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Animals on strike

Quick Takes: Penguins and otters at Japanese aquarium refuse to eat less expensive feed


Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Animals on strike
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Aquarium inmates in Japan have staged a hunger strike to protest a change in their diet. In May, workers at the Hakone-en Aquarium southwest of Tokyo stopped buying the horse mackerel that had become the dietary staple for both penguins and otters on display. Blaming inflation for high horse mackerel prices, aquarium officials instead began purchasing a cheaper form of mackerel. But the animals refused to eat it. “We could raise the admission fee to the aquarium and fix this issue, but we would like to ... keep our facility a comfortable place for our guests to visit,” aquarium keeper Hiroki Shimamoto said. Aquarium officials discovered that the penguins and otters would consent to eating the inferior mackerel only if some of the horse mackerel was mixed in.

Ramen for votes

A Japanese food chain is offering a tasty incentive to anyone who can prove they voted in the nation’s July 10 parliamentary elections: free noodles for two weeks. A spokesman for the Ippudo chain of around 50 ramen restaurants said it hopes the promise of a fortnight of free noodle refills sparks interest in voting among the nation’s youth, who disproportionately love noodles but have less enthusiastic attitudes toward voting. In October elections last year, just 36 percent of potential voters in their 20s turned out, making them the least-represented age group.

Baby makes two

A Dallas-area woman had a quick comeback for a police officer who stopped her for apparently driving alone in a high-occupancy vehicle lane on U.S. Highway 75. The pregnant woman claimed to a police officer during the June 29 traffic stop that her unborn child should count as a second person for purposes of the HOV lane rules. “I pointed to my stomach and said, ‘My baby girl is right here. She is a person,’” motorist Brandy Bettone told The Dallas Morning News. According to Bettone, the officer said he’d have to write her a ticket anyway, but encouraged the expecting mother to challenge the ticket in court—exactly what she planned to do.

Outlawed no more

At long last, one Colorado city has ended its decades-long ban on ice cream trucks. During a meeting on July 1, city councilors in Aurora, Colo., voted to rescind a 1957 ordinance that banned the treat-dispensing vehicles from city limits. The 65-year-old ban called ice cream trucks a safety hazard and a nuisance to residents. Councilman Dustin Zvonek said he only recently learned of the ordinance. He brought the issue quickly to the City Council so ice cream trucks could patrol neighborhoods in time for the Fourth of July weekend.

Duck dispute

A retired Houston-area couple faces a stark choice in a standoff with their homeowner association: Stop feeding the ducks or leave the neighborhood. George and Kathleen Rowe were served a lawsuit in June from the Lakeland Village Community Association asking for damages of up to $250,000 for violating the deed restrictions on their property by disturbing local wildlife. In the lawsuit, the homeowners association claims that by feeding ducks, the Rowes facilitate the presence of a nuisance animal that damages lawns and defaces sidewalks. Rather than fight their neighbors, the Rowes have elected to move and have placed their property for sale.

Ick factor

Singapore’s newest beer has a selling point that probably ought not be. According to its maker, NEWBrew is made from recycled sewage. Local microbrewery Brewerkz partnered with the nation’s water authority to debut the controversial new blonde ale earlier this year. Brewerkz says the water used comes out of wastewater treatment plants, where it is sterilized by ultraviolet light and screened for particulate matter. The brewery made just one batch, hoping to gauge public sentiment before expanding production. So far, the results are mixed. “I seriously couldn’t tell this was made of toilet water,” consumer Chew Wei Lian told The Sydney Morning Herald. “I mean, it tastes just like beer.”

Proscribed parking

After 36 years of living in their small San Francisco house, residents Judy and Ed Craine recently discovered they weren’t allowed to park in their own driveway. The news came in the form of a $1,542 citation issued by San Francisco’s Planning Department. When the Craines complained, city officials pointed to an ordinance that prohibited residents from parking in their front yards. But the Craines don’t have a front yard. Instead, they have a concrete parking pad they have used since moving in. City officials told them they could get a waiver if they could demonstrate historical use of the parking spot. But when the Craines provided the city with a 34-year-old picture of their daughter standing by the family car, the city said it wasn’t good enough. After more research, Ed Craine found an aerial photo in the city archive dated 1938 showing what appeared to be a vehicle pulling into the home’s driveway. But the city again protested, saying the identity of the black blob in the photo wasn’t clear. The Craines were forced to park their vehicle on the steep street to avoid incurring $250-per-day fines—until media coverage of their plight finally persuaded the Planning Department to issue the waiver.

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