Photo of barrage balloon from America from the Great Depression to World War II, at the Library of Congress.
News of the Odd
|Careless Bird Torches House|
Officials in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania have determined the cause of a fire that damaged a house there on March 28. According to Mayor Stephen R. Reed, the blaze was started by "the careless use of smoking materials by a bird." Investigators discovered the remains of a large bird nest in the ceiling of the home, and determined that the nest builder had picked up a smoldering cigarette butt to use as a building material. Fire Chief Donald Konkle said that there were no other possible sources for the fire. "The nest was 60 percent consumed," he said, "and we weren't able to interview the bird. I believe he's homeless." Mayor Reed reminded residents not to flick lit cigarettes into the street. "This is at least littering, and if there are nearby birds building a nest, which they do in the spring months because of egg laying, there is a chance the cigarette winds up in the nest," Reed said. No one was injured in the fire--not even the bird.
(The Milwaukee Channel, April 8, 2003; The Indiana Gazette, April 9, 2003)
Drunken Elephants on the Rampage
Women in Jarkhand, India have become so frightened of the herds of wild elephants plaguing their district that they are giving birth in trees. In the past two months, at least a dozen women have chosen to deliver their babies on specially-constructed platforms high off the ground. Sonia Hansda spent nearly three weeks in her tree before her baby came. Her husband carried her to the platform just moments before a herd of elephants knocked down the walls of their house. Angi Rani, a woman in a nearby village, also retreated into the trees before giving birth, but her baby died after being hit by a stone another villager threw at a marauding elephant.
The elephants have been displaced by encroaching development; when they leave their shrinking habitats, there is nowhere for them to go but into settled areas. But something more than the destruction of their forest preserves may be to blame for their increasing raids on human habitats. According to a police officer in Dumka: "[People brew] rice beer ... at home. Elephants too are fond of this beer. Often it is found that, attracted by the strong smell of the liquor, wild elephants tear down the ... houses where the brew is stored."
Last year, some 350 people in eastern India were killed by elephants. Villagers armed with drums, sticks, torches and fireworks have failed to drive them away, as have domesticated elephants imported for the purpose.
(news.com.au, April 9, 2003)
Puppy Recovers After Swallowing Knife
Jake, a 12-week-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix who swallowd a kitchen knife nearly as long as he is, is recovering after surgery to remove the implement. His owner, John Mallett, 22, says he knew something was wrong when he saw the dog vomiting, and standing stiffly, with his head held back and "trying to keep his body in a straight line." Vets spotted the knife, which ran the length of the dog's body, with the plastic handle against the his pelvis and the point lodged against his throat, on an x-ray. They operated immediately. "Dogs are always swallowing strange things," said vet Christina Symonds, "from kebab sticks to corn-on-the-cobs to tape cassettes, but this was particularly unusual because it was such a large knife in a small puppy." Jake had his surgery on March 30, and according to Mallett, "He's totally back to his old self."
(Yahoo! News, April 9, 2003)
Fingered Robbery Fails Miserably
Julius Kearney has watched too many movies. According to police in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Kearney tried to rob a bank on Monday with his finger stuck out in his pocket to mimic the muzzle of a gun. He demanded that the teller fill a bag with money, but she laughed and told him they were out of cash. He then went to another teller, who gave him a stack of deposit slips and suggested that if he wanted to make a withdrawal, he would have make a deposit first. Disgusted, Kearney threw down his bag and left the bank. He was arrested a few minutes later, just four blocks from the bank. He has been charged with attempted bank robbery, and could spend up to ten years in prison, if convicted.
(The Houston Chronicle, April 9, 2003)
Elephants Rescue Antelope
Conservationists in South Africa were bemused, but impressed, when a group of elephants raided an enclosure containing a herd of antelope that had been captured as part of a relocation and breeding program. Lawrence Anthony, a spokesman for the group, said that when the elephants first approached the pen, in the Thula Thula reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal, the capture group assumed they had been attracted by the antelopes' food. But then, "The herd circled the fence and then the matriarch moved to the gate and very carefully and deliberately undid all the gate's metal latches with her trunk and pushed it open. The antelope took their chance and dashed back into the bush followed by the elephants, who did not give the food a second glance."
Anthony said that the antelope will be recaptured, as the herd is necessary to the breeding program. "It will be a difficult few days work, but it will have been worthwhile just to watch this amazing example of animal behaviour and interaction between species," he said.
(The Telegraph, April 9, 2003)
Los Angeles Deputizes Camel
It's official: Bert the camel is a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy. The 1,700 pound dromedary got his ID card after a swearing-in ceremony on Saturday. Unlike most of the animals that work with the Sheriff's Department, Bert is not a crime fighter. He and two mastiffs named Muffin and Broughan, who were also sworn in Saturday, are public relations officers. They attend special events at schools, where they help teach children about California history. Bert is descended from the camels who made up part of the U.S. Army's garrison at Ft. Tejon.
(Yahoo! News, April 7, 2003)
Candy Bomber Wants to Hit Baghdad
Retired Air Force Colonel Gail Halvorsen would like permission to bomb the children of Baghdad, just as he once bombed the children of Berlin. With candy. "I'd give my right arm to do it," he says. "I've had the experience of the reaction of the kids on the ground. It's just incredible."
In 1948, Halverson was part of the team that airlifted food and other supplies into Berlin, during the Soviet blockade of that city. Halverson began collecting candy from his friends, and dropping tiny parachutes full of chocolate and gum onto the city. "I didn't have permission," he says. "I almost got court martialed." But eventually he did get permission, and the U.S. Air Force dropped some 23 tons of candy onto Berlin. In 1994, the Candy Bomber struck again, dropping parachutes onto the children of Bosnia. And as soon as the war in Iraq is over, he plans to ask his friends in the Air Force if he can make one of his trademark bombing runs over Iraq. "The airplane would bring [hope] to Iraq," he explains. "They've been mistreated so long, with resources diverted to other things. The bottom line is it would lift their spirits."
(PressRepublican, April 6, 2003)
The Protests Get Weird
Nude protests, like the one featuring some 30 naked women whose bared limbs spelled out "No Bush" in Central Park, are becoming increasingly popular as anti-war activists compete for the media's attention. A group of male protestors recently stripped down to "denounce small men with big guns," as one of that protest's organizers phrased it. And even those protestors who choose to keep their clothes on are finding new ways of getting their messages across. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, protestors threw chocolate eclairs, called "chocolate bombs" in Portuguese, at the American embassy. In San Francisco, a group of activists staged a "vomit-in," to demonstrate that the war in Iraq makes them ill.
Randy Shaw, author of The Activist's Handbook: A Primer, says he has been impressed by the creativity shown in recent protests, but warns that the message could be lost if the point is not clear. "You block a bridge," he says, "and people might think, `Why are you targeting commuters?' You really need to have a target, or people will start to wonder what you're doing."
April 4 has been targeted as a national day of protest in America.
(Newhouse News, April 1, 2003)
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