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Quick Takes: No fowl play

After months in detention, alleged secret agent flies the coop

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

Quick Takes: No fowl play
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EVEN AFTER EIGHT MONTHS in custody, the suspected spy never squawked. Last May, police in India near Mumbai discovered a pigeon with two rings tied to its legs and what appeared to be Chinese characters written on its wings. Believing the bird could be part of a deliberate spying operation arranged by China, detectives took the bird into custody to determine its provenance. After months working the case, investigators finally determined the bird wasn’t a spy but instead an open-water racing pigeon that had escaped its handler in Taiwan. Rather than deliver the bird back home, officials handed the detainee over to a local branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which released the bird into the wild Jan. 30.

Citizens against iPhones

If everyone thinks cell phones are such a problem, why not ban them? That’s the consensus among residents in Seine-Port, France, who in February voted for restrictions on smartphone use in public. A narrow majority of the 277 voters agreed to give the village’s mayor authority to write a municipal decree banning locals from being on their smartphones while walking down the street, sitting on a park bench, or waiting in a restaurant. While the symbolic decree is legally unenforceable, Mayor Vincent Paul-Petit told The Guardian he hopes “to preserve public spaces from the smartphone invasion.”

Man sticks a record

For eight years, Richard Plaud painstakingly assembled 706,900 matchsticks to make a nearly 24-foot-tall model of the Eiffel Tower. His goal: a Guinness World Record for tallest structure made from matchsticks. But at first Guinness disqualified the Frenchman because many of the matchsticks he used were not commercially available. Plaud had special-ordered matchsticks without the combustible tip. Eventually Guinness relented, however, allowing Plaud’s tower to qualify for a world record.

You call that a knife?

A Tacoma, Wash., convenience store owner turned the tables on a would-be thief during a botched heist Feb. 5. According to police, the perpetrator entered Naif Qatamin’s store and brandished a knife while demanding the contents of the cash register. That’s when Qatamin pulled out a machete. The surprise caused the thief to trip and fall to the floor where Qatamin held him at machete-point. “I just want to scare him,” Qatamin told KING-TV. “I don’t want to hurt him.”

Mystery conception

A female stingray at a Henderson­ville, N.C., aquarium was due to give birth to as many as four pups in February. Just one problem: “We have no male ray,” aquarium director Brenda Ramer told WRAL. Back in September staffers noticed Charlotte the stingray began swelling. Worried about cancer, employees did an ultrasound and discovered the pregnancy. But, according to the staff, no male stingray has ever been in her tank. Aquarium officials theorize that the pregnancy may be from a rare phenomenon called parthenogenesis wherein the female’s unfertilized eggs develop and create clones of the mother.

Completely safe missile

When a man called a museum to donate a Cold War–era rocket, he didn’t expect to get the bomb squad called on him. The investigators arrived at the Bellevue, Wash., home after getting a tip from the Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio, about a Douglas AIR-2 Genie missile dating to the 1950s or early 1960s. Although the Genie was designed to carry a 1.5 kiloton nuclear warhead, bomb squad officials determined the dangerous weapon had already been removed from the rusting hulk. What was left wasn’t dangerous at all. “Just basically a gas tank for rocket fuel,” a police spokesperson told the BBC. Police told the man he could dispose of the Genie as he saw fit.

Adjusting to the market

Meat is back on the menu at a Macclesfield, U.K., restaurant. After three years of strictly vegan offerings, the proprietor of Nomas Gastrobar announced in late January his restaurant would begin offering a small number of meat-based options to please a larger number of diners. According to owner Adonis Norouznia, he’s lost customers due to his prior pledge to serve only vegan food. “When some people find out we are vegan they walk out,” Norouznia told the BBC. Norouznia said he still believed in catering to customers who wanted vegan dishes, but that “vegan only is not going to pay my staff or support my family.”


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