A controversial plan by a Manchester, U.K., health commission for trimming down obese students is facing loud protests from local parents. The Greater Manchester Health Commission has proposed removing parking spaces near local schools in order to prevent parents from dropping off children close to a school's front door, thus forcing students to walk a longer distance to get to school. Months ago, the same health commission suggested local restaurants switch to salt shakers with fewer holes in order to promote healthier eating.
Five-star soup kitchen
Thanks to the generous donation of an anonymous food snob in New York City, some of Gotham's homeless have been eating very well. City Harvest, a charity that takes in food donations from the city's restaurants, received a 550-gram tin of expensive caviar from one of its donors. City Harvest then happily passed on the tin of Petrossian Paris malossol caviar, valued at $1,100, to an unusual soup kitchen named Broadway Community Inc., whose mission is to provide homeless clients with upscale seven-course meals. And so on Dec. 30, chef Michael Ennes of the upscale soup kitchen served amuse-bouches of cornmeal pancakes topped with a small portion of the expensive caviar.
Huskers for a day
On the field in the Holiday Bowl, the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team dominated. But in the stands, it took an 11th-hour solution to avert musical disaster. Stymied by canceled flights and impassable snowy roads, the Cornhuskers marching band canceled its trip to the San Diego bowl game at the last minute, leaving nobody to strike up Nebraska fight songs during the Dec. 30 game against Arizona. The San Diego area chapter of the Nebraska alumni association put out an all-call for area alumni with musical experience to form an ad-hoc band to play "Hail Varsity" and "Dear Old Nebraska U" at the game. But university officials found an even better solution: a 100-member Lincoln, Neb., high-school marching band already in San Diego for a competition. Despite having just two days to prepare, the Marching Knights of Lincoln Southeast High School were happy to help. "Kids were jumping up and down" when they received the call, one band parent reported. "They were cheering. There were fist pumps. There was every kind of expression of happy."
Parole officials in Elkins, W.Va., knew the moment Brier Cutlip and Paul Bragg arrived for an appointment in December that the pair had violated the terms of their parole, which included a prohibition on possessing firearms. How did the officials know? Cutlip and Bragg showed up after a day of hunting and they were still wearing orange hunting vests. They were promptly rearrested.
Lost and found
Nine years after she had given up hope and 12 years after they had been separated, Gayl O'Donnell has finally been reunited with an old friend: a cat that ran away in 1997. O'Donnell first fell in love with Sonny, an orange tabby she took in as a kitten, in the 1990s. The Lake Wylie, S.C., resident said that after the cat ran away she spent three years calling animal shelters and putting up fliers before losing hope. Then, out of the blue on Dec. 12, she got a call from her vet that Sonny, who had an identification microchip, had been discovered at an animal shelter in Asheville, N.C., more than two hours away. O'Donnell was there to claim her kitty the next morning: "I cried myself to sleep many nights, and throughout the years always wondered what happened to Sonny. Where is he? It was such a mystery."
Angel the dog isn't just a boy's best friend. It's his guardian. Austin Forman, an 11-year-old British Columbia boy, noticed Angel the golden retriever acting strangely as he was gathering firewood in his backyard on Jan. 2. The dog, apparently sensing danger, stayed close to Austin as he moved through the yard. Then, Angel bolted from his side and directly into the path of a charging cougar that had been stalking the boy and gave the 11-year-old time to get away. "I knew at that moment that I would have to go get help, otherwise [Angel] wouldn't have any hope," Austin said. Mounties arrived soon enough to shoot the cougar and save Angel's life.
A counterfeiter's blunder has turned into a boon for the homeless in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Police Department's anti-piracy unit confiscated an estimated 10,000 pairs of knockoff Adidas, Nikes, and other counterfeits. And instead of destroying the fakes, the LAPD said it plans on distributing the knockoff shoes to local homeless shelters so long as the trademark holders do not object. "It [was] a very timely Christmas present," said Andy Bales of the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles. "Shoes and socks are one of the biggest concerns for people who are experiencing homelessness."
If Brian Klug had a purchase limit on his credit card, he certainly exceeded it. While browsing through merchandise from independent sellers on Amazon.com, the California man stumbled upon a copy of a Discovery Channel CD-ROM called "Cells" accidentally priced at nearly $3 billion. Klug said it was curiosity that led him to impulsively click the "buy it now" button on the site. Klug made the $2,904,980,000 purchase on his Amazon.com card, which one website commenter noted would have earned him $87 million in credit card rewards. That is, if the bank hadn't declined his purchase.
The only thing more interesting than why Ohio lawmakers felt the urge to pass a new law is who would violate it? The new regulation levies a fine on households in the Buckeye State that buy more than 24 cases (or 288 bottles) of wine per year. But lawyers say Ohioans who would buy 289 bottles at local stores need not worry: The state has no way to enforce the law at retail outlets, and local stores aren't the law's target, anyway. Lawmakers who crafted the regulation were apparently more concerned about tax collection on mail-order wine from out of state.
Stuck in the pub
There could be worse places to be stranded New Year's Day. That's how patrons at the Tan Hill Inn in Northern England looked at it when a heavy snow stranded nearly 30 New Year's Eve revelers at the pub for three days. After a night of revelry at England's highest-elevation bar, patrons realized all their cars had been snowed in. It took snow plows three days to free the guests, who passed the time drinking, eating pub cuisine, and participating in bar quizzes. "We've kept our spirits up," pub DJ Peter Richardson told the BBC. "It's actually been quite heartwarming."