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Dispatches Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Wilbur Beast (Rob Stone Photography)

Canine campaign

While Americans from coast to coast cast ballots in record numbers for Democrats and Republicans, one Kentucky community signaled that voting is for the dogs. In an election tallied on a whiteboard, denizens of Rabbit Hash, Ky., elected Wilbur Beast, a French bulldog, as the census-designated place’s next mayor. The Rabbit Hash Historical Society conducted the election, selling votes for a dollar apiece and encouraging voters to “vote early and often.” The bulldog blew away beagle and golden retriever runners-up. Other dogs—along with a donkey, a rooster, and a deceased cat—finished far behind Wilbur Beast. The unincorporated community first elected a dog mayor in 1998 by granting a mutt named Goofy a four-year term. Proceeds from the election go toward refurbishing the town’s general store. Like others, this election also set a record for turnout: Voters cast 22,000 ballots. 

Lizard lost and found

In Madagascar, scientists have rediscovered a rare lizard, long thought extinct. Scientists had last spotted the Voeltzkow’s chameleon in 1913. Little is known about the colorful critter that makes its home in the northwestern Madagascan rain forest. After hatching, the animal’s short adult life spans just a few months of a rainy season, which makes the lizard’s natural habitat hard for humans to reach. Researchers from Germany actually rediscovered the animal in 2018 but waited to announce their findings until publishing in Salamandra, the German journal of herpetology, on Oct. 30.

Coconuts wanted

Students at one Indonesian school won’t need cash to pay their tuition bills. The Venus One Tourism Academy of Bali has told its students they may pay the hospitality college’s costs by bringing coconuts in lieu of payment, since many are suffering economic hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “At first we began an installment program to pay their tuition fees, but now we’ve become even more flexible,” one school official told Bali Puspa News. Earlier this year, the school got a permit from the local government to run a business manufacturing virgin coconut oil from the fruit brought in by students. Students can also pay with leaves from moringa and gotu kola plants, which the school uses to make herbal soap.

Threads recruitment

Some creature comforts are on the way for female recruits at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Following a request from Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., young women training to be Army officers will now be issued better-fitting combat uniforms. Traditionally, the Army issued male and female cadets the same uniform. But many female cadets said the unisex uniforms previously on offer were designed with male bodies in mind. They could buy female-sized uniforms in Army stores, but that left them paying out of pocket for them. The new uniforms should offer more room for female cadets through the hips, thighs, and chest.

Don’t shake on it

Handshakes are officially on the outs for some in Abu Dhabi. An October directive from the Human Resources Authority of Abu Dhabi has prohibited government workers from shaking hands at work. A first violation will result in a warning, but a second violation will lead to a fine of one day’s pay. A third offense will cost a worker three days’ pay. The directive also instituted penalties for workers who come to work suffering from symptoms of COVID-19, with a fine worth five days’ pay for first-time violators. Earlier in October, the United Arab Emirates recorded its 100,000th case of the coronavirus.

A plush pursuit

Authorities in Oregon had no problems spotting a getaway car after responding to an armed robbery call on Nov. 3. Witnesses told Clackamas County sheriff’s deputies that the person who robbed the Ace Hardware store in Happy Valley, Ore., drove away in a Mazda SUV with a black sofa strapped to the roof. A cursory look led deputies to the vehicle and its conspicuous cargo just a block away. They eventually arrested the 34-year-old driver after a short chase, both by car and by foot. Deputies then discovered the SUV was also stolen.

Quite a catch

A providentially placed sculpture prevented a train from crashing into a canal near Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Nov. 1. The train shot through a barrier at the end of the tracks at the De Akkers mass transit station, but a whale statue caught it before it fell more than 30 feet into the water below. The massive sculpture, titled Whale Tails, was erected in 2002. Creator Maarten Struijs said he was surprised his plastic whale was able to hold up a train car: “It has been there for almost 20 years and … you actually expect the plastic to pulverize a bit, but that is apparently not the case.” Authorities said the train’s conductor was not injured in the crash, and officials have begun working on a plan to remove the suspended train safely.

Confounded cameras

Pandemic protocols left fans of two Scottish soccer clubs frustrated with the telecast of an Oct. 24 match between Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ayr United. Seeking to cut down on the number of people present, directors of the game’s telecast chose to use an artificial intelligence system to replace a live, human cameraman to capture the action. But the AI repeatedly got confused and instead focused the cameras at the bald head of a linesman. Commentators repeatedly apologized to viewers as the camera focused on the linesman’s dome while the action continued off-screen. Fans took to social media to roast the broadcast: “I love it so much, the camera is like ‘ball ball ball bald head, there’s a bald head, zoom in on the bald head,’” one viewer tweeted.  

No free lunches

An owner in Thailand found his lost cat but not before it ran up a bill for which the owner is on the hook. Three days after going missing, an unnamed cat was spotted by its owner near his home. But the found kitty had a cardboard note attached to its collar that read, “Your cat kept eyeing the mackerels at my stall, so I gave him three.” The fishmonger left her stall number as well as other contact information so the cat’s owner could pay her for the three mackerels.