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Researchers at Kinki University in Nara, Japan, announced last month that they have successfully bred spinach genes into pigs. The scientists called the results the first-ever successful mammal-plant combination and claimed that the meat produced by the pigs would be "more healthy" than normal pork. "But," added Professor Akira Iritani, "the significance of this success is more academic than practical."

Making a killing

Some entrepreneurs have found ways to profit from last September's terrorist attacks. In December, the Days Inn hotel in Hicksville, N.Y. (near JFK airport), agreed to a fine and refunds to settle charges that, in the days immediately after Sept. 11, it billed people stranded by the air-travel shutdown up to $399 a day for rooms that were supposed to go for no more than $199. And, in recent months, New York City police have arrested at least 115 unlicensed vendors near ground zero for selling caps, shirts and other items with counterfeit logos of the NYPD and Fire Department of New York. The fake merchandise has denied proceeds to the police and firefighter foundations that control the trademarks.

Air-bag hazard

A brown bag holding cremated ashes recently crashed through the backyard deck of James and Jane McDonald in Grand Forks, N.D., leaving an 18-inch hole. According to a local environmental health official, the most likely explanation is that someone was attempting to scatter the remains over the countryside from an airplane window but accidentally dropped the whole bag.

Clean sailing

Following a hearing in Pasadena, Calif., a federal appeals court ruled last month that convicted marijuana smuggler Gary H. Marolf (who is serving 10 years in prison) is entitled to $400,000 compensation because drug agents had not given him a required document when they legally confiscated the boat he used for smuggling. Agents were required to give the boat owner formal legal "notice" of the confiscation but gave it to Marolf's co-defendant instead. When it was revealed that Marolf was the sole owner, the agents failed to follow up. The boat brought only $100,000 when it was subsequently sold at auction.

Wrong type

A typing error in November exposed the financial services firm UBS Warburg to losses of up to $100 million. In a huge initial public offering for Japanese company Dentsu, a UBS Warburg trader typed a sell order of 610,000 shares at only 16 yen each, instead of 16 shares at 610,000 yen. Because UBS Warburg was running the IPO, it had to make up the loss to Dentsu by buying back the sold shares on the open market. The erroneous order was canceled minutes later, but so many shares had already traded that UBS Warburg sustained the heavy loss.

Center of distraction

A judge in Hull, Quebec, ordered a stripper-defendant to sit in the very back of the courtroom in her November theft trial. It seems a witness was having trouble testifying because the dancer flirted with him constantly from the defense table. The witness, professional gambler Terry Leblanc, 34, had said the dancer had been his first real girlfriend and the taker of his virginity and that he remained so smitten with her that, in an earlier court appearance, he literally swooned on the stand as she continually winked and air-kissed him.

He who laughs last ...

Nine months ago, the Virginia Supreme Court ordered a new trial for death-row murderer Paul Warner Powell, 23, because the prosecutor had improperly described his crime to the jury in order to legally qualify Powell for the death penalty. Powell (already serving three life terms for rape) then wrote a victory letter to the prosecutor, taunting him for his failure to make the death penalty stick. However, in the course of that letter, Powell allegedly confessed inadvertently to precisely the one detail of the case that the prosecutors needed to file death-penalty charges, namely that he did in fact attempt to sexually molest the victim before killing her. Prosecutors announced Powell's retrial would again be a capital case.

Stretching the truth

Miss France contestant Aurelie Brun, 19 (winner of Miss Loire-Forez), was disqualified when it was revealed she had endured spine-stretching surgery (a 3.8 centimeter increase) to meet the minimum-height requirement. To make matters worse, she had since shrunk back under the 5-foot-7 limit. ... Police, examining remnants, concluded that the pipe bomb that blew up a pickup truck in East Haven, Conn., was constructed out of a 12-inch dildo.

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