Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Northern light," Sept. 20, 2008

Air assault

Dumfries, Scotland, is going to the birds-and finally the town is prepared to do something about it. With seagulls' increasingly aggressive behavior leaving the city's residents on edge for the next bird attack, local authorities created a task force to destroy bird nests and drive the pests from Dumfries. According to The Scotsman, the birds are even "divebombing children," prompting harsh rhetoric from Scottish Environment Minister Michael Russell: "Seagulls are a menace to Scottish towns and cities," he told The Scotsman.

AARP vs. the aged?

Of all the places 63-year-old Bonita Brady figured she might face what she calls "age discrimination," AARP was perhaps the last place she expected it. Even so, the Lansing, Mich., resident filed a lawsuit in August against the advocacy group saying that despite excellent job reviews, she was passed over for a series of jobs with the nonprofit group because of her age. She is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.

Going green

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Three polar bears at the Higashiyama Zoo in central Japan are perfectly healthy, but they don't look it. The bears, normally white, have turned green because of excessive algae growth in the bear pond. Zoo officials say the bears should lose their green tint by November.

Building bust

All across Savage, Minn., elementary-school students were crammed into classrooms while across town the just-completed $16.8-million elementary school sat empty at the direction of the local school board. Voters in the Lake-Savage district who had voted to build the school voted down a proposal to hire new teachers and pay for operating expenses for the upcoming school year by accepting a property tax increase. Instead, the school board says it will follow through on a promise to mothball the school until next year.

Giant chaser

Undeterred by the size of the intruder-and his menacing weapon-Elk Grove, Calif., convenience store owner Amy Anand wasn't about to let a masked gunman rifle through her till. Despite training her employees to simply open the cash register and hand over cash to robbers, Anand had another plan. When the suspect-6-foot-5, 215-pound James Benefield, according to police-briefly looked away, Anand shoved the barrel of his shotgun toward the ceiling from behind the counter. In his reaction, police say Benefield accidentally broke the gun on the counter. As the smaller Anand made her way around the corner to confront him, police say Benefield bludgeoned Anand before he was eventually chased away by the woman. Anand suffered bruises but lost no money in the exchange.

No horsing around

Say goodbye to Peter Rabbit. Despite a lobbying effort that crashed the Hickman, Neb., city government email server three times, the brown Morgan-quarter horse crossbreed owned by 76-year-old Harley Scott will be put out to a pasture far away from the Nebraska pasture where the horse was born in 1976 and has lived its 32 years since. A last-ditch effort to save Peter Rabbit failed Aug. 26 when the city council failed to ratify a horse exemption to the city's livestock ban. In 2006, Hickman annexed Scott's pasture, bringing with it a ban on all livestock. And with a Sept. 15 deadline approaching to be rid of the animal, horse lovers from around the country began phoning and emailing city leaders asking for relief to no avail. After the deadline, Scott could be penalized up to $100 a day for violating the ordinance.

Killer carcasses

Donnie Halcombe of Allensville, Ky., may have thought he was simply going after coyotes, but his ploy to thin out the local coyote population landed him a $50,000 fine and six months of home confinement. In court, Halcombe admitted to poisoning deer carcasses near his Kentucky home with pesticides in order to kill coyotes. But according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Halcombe's poisoned carcasses also cut down dogs, opossums, hawks, owls, and vultures. Halcombe was sentenced by a federal judge in August after pleading guilty last April to breaking federal law including the National Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Ashes to diamonds

Most people treasure family members, but a Swiss company is perhaps helping people go a little too far. For about $7,500, Algordanza of Chur, Switzerland, will take the ashes of a dead relative and turn them into a synthetic diamond. The company's chairman, Veit Brimer, told the Reuters news service that, "astonishingly," many of his customers are Christians: "They say: 'Why should I say goodbye? I'll see my husband in 15 years in heaven anyway.'" The technology, which involves high pressure and temperatures on carbon, is reportedly improving, and other companies are getting into the business. U.S.-based LifeGem offers to turn hair, including that of dead pets, into diamonds.

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