Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Tighter lips?," Feb. 18, 2006

High kicks

Fearing attacks by parrots, organizers of a classic car rally in New Zealand did what just about anyone would have done: Hire a local band of karate experts to protect the vintage vehicles. Naturally. Wildlife experts say the local parrots sometimes attack vehicles in their search for shiny objects, and parrots have attacked cars at the show in the past. Organizers said the group of 40 martial arts experts will be tasked to keep the birds from attacking the valuable autos, though it's unclear how. Local wildlife ranger Ray Bellringer told the New Zealand Press Association the karate experts would likely have no effect. The parrots "will fly around and laugh," he said. If the karate masters were serious about deterring the parrots, he said, they'd drop their roundhouse kicks for water guns.

Sleep tight

The bedbugs are biting back in Australia. According to the Institute for Clinical Pathology & Medical Research in Sydney, incidents of bedbug bites in Australia are up 1,000 percent and are now costing the local tourism industry nearly $75 million every year. But it's not just Australia. Worldwide, the population of bedbugs is doubling every year, according to Stephen Doggett, an entomology expert at the Institute. The Queensland Tourism Industry Council held a summit on Feb. 7 to discuss ways to stem the bedbug tide, including tips on knocking out an infestation and how to prevent one.

Gone to the dogs

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If not for a 2005 raid of Colombian drug runners, smugglers might still be using a method of transporting heroin as inventive as it is insidious. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Colombian drug lords were caught using puppies to smuggle illicit drugs on commercial airline flights to the United States. Agents making the raid rescued six sick puppies that had been surgically stuffed with a total of seven pounds of liquid heroin divided into packets. Three of the puppies eventually died, but Colombian police adopted the three that survived. One is being trained to sniff out drugs.

Drunk flying

The flock of birds that slammed into windowpanes in Vienna, Austria, in January weren't suffering from the frightening avian flu, as some experts feared. Scientists who conducted autopsies on the nearly 40 songbirds who mysteriously flew into windowpanes across Vienna discovered the birds were in fact impaired; the birds were drunk. Scientists who studied the songbirds' corpses discovered rotted berries inside the birds-berries that were so old, they had partly fermented into alcohol.

Extreme measures

The Church of England thinks it knows how to reconnect with post-Christian British youth. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently commissioned a task force, New Expressions, "to appeal to everybody from the rapper to the skateboarder," New Expressions leader Steven Croft said. As part of the "extreme sport" ministry, Mr. Croft said the group will create "a unique first that brings mountain biking, BMX, and faith into one."

The telegram, RIP

Some people may be surprised to learn that up until last month, sending a Western Union telegram was still possible. After 161 years, Western Union retired the revolutionary communication tool decades after it had been pushed into obscurity by first the telephone then more recently e-mail and text messaging. In 1844, inventor Samuel Morse sent the first telegram from Washington to Baltimore. And throughout its history, the telegram had been used to announce the beginnings and endings of wars, the births of children and the death of loved ones. At its height in 1929, 20 million missives were sent-only 20,000 were sent last year. The last one was delivered January 27 STOP.

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