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Beavers suspected in DC gnawing attacks

By John Breneman

Rangers for the U.S. Park reported a significant breakthrough this week in their probe of the destruction of two cherry trees in Washington D.C. They believe the unlawful tree-felling to be the work of a beaver.

Criminal psychologists quickly developed a profile of the suspect: single brown male, approximately 2' 10" tall from head to rump, with penetrating brown eyes and a powerful jaw fringed with whiskers. He is thought to possess a wide flat tail and a blatant disregard for humans' appreciation of the beautiful cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin in Washington.

As the drama unfolded in the shadow of the Washington Monument this week, Park Rangers received a mysterious phone tip. A caller identifying himself as a member of the radical anti-violence group BARK (Beavers Against Random Killing) claimed responsibility for the unprovoked attack on the cherry trees.

The caller -- speaking in a lisping, computer-enhanced voice -- warned that more trees would be felled unless the Clinton administration imposed immediate federal restrictions against all kinds of animal traps, even the so-called "humane" ones.

FBI officials said their dossier on BARK is sketchy, with the only intelligence coming from an undercover agent who has infiltrated the rodent underground.

The agent reported that BARK has been employing "botanical terrorism" to protest everything from the NATO bombing in Yugoslavia to the corporate use of innocent laboratory weasels to test hair-care products and breakfast cereals.

Investigators believe the beavers are aware that cherry trees enjoy an almost mythical status in the nation's capital, due in part to an American folk tale in which a young George Washington chops one down and then -- wracked with guilt -- confesses his act with the immortal (if no longer politically relevant) words, "I cannot tell a lie..."

Tourists reportedly have been saddened by the demise of the cherry tree, which one biologist described as "a national treasure." And the beavers appear to have timed their strikes to come at the height of cherry blossom season, perhaps to attract high-profile media attention to their cause.

President Clinton staged an emergency press conference next to a gnawed-off stump this morning and -- biting his lower lip to underscore the severity of the situation -- appealed to the beavers to voluntarily end their "willful and treasonous" cherry tree campaign.


Groundhog predicts nuclear winter

By John Breneman

Punxsutawney Phil, the famed Pennsylvania groundhog who in popular lore is credited with being able to predict the coming of spring, popped out today and predicted the onset of an apocalyptic nuclear winter. The animal then scurried back into its heavily fortified underground bunker.

President Bush responded by pledging to smoke the animal out of its burrow, if necessary summoning assistance from noted groundhog control expert Bill Murray.

But with all the commotion over Groundhog Day, the liberal, pro-groundhog news media has once again neglected other equally deserving members of the animal kingdom and their ability to forecast everything from optimum agricultural conditions to fluctuations in the stock market.

For example: We all know that, in most cultures, if the livestock is acting jittery it means that a devastating earthquake or tornado is coming soon. But few humans are aware that people in some parts of South America look to the agile spider monkey to help them determine when the rainy season will come.

If the spider monkey is seen hanging by its tail from a tree limb while munching a fistful of berries, the rainy season will come at the normal time. However, if the monkey is seen reading a copy of "Curious George Defoliates a Rain Forest" and chain-smoking a pack of Marlboro 100s, it is taken to mean that the rainy season will be delayed by 17 days.

In Portsmouth, N.H., city officials have been known to use the ordinary household canine to influence civic policy. If a dog is seen "doing its business" near the swingset in a park frequented by children, this invariably means six more months of City Council debate on whether stringent leash laws or designated dog parks are needed.

And in many coastal communities, the great white shark has long been used to predict whether the coming tourist season will be economically bountiful or lean. If a shark's fin is spotted in the shallow water near the beach, it is believed that the tourist season will either be slow or marred by gruesome tragedy.

History confirms that utilizing animals in this fashion is by no means a recent phenomenon. As far back as 1807, Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have entrusted a praying mantis named "Admiral Green" to advise him on when to launch military strikes.
Insects like the common housefly have demonstrated an uncanny knack for predicting the unexpected arrival of one's mother-in-law, and the cuddly koala has been known to give profitable insider tips to stock brokers dabbling in the volatile eucalyptus market.

In some segments of the scientific community, it is believed that if a single-call protozoan life form being examined under an electron microscope sees its shadow and begins to undergo meiotic division of its nuclei, then there will be six more weeks of accelerated binary fission.

Millions of these "Punxsutawney Paramecium" can be found in a single drop of pond water. Ah, the wonders of nature. And we haven't even mentioned the amazing powers of the Shetland pony, the pygmy sperm whale or the mud dauber wasp.

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