Stories From Around The World That Failed To Make The Headlines, Selected by William Hartston
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The Independent Culture
London: Research by the National Farmers Union has shown that 96 per cent of farmers say their chickens are calmer when they have music to listen to. Radio 1 keeps them most content; they don't like heavy metal or violin music much. One farmer reported that his chickens liked listening to World Cup commentaries until England were knocked out. While a majority of farmers said that music made their birds less aggressive, 16 per cent claimed that it resulted in their laying more eggs.

Hereford: A tribunal reserved its decision in the case of two men who claim they were rejected for jobs as chicken-packers because of their height. Lincoln Dodd, who is 6ft 7in, and Barry Sele, 6ft 2in, are claiming that Sun Valley Foods in Hereford discriminates against men by having a "heightist" policy. The firm claimed that their concern is with the welfare of the staff, and that tall people are more likely to damage their spines doing the job on the production line, than people of average height.

Australia: A court in Canberra has reached an impasse in a murder trial because the defendant is an illiterate deaf mute who knows no sign language. Police charged Roland Ebatarinja, a 20-year-old Aborigine, with the fatal stabbing in 1995 of a man in Alice Springs, but lawyers argued that he could not stand trial unless he could follow the proceedings. All attempts to communicate with him have failed and a magistrate refused to proceed after finding that Ebatarinja did not know the charges against him, could not communicate with defence lawyers and could not follow the proceedings. The High Court has now been asked to rule whether he should be committed to trial.

Mexico: In the first half of 1998 there was a daily average of three rapes, one kidnapping and 112 thefts in Mexico City. Robberies were, however, down by 7 per cent in the year's second quarter, compared with the first quarter.

New York: A man in Brentwood, New York, has been charged with reckless endangerment and assault after a sunbather was hit by a bullet he had fired into the air from a mile away. Christina Delagatta, 48, was sitting in her back yard talking on the phone when she felt a sting in her stomach. She looked down and saw blood; a bullet had buried itself three or four inches into her abdomen. Since her garden was fenced, police reasoned that the bullet had fallen straight downwards. They charged Andres Perez, 21, a day later, after confirming that he had fired several shots into the air.

Puerto Rico: Customs agents announced the arrest of a Colombian on charges of smuggling heroin after finding 1.7kg of the drug inside clothes hangers in his luggage. The baggage X-ray had revealed nothing, but inspectors noticed that the plastic clothes hangers were unusually heavy.

Japan: An unemployed man has been arrested and charged with setting fire to thousands of paper cranes that had been folded to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The motive was unknown.

Cambodia: A monk was expelled from his temple in Phnom Penh after he was caught sneaking out at night to indulge his secret passion of karaoke singing. He also occasionally went dancing. Temple authorities had already been investigating the conduct of Kung Bunchhoeun earlier this month after he stabbed a student in the shoulder with a pair of nail-clippers. The student had complained that the radio to which the monk was singing along was too loud.

New Jersey: Officers raided a stately mansion in Morris Township called Sunnymede, which the County prosecutor's office says was being used as a house of prostitution. Four women and 15 men were arrested, including some, described as "top executives", who had allegedly paid $225 (pounds 150) an hour for "afternoon delight". The men have denied charges. "I was there for a massage, not sex. My shirt was on. My pants were on," said one research and development manager; while George Koury, president of Fluid Systems Inc, was quoted by AP as saying he was going to visit a friend but ended up at the wrong address.

France: When a survey by the BVA group asked women of 25 to 49 to rate the most important qualities in an ideal lover, 48 per cent said that the most important thing was that they were in love with their partner, 47 per cent said he had to be tender and romantic, and 33 per cent wanted a man who could prepare a romantic dinner.