Days before Thanksgiving, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals set its sights on one small Texas town. In a letter to the mayor of Turkey, Texas, PETA demanded the mayor change the name of the Panhandle town to Tofurkey in honor of the vegan, faux-turkey mold made with tofu. "Thanksgiving is murder on turkeys," PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said. "By changing its name to 'Tofurky,' Turkey would send a clear message that delicious, savory mock meat is an easy way to celebrate without causing suffering-and give a bird something to be thankful for." Locals told an Amarillo television station they opposed the change, spurning an offer by PETA to put a tofurky in every Turkey oven if it proceeded with the name change.
Authorities in rural South Carolina don't know how the tires got there, or even who owns them. All they know is that a mysterious mound of at least 250,000 tires in Calhoun County is an environmental hazard. Authorities say the dumped used tires, which cover an area of 50 acres, reside on land owned by a New York resident, but they speculate that local tire shops used the land as a dumping ground. In relation to the case, a state grand jury indicted George Fontella Brown of Easley, S.C., with violating South Carolina's solid waste laws. Meanwhile, a Florida company is processing the used tires, which will be recycled for fuel and other derivatives.
A frustrated bank robber in Wheeling, W.Va., didn't have one oft-overlooked skill in the bank robber's arsenal: handwriting. Police say a scruffy white man passed a note to a teller at the Main Street Bank in Wheeling on Nov. 14, apparently demanding money. But when the teller couldn't decipher the note's details, she passed it back to him and asked him if it was a joke. Dejected, the prospective robber took his note and left empty-handed.
For tea-lovers with discriminating palates: Chinese biologist An Yashi says she is developing a special blend of green tea that she hopes will sell for about $35,000 per pound. Her secret? Panda droppings. Yashi, a wildlife expert and lecturer at Sinchuan University, says that her tea plants will be fertilized exclusively with panda droppings. And since pandas digest roughly 35 percent of what they consume, Yashi says the rare and expensive panda excrement will make the perfect nutrients for her commercial tea plants.
Passed over plates
Lawmakers in Texas are discovering that when it comes to writing legislation, haste makes waste. State representatives only recently discovered a rather crucial error in the legislature's rewrite of the Texas Transportation Code, which was completed earlier this year: The updated law does not include a penalty for driving without a license plate. "It was just a very huge, detailed bill that we'd already rewritten three, four, five times," admitted Rep. Joe Pickett of El Paso. "This wasn't a first draft. We made so many corrections and changes, we thought we caught everything." For now, members of the state legislature are checking with the Texas attorney general to see whether police can still enforce license plate laws sans penalty. Otherwise, the Texas legislature will have to wait until its next session in January 2013-or until Texas Gov. Rick Perry calls a special session-to fix the problem.
Citing danger to students, the principal of a Toronto elementary school has moved to ban hard balls from the school life of students. That means students at Earl Beatty Public School who have grown accustomed to spending recess time playing with soccer balls, footballs, baseballs, or tennis balls will now have to settle for playing with foam balls. "Kids were coming in complaining of injury, or being scared," Principal Alicia Fernandez told The Canadian Press. The Ontario education minister said she stood by Fernandez's decision, but many parents are outraged by the decision. "What are they going to do-cover the schoolyard in pillows and take all the doors off the hinges?" parent Chris Stateski asked. "It's just too much."
It's not what she was doing, but when she was doing it. Police in Oklahoma City ticketed a woman in the early morning hours of Nov. 15 for vacuuming after midnight after neighbors complained to authorities about the noise. According to the police report, 42-year-old Shelly Lea Armstrong had been running her vacuum cleaner for over an hour in her apartment complex when a sleepy neighbor finally phoned in the complaint. When police arrived, they ticketed the woman and told her to resume her vacuuming at a more reasonable hour.
After three years of intense investigation, a European Union bureaucracy opted to ban bottled water makers on the continent from claiming that water prevents dehydration. Last February, two German scientists asked the European Food Safety Authority if bottled water makers could include a label that read, "Regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration." The continental bureaucracy rejected the proposal, saying it lacked scientific basis. And in November, the European Commission banned such labels for bottled water, making violators subject to a fine and three years in prison. "This is stupidity writ large," Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said. "The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true. If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project, then this is it."
Pay or stay
Passengers may have expected a weather report when the captain came over the loudspeaker of Comtel Airlines' Boeing 757. Instead, the captain was looking for a handout. Midway through its Amritsar, India, to Birmingham, U.K., journey on Nov. 15, the Comtel Airlines captain announced that the plane would be stopping in Vienna, Austria, for refueling. He also announced that the airline had just run out of money, so passengers would need to scrounge together more than $31,000 in cash-or roughly $173 per passenger-to pay for refueling. Otherwise, the captain said, the Indian and British passengers would be stranded in Austria. Some passengers disembarked in Vienna, while still others emptied cash machines at the airport to help the plane get back underway.