Skip to main content

Dispatches Quick Takes

Quick Takes

A scene from Black Panther (Marvel Studios)

USDA approved

An accident by employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture left a fictional nation on a list of trade partners on the agency’s website. A USDA spokesman said an agency employee accidentally added the Kingdom of Wakanda, a fictional East African nation in the Marvel superhero movie Black Panther, during a staff test. A New York–based software engineer first discovered the error and published it to social media on Dec. 18. The website has since been updated to remove Wakanda from the USDA’s agricultural tariff tracker.


 

Rachel Beatty

Rachel Beatty

Password patience

More than 38,000 German university students were asked to stand in line to receive new passwords after the network at Justus Liebig University suffered a malware attack. Beginning Dec. 8, university officials at the school just north of Frankfurt, Germany, took down the school network and began scanning each individual computer on campus for malware. As a precautionary measure, the school reset every password for every email account issued by the school. German law prevented the university from emailing out new passwords to students’ personal email accounts. That meant the school had to issue new passwords on slips of paper during a massive five-day exercise concluding Dec. 20.


 

Krieg Barrie

Krieg Barrie

A wise old guest

The Newman family had about a dozen owl ornaments on their Christmas tree at their home near Atlanta, Ga., this Christmas, but daughter India, 10, told her parents on Dec. 12 that one of them scared her. Mother Katie McBride Newman decided to take a look—and, she says, the owl turned its head and looked at her. That particular owl wasn’t an ornament but a real owl. “It was surreal, but we weren’t really freaked out about it,” McBride Newman told the Associated Press. “We’re really outdoorsy people.” Newman and her husband Billy decided to leave the windows open overnight in an effort to entice the bird to fly out. When the Eastern screech owl was still in the tree the next day, they called the Chattahoochee Nature Center for advice. Workers at the center told her to leave some raw chicken out for the owl and then came by later to help the family release the bird back into the wild.


 

Sarah Rahal/The Detroit News

Sarah Rahal/The Detroit News

Search and destroy

For the second time this year, a Detroit-area contractor has demolished the wrong house. Detroit Building Authority officials issued a citation to the Adamo Group for wrongful demolition. According to the DBA, the demolition company knocked down 14661 Alma in November rather than the fire-damaged 14461 Alma. Earlier this year, the company bulldozed an abandoned house next door to the house it was supposed to demolish. The Detroit Land Bank, an organization that attempts to dispose of abandoned properties in Detroit, owned both of the demolished houses. The wrongful demolition could lead to a three-month suspension of lucrative house demolition contracts for the company.


 

iStock

iStock

Bad first impression

An Indian bride called off her own wedding after getting a look at her groom for the first time on their wedding day. At a reception preceding the ceremony on Nov. 24 in Uttar Pradesh, the bride- and groom-to-be both lifted their veils and saw one another for the first time. But the would-be bride didn’t like what she saw. According to local news reports, the woman complained the man was too dark-skinned and appeared to be too old. After the woman called off the wedding, the families that had arranged the marriage began fighting, stopping only when police were called to the scene.


 

Krieg Barrie

Krieg Barrie

Canine catastrophe

Firefighters in Essex, U.K., are blaming a dog for a small house fire. According to emergency crews, the blaze began when a husky managed to turn on a microwave while its owner was away. The homeowner had been using the appliance to store a loaf of bread. Thankfully, the homeowner spotted the fire while checking in on the dog via a streaming video app. Fire crews were able to put out the fire before it spread beyond the kitchen. No one was hurt in the fire, and the dog escaped unharmed.

 


 

Handout

Handout

Noises in the night

Thomas and Elisa Milam of Forsyth County, N.C., thought an intruder had entered their home, but it turns out they were just hearing things—or, actually, one thing. Hearing loud noises downstairs after midnight, Thomas Milam reportedly retrieved his gun and pointed it at the door as his wife called 911. But arriving deputies didn’t find an intruder; instead they found a robotic vacuum that had turned itself on and was banging against a wall to become unstuck. The couple had purchased the vacuum three days earlier. “It definitely is better safe than sorry because having heard what we did, I still would have called the police and because you just never know,” Milam told WGHP-TV.


 

iStock

iStock

More moving money

Not to be outdone by Tulsa, Okla. (see Quick Takes, Dec. 7, 2019), a pilot program in Topeka, Kan., has offered $15,000 for anyone to move to the city for a year. The Greater Topeka Partnership plans on paying $10,000 for people who move to the Kansas capital and rent a home and $15,000 to those who purchase a home and rehabilitate it. According to a spokesman for the program, between 40 and 60 people will receive the funding. The George Kaiser Family Foundation has been paying people $10,000 to move to Tulsa, Okla., since 2018.
 


 

ABC7

ABC7

Flight delay

A man and his possum were booted off a JetBlue flight just after Thanksgiving, leading to a four-day delay that left Gerald Tautenhahn looking for a new airline. Tautenhahn flew from California to Austin, Texas, before Thanksgiving to spend time with his mother during the holidays. He boarded his JetBlue flight at Long Beach Airport with his pet opossum in a soft-sided carrying case made for a cat or small dog and flew to Texas without incident. But while he was waiting for his return flight to take off, a crew member saw the animal and told Tautenhahn that JetBlue allows only dogs and cats on flights. After being escorted off the plane, Tautenhahn tried to negotiate with the airline but finally purchased passage on a United Airlines flight four days later that allowed him to return home with his animal.