WE were intrigued by a recent report...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WE were intrigued by a recent report that Prozac, an anti-depressant drug used widely to treat personality disorders,

causes rats to challenge the authority of "boss" rats.

Scientists working at Rockefeller University in New York tested several groups of rats in a series of experiments and found the drug caused subordinate males to become more assertive although they did not become aggressive.

Apparently, rats usually organize themselves into complex social structures in which one male rat is dominant and keeps the others away from his feeding and water areas. But subordinate rats given Prozac resisted the boss rat, according to the study, which was reported recently in "New Scientist" magazine.

"The drug is said to give people more self-esteem and make them more assertive," said Christina McKittrick, who worked on the study. "The rats, too, seem to have more confidence. They're not trying to take over but they're saying: 'I'm not backing down. I'm not putting up with this crap any more.' "

No word yet on whether the drug has a similar effect on humans.

* * *

PRACTICALLY every journalist has been guilty, at least once in his or her career, of writing a lead that reaches just a bit too far beyond the bounds of common sense and good taste.

We offer, for example, this lead from a basketball-game account that recently appeared in the Mesa (Ariz.) Tribune and was reprinted on the New York Times News Service wire:

"In Oregon, where a new voter-approved law makes it easier for people to kill themselves, the Portland Trail Blazers joined in the spirit of the times.

"The Blazers failed numerous opportunities to put the undermanned Phoenix Suns away Tuesday night at Memorial Coliseum. So the Suns put on a rousing comeback to assist the Blazers to a 96-93 suicide."

We're guessing that the writer might have come up with #F something better if not for the post-game deadline pressure that sports reporters often face. Anyway, that's the excuse the writer should use.

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