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Quick Takes

Issue: "Divided we stand," Dec. 1, 2012

Wonder drug

Looking for the secret to domestic peace and tranquility? According to researchers writing in the Journal of Social Psychology, the answer could come from freshly baked bread. Scientists at the University of Southern Brittany in France conducted experiments designed to test the theory that the smell of freshly baked bread can alter behavior in humans. Their findings, published in an October issue of the scientific journal, reveal that the aroma of baking bread triggers a rising sense of altruism, increased happiness and other beneficial effects.

Fence sitter

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Some smugglers bringing illegal drugs into the United States from Mexico got caught on Oct. 30—or at least their car did. U.S. agents say smugglers tried to use ramps to get their Jeep Cherokee SUV over the 14-foot fence that separates the United States and Mexico, but the SUV became stuck atop the fence. The smugglers reportedly were trying to get the vehicle unstuck when agents on patrol spotted them. The smugglers fled on foot, leaving the SUV at the scene of the crime. The agents say the vehicle was empty but likely had carried illegal drugs.

Rat plan

There are at least two ways to get a new cell phone in Alexandra, South Africa. You could save up enough money to buy one. Or you could capture 60 rats. In an effort to curb the swelling rodent population, the Johannesburg suburb has created an incentive program it hopes will work better than hiring a mass of professional exterminators. Rats have made Alexandra home because of the township’s crumbling infrastructure, leaking sewage, and piled up garbage. So city officials partnered with mobile phone company 8ta to create the incentive program: Catch 60 rats and the city will give you a cell phone. Catch 60 more, and you’ll get another. Local council member Julie Moloi said the city had to take drastic action, despite predictable outrage from animal rights activists: “We are afraid these rats will take over Alexandra and it will become a city of rats.”

Colorful crustacean

A lobster caught off the coast of Massachusetts in late October looked like she was dressed for a Halloween party. In fact, the female lobster is what marine researchers call a “split”—one half of her body is black and the other half orange, the colors split perfectly down the middle. Researchers told the Associated Press that splits make up about one in every 50 million lobsters, and that fishermen have caught splits off the coasts of New England and Nova Scotia.

Chipping in

Some brought canned food. Some made donations. After seeing the widespread devastation of Hurricane Sandy on the New York and New Jersey area, Dean Bach and Andrew Wurm decided what the survivors needed was several tons of salsa, hummus, and chips. The pair drove 12 hours from their homes in Ferndale, Mich., to New Jersey with a load of 20,000 pounds of salsa, hummus, and chips, along with 40 cases of dog food and 40,000 bottles of water. Bach, a restaurant owner, said that he and Wurm, a police officer, reacted quickly after watching television coverage of the storm’s aftermath. The pair left half of the supplies with officials in Hillside, N.J., near New York and the other half with authorities in Howell Township near the Jersey Shore.

Fire drill

Perhaps DVDs designed to display images of a cozy hearth and fire on television screens should come with a warning against nosy neighbors. A person, unidentified in police reports, in Jönköping, Sweden, phoned the fire department on Nov. 1 after spotting what the person believed to be a raging fire inside a neighbor’s house. But when firefighters reached the home, they discovered no fire, but instead a television projecting images of a fire. Amped from being dispatched to a suspected fire, the emergency workers stayed at the home and watched the fire DVD for some time, calling it relaxing.

Toy trouble

Soon enough, consumers hoping to get their hands on the magnetic toy named Buckyballs will be disappointed. Faced with a government lawsuit in July (see Quick Takes, Aug. 25, 2012), New York–based Buckyballs and Buckycubes manufacturer Maxfield & Oberton announced on its website Nov. 2 that it would cease production of the popular magnetic toys. The Consumer Product Safety Commission filed suit against the manufacturer of the BB-sized, super-magnetic balls and cubes citing safety concerns, particularly among children. “It’s time to bid a fond farewell to the world’s most popular adult desk toys,” a message on the manufacturer’s website said. “That’s right: We’re sad to say that Balls and Cubes have a one-way ticket to the Land-of-Awesome-Stuff-You-Should-Have-Bought-When-You-Had-the-Chance.”

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