It looks like Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Warren Buffett will be donating to the United States Treasury after all. The investment mogul and supporter of President Barack Obama had challenged Republican lawmakers to put their pocketbooks where their mouths were after they challenged the liberal investor to donate from his own fortune to pay down the nation's debt. In a Time magazine interview in January, Buffett said that he would pay $2 of voluntary contributions to the United States Treasury for every $1 GOP representatives paid. But unfortunately for Buffett, Virginia Republican Rep. Scott Rigell has already made a practice of returning 15 percent of his Congressional paycheck to the Treasury for deficit reduction. Buffett has acknowledged Rigell's contributions, and said that he will be writing a $49,000 check to the Treasury in April.
Less than a week after being dropped off at a Portland, Ore., pound, one celebrity cat with a massive appetite has a new home. Tipping the scales at 28 pounds, Walter the cat was dropped off at a Portland Humane Society center and featured on the local television news on Jan. 11. A day later, Aaron Betancourth and Colleen Sanders walked in the doors of the Humane Society and asked to adopt the obese cat. But a new home for Walter also means new habits: Betancourth and Sanders say they plan on putting Walter on a diet and inducing the feline into regular exercise to shed the pounds.
A group of Somali pirates chose poorly when targeting a vessel near the port of Mogadishu on Jan. 12. A skiff carrying six Somali pirates raced toward what they may have assumed was a freighter, opening fire with small-caliber weapons. But to the chagrin of the Somali pirates, they had opened fire not on a freighter but on the SPS Patino, a Spanish warship sent to safeguard freighters in the pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast. The Patino, though a refueling tanker in the Spanish fleet, had more than enough firepower to repel the pirates. After turning their skiff back toward land, the pirates eventually surrendered to a helicopter launched from the deck of the Patino.
A Russian villager who forked over about $15 for some used crates got much more than he bargained for. The 57-year-old resident of Sovkhozny, a village some 800 miles southeast of Moscow, doled out 500 rubles to a truck driver passing through his village for a stack of crates he intended to use for firewood to heat his home. But when the man began breaking down the crates, he discovered that they concealed a stockpile of 79 Kalashnikov assault rifles more than 50 years old, as well as over 250 cartridges. Officials told the Reuters news service that the rifles were supposed to be on their way to a recycling plant.
After more than 90 years of being lost on a French battlefield, an American soldier's dog tags were finally returned home on Jan. 12. The identification tags belonged to Pvt. Kent Potter, an American soldier who worked supply lines in France during World War I. Late last year, they were found by a pair of Frenchmen who spend time combing old battlefields looking for personal effects. But unlike other Frenchmen who sell relics of World War I, Michael Toussaint and Jean-Claude Fonderflick seek to reunite found artifacts with surviving family members. After finding Pvt. Potter's tags, the pair tracked down his living son, 75-year-old Dale Potter, and returned the ID tags to him. "I'm amazed," said Dale Potter, "that these two people in France still remember and appreciate what the United States did for their country."
Suzanne Basham of Springfield, Mo., phoned police on Jan. 10 with a complaint: Someone had swindled her out of $40 by selling her a fake product. But this was hardly a routine call. The fake product was sugar instead of the crack cocaine she said she thought she had bought, and the seller was a drug dealer. Basham reportedly tried to convince police to arrest the dealer for theft and grant her a refund of her $40. Instead, police dispatched officers to Basham's residence and arrested her for possession of drug paraphernalia.
Painted into a corner
A New Zealand farmer who thought he might have some fun with local bird watchers is now finding that his prank may land him in jail. A judge in Dannevirke, New Zealand, in January found Grant Michael Teahan guilty of two counts of mistreating an animal after he apparently spray-painted two hawks unusual colors in an attempt to trick local bird watchers into thinking they had discovered a new species. An investigation by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals revealed that the birds were not a new species but instead had been abused. A YouTube clip sent by Teahan's nephew to the local media helped police identify the prankster. Teahan will be sentenced on Jan. 30.
Rich for a day
For a short time, Parijat Saha of Balurghat, India, was one of the world's richest men despite only drawing a teacher's salary of about $700 per year. Expecting to find about $200, Saha checked his savings account on Jan. 15 to find a balance of 490 billion rupees, or $9.75 billion. Perplexed, Saha says he then walked to a local ATM machine to double-check his balance, confirming a rather profound bank error in his favor. But rather than going on a shopping spree, Saha alerted the State Bank of India and reported the error.
Now that Dutch teenager Laura Dekker has completed her circumnavigation of the world, she says she'll not likely return to her home in the Netherlands. The Dutch girl completed her one-year, round-the-world voyage on Jan. 21-a year and a day after sailing west from St. Martin in the Caribbean on her 38-foot ketch. She returned to St. Martin after a 6,400-mile voyage that took her through the Panama Canal, through the Galapagos Islands, and around the Horn of Africa. The Dutch teenager, now 16, tried to organize a solo, round-the-world sailing voyage when she was 14, but Dutch child welfare officials prevented it, taking partial custody of the teen in 2009. Freed from government custody in July 2010, Dekker again began planning her circumnavigation with her father. Dekker recently on her blog suggested that she and her father will resettle in New Zealand: "The Dutch government was not kind to me."