Friday, March 30, 2007

Let's Talk To The Animals

Your humble staffers at Lightning Round headquarters usually steer as clear as we can from animal stories. We have regular shots to protect us from Skiing Squirrel Virus, that irresistible urge to lump in a cuddly tidbit from the kingdom of snouts and fur. But this week, several stories zinged down our wire that go beyond back page grinners, for they reveal much about ourselves if you read between the paws.

FRANKENMUTTON. First they cloned a sheep. Now scientists have come up with a sheep that's 15 percent human. The hope is that they'll soon grow organs human enough to be used for transplants, alleviating a shortage.

From the London Daily Mail:
Animal rights activists fear that if the cells get mixed together, they could end up with cellular fusion, creating a hybrid which would have the features and characteristics of both man and sheep.
We already have such a species. They're called Scientologists.

DEATH IN BLACK AND WHITE. The Berlin Zoo is denying allegations its beloved panda Yan Yan died because of crowds and stress related to her celebrity neighbor, polar bear cub "Cuddly Knut."

Knut, you may recall, was abandoned by his mother despite his infectious cuteness. But he didn't become a superstar until an animal activist said he was better off dead than being raised by humans -- to which millions said, "Oh yeah?"

Apparently Yan Yan thought she was the one deserving of mortality with the overflow visitors spilling her way.

From Reuters:
"Lots of people gave up on seeing Knut because of the long queues, so they went to see Yan Yan instead. She seemed intimidated and anxious," wrote the paper [Bild], suggesting Yan Yan could have had a heart attack.
The final chapter in Yan Yan's life ends with a cipherous tragicness, according to a zoo spokesman.
"Our keepers were stunned. The sad thing is that because of the excitement around Knut, she died alone and no one immediately noticed that she had passed away."
A necropsy -- that's an animal version of an autopsy -- is planned.

RUFFLING FEATHERS. An animal shelter in Seattle has found new homes for 110 parakeets rescued from a one-bedroom apartment. Their owner had been collecting them for five years, according to police.

From the AP:
The owner told the officers he previously tried to give the small birds to another shelter, but said he had been told only five would be kept and the rest would be euthanized.
We sense echoes of Monty Python... "These parakeets are no more! They have ceased to be! If ye hadn'ta gassed them they would be pushin' up the daisies!"

By the way, the bird-loving apartment dweller won't face charges because he cooperated with authorities. Given the alternative, can you really blame him for creating his own sanctuary?

DOGGONE AMAZING. Debbie Parkhurst of Calvert, Maryland says she owes her life to her golden retriever Toby, who knocked her over and jumped up and down on her chest when she was choking on an apple.

From the AP:
That's when the apple dislodged and Toby started licking her face to keep her from passing out, she said.

"I literally have pawprint-shaped bruises on my chest. I'm still a little hoarse, but otherwise, I'm OK," Parkhurst said.
I'd like to see a cat do that.

BURNING LOVE. We turn from animals now to animalistic behavior. A housewife in Brazil faces a 19-year prison sentence for killing her husband, chopping him up into more than 100 pieces, and frying him. The remains of Jose Raimundo Soares dos Santos turned up in plastic bags beneath a staircase in his home.

From the AP:
[A police spokesman] said the killing was either part of a black magic ritual or an attempt by the wife to collect life insurance worth about $34,000.
Only in Brazil, you may think. Well, no. Ask people living in Houston's Red Oak apartments about that strange smell coming from the unit of Timothy Wayne Shepherd. He had a hot girlfriend. Police say he was cooking her on his balcony grills.

From the AP:
A leasing agent at the apartment complex also noticed the thick dark smoke and the intense flames and asked Shepherd what he was doing, Evans said. Another neighbor, 18-year-old James Hebert, told The Houston Chronicle that he often cooked out with Shepherd, and even left his grill at Shepherd's apartment. When he wasn't invited over, he asked his neighbor what was going on. Shepherd replied that he was cooking for a wedding, the newspaper said.
No mention of fava beans or a nice chianti. Supp, supp, supp.

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