and rather than call 911, decided that the humane thing to do was to finish him off.

Time warp

Time warp

Greg Kelly, 31, was found guilty of DUI in Ontario in October based on a Breathalyzer test administered at 2:32 a.m. on April 6, 1997. His argument to the judge: That particular day was daylight savings time changeover, and thus 2:32 a.m. never actually occurred, in that at 2 a.m. all the clocks moved ahead to 3 a.m. Said the judge in response: Correct, but still guilty.

Off balance

Off balance

Timothy Dale Crockett, 34, was arrested in Spartanburg, S.C., in September and charged with holding up the Palmetto Bank. Crockett said in court that he did the job because he had just been charged $600 in overdraft fees because of a mix-up regarding his student loans. Crockett's bank, however, is the First Federal Bank; he admitted that he had really wanted to rob First Federal in retaliation, but that Palmetto was the only one open on the Saturday that he got his urge.

Coffin up the cash

In November, a federal judge tossed out a Georgia law prohibiting casket sales by anyone other than a funeral home, calling the law a blatant restraint of trade. Among the government's arguments to the judge to retain the law was that having independent casket dealers in a price war would "promote the criminal element" in that murder would be encouraged by the easy availability of caskets.

Speaking of News Of The Weird

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