High and mighty
Some books in a world famous Oxford University library are now out of reach without moving an inch. That's because safety officials at the university have decided that using stepladders to reach rare books and manuscripts on the top shelf in Duke Humphrey's reading room at the Bodleian Library presents a serious safety hazard. Library administrator Laurence Benson said he's perplexed by the action. And he says the library isn't about to move the collection: "The library would prefer to keep the books in their original historic location-where they have been safely consulted for 400 years prior to the instructions from the health and safety office."
Betrayed by bird droppings on his shoes and socks, a Vietnamese man failed to make it through customs at Los Angeles International Airport with more than $5,000 worth of tiny exotic birds strapped to his socks. Customs officers arrested Sony Dong in March when they grew suspicious of his excrement-laced socks and odd leggings. When authorities began undressing the man, they discovered more than a dozen red-whiskered bulbuls, magpie robins, shama thrushes, and others specimens-each with a street value exceeding $400 in the United States.
That dog gone wind
How many guesses would Dorothy Utley need before discovering the cause of her pet Chihuahua's disappearance? The answer is blowing in the wind. Literally. Strong winds swept Utley's 5-pound pet Chihuahua Tinker Bell away on April 25 while she browsed through a flea market in Waterford, Mich., outside of Detroit. "The wind took her," a mournful Utley told the Detroit Free Press after a day of searching around Waterford proved unfruitful. "The wind was about 70 miles an hour. . . . It was wicked." Two days later Utley found the windswept pup after seeking advice from a local pet psychic who instructed her to search the hills about a mile away from the outdoor market.
For the birds
With Australia following the rest of the world into what could become a steep recession, one might expect the government not to stand in the way of industry. At least not for a parrot. But that's exactly the ruling that came out of Canberra on April 29 when national environmental officials ordered New South Wales to halt a logging operation near the southern city of Deniliquin over concerns it is disrupting the habitat of the green leak parrot. The parrot is listed as a vulnerable species-but so too will be the 860 jobs that are likely to be lost if the prohibition sticks.
About the hardest decision a police officer had to make after pulling over a drunk driver in Arvada, Colo., was what to do with the mode of transportation. After all, you can't tow a horse. Police gave Brian Drone a $25 citation for taking his horse Cricket out for a drunken joyride through the parking lot of a local strip mall. Eventually a nearby stable owner came and provided Drone and Cricket a safe ride home.
When French composer Maurice Jarre died on March 28, Shane Fitzgerald decided to try an experiment. The Dublin university student, reports the Associated Press, made up an eloquent quote that he attributed to the composer and added it to the Wikipedia page on Jarre. Blogs and newspaper websites throughout the world quickly published the quote from the user-edited Wikipedia, in which Jarre supposedly spoke of his life as "one long soundtrack" and of the "final waltz" that would be in his head at his death. After weeks passed without anyone reporting the fabrication, Fitzgerald finally told the news outlets that they had been had. One source did pass Fitzgerald's test: Wikipedia itself. The site reportedly twice removed the quote for lack of attribution.
A bird? A plane? Palm Bay, Fla.'s newest weapon in its arsenal against crime is something in between. Rather than fork over a huge sum for a police plane or helicopter for the sprawling city of 100,000, the police department has invested $10,000 for paragliding equipment and training for some of the city's 150-person police force. Police Chief Bill Berger said the city's police paragliders will give officers a chance to take shortcuts in the Brevard County town. The new police tool basically comes down to a seat above a lawnmower-sized engine and propeller all attached to a parachute. "It's a lot more fun to patrol in that than in a patrol car," police Lt. Mark Renkens told ABC News.
Kids these days
If some religious teens rebel by abandoning their faith, how do faithless teens rebel? According to a study released in May by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, more than half of Americans surveyed raised in staunchly atheistic or agnostic households have abandoned disbelief and are now, as The New York Times phrased it, "defecting to faith." By comparison, only 14 percent of people raised Catholic and just 13 percent of people raised Protestant have abandoned the faith of their childhood, the survey concluded. Of those switching to theism after a childhood of atheism, about half said they had unmet spiritual needs.
It's hard to figure how Fabian Moore and Tommy Wayne Garrett will explain themselves to cellmates after failing spectacularly on a home invasion caper in Claiborne County, Tenn., on May 12. Police say the two broke into the home of 58-year-old Wanda Bray at 6 p.m. as she was making dinner. The intruders demanded Bray's medication, but the women refused, instead flinging the homemade chili she had just prepared at the intruders as a makeshift weapon. Bray then flung other household objects at the pair before eventually chasing them from the house with a broom. Authorities later arrested the men-and Samuel Partin, their getaway driver-and charged the trio.
Up in smoke
A recent edict from a Chinese province was about as popular as a smoker on an airplane. Authorities in the central province of Hubei had an unusual mandate for local government employees: Smoke or get fined. The rule came as stockpiles of cigarettes made by local manufacturers grow. Officials with Gong'an County said local government workers had to drag their way through about 230,000 packs of Hubei-produced cigarettes in the next year in order to account for overproduction and to avoid fines. Officials had hoped the rule of forced smoking for government employees would help boost the area's stalling economy, but public opposition prompted a reversal. "We decided to remove this edict," a local government website announced, without elaboration.