Great books tell stories. Here’s our pick of vivid and insightful new releases for better understanding America, world events, history, science, and theology
Dispatches Quick Takes
If there is to be a Mars colony, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants in. In August, the animal-rights group wrote an open letter to SpaceX founder Elon Musk asking him to consider including PETA on any Mars colonization projects. The attention-seeking activist group said it wants to establish a vegan colony on the Red Planet-which may be a nifty convenience considering scientists have yet to discover life on Mars. "Colonizing Mars can give us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes on one planet and create a just civilization on another," PETA wrote in its open letter to the space entrepreneur. "Ensuring that Mars is a vegan planet (rather than importing animal products from Earth or creating factory farms on our new home) would protect animals from the horrors that they endure in the meat, egg, and dairy industries."
One teenaged Baltimore Orioles fan found the right place and the right time-again and again. According to The Washington Post, 17-year-old Tim Anderson managed to gather three separate home run balls in three consecutive games while patrolling the outfield at Orioles Park at Camden Yards. ESPN's SportsCenter highlighted the feat, and hosts remarked that the high-schooler appeared to be wearing the same pair of shorts on all three days. Anderson took to Twitter to fire back: "They aren't the same shorts! Mom is getting mad that America thinks her son is dirty!"
Catch, release, catch
After spending top dollar to purchase and then release 600 pounds of live lobsters, a group of Boston-area Buddhists were none too pleased to find area lobstermen setting up shop. The Buddhist group purchased 534 lobsters and conducted a ceremony in Gloucester, Mass., in which they prayed over the animals, sprayed them with holy water, and subsequently released them back into the ocean in an attempt to save the crustaceans from becoming a delicious dinner entrée. But at least one unidentified lobsterman had other plans. Reporters saw a lobster vessel laying down traps near the ceremony site, and a local blog reported that the men hauled up their lobster traps on Aug. 8 with exactly 534 lobsters inside. A local lobsterman told the Boston Globe that the Buddhists are welcome to repurchase and re-release the animals.
Its owner died in a car crash over a year ago in New Mexico, but on Aug. 13 the Maltese named Caeser was finally reunited with his family in Vienna Township, Mich. After a horrific June 2010 car accident that killed owner Gary Benson and his daughter Emily, Benson's wife and four surviving children set out to find the missing dog. Earlier in August, a volunteer at an animal shelter in Tucumcari, N.M., scanned Caeser's microchip and discovered the Maltese's true home. After making contact, volunteers at the shelter returned Caeser to the Benson family, who reported that the dog remembered her family: "It was an amazing evening," Monica Benson told the Detroit News.
The next time a street thug tries to rob 85-year-old Edward Alexander, it won't be a pretty sight. "I hope I'm prepared next time," Alexander told the Chicago Sun-Times while recovering from a mugging in the Illinois city. "Prepared to send them to the morgue." On Aug. 11, an unidentified man stuck a gun in Alexander's stomach, demanding that the octogenarian surrender his wallet. But instead of giving the perpetrator his wallet, Alexander swiped at the gun and gave the assailant a sock in the jaw. Alexander's punch wobbled the thief, who fled. But in the commotion the gun went off, firing through the Alexander's left leg. Still, the 85-year-old retired probation officer said he had no regrets-but he'd finish the job next time.
The competition is strong for the title of world's best car parker. In April, German stuntman Ronny Wechselberger (very quickly) parallel parked a Volkswagen Polo in a spot only 10.24 inches longer than the car, setting a record. Not to be outdone, Zhang Hua on Chinese television in July parallel parked in a space only 9.4 inches longer than his car. Guinness World Records videotaped Wechselberger's parking feat, now airing on YouTube.
Attendees at a nationalistic festival got more than they bargained for when free T-shirts handed out at the "Rock for Germany" concert on Aug. 6 in the city of Gera turned out to be Trojan horses. Initially the shirts carried the slogan "hardcore rebels" along with a skull and nationalist flags. But after one time through the laundry, the initial message faded and a new one appeared, pleading for T-shirt owners to disassociate from neo-Nazi politics. The message, which read "If your T-shirt can do it, you can do it too-we'll help you get away from right-wing extremism," was planted by a group dedicated to leading young Germans out of far-right political movements. A festival organizer called the Trojan shirts a waste of money.
Sure, it may have taken more than 160 years to solve, but officials at Fort Morgan on Mobile Bay in Alabama think they have finally stopped the water leak. Officials at the historic 19th-century fort are inspecting repairs to a leaky drainage system that has plagued the fort since shortly after its construction in the 1830s. "Even back in the 1840s, they were trying to fix the problem," Fort Morgan Education Director Mike Bailey told the Mobile Press-Register. "They tried asphalt on top of the bricks and all kinds of things, but couldn't find a permanent solution." Now with new brickwork, a layer of concrete and waterproofing, Bailey says the leak should finally be resolved.
Police in Dalton, Ga., may as well have given Jason Dean dating advice as they read him his Miranda rights. Frustrated that his Taco Bell coworker wouldn't go out on a date with him, the 24-year-old handcuffed himself to the 18-year-old coworker in the parking lot of the fast food chain on Aug. 8 in attempt to woo her. Before police arrived, coworkers of the pair managed to convince Dean to relinquish the 18-year-old. Later, police charged Dean with felony false imprisonment.