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Dispatches Quick Takes

Quick Takes

(Scott Green, modified by WORLD)

House hunters

Denizens of Marietta, Pa., say they’re under attack from rowdy flocks of black vultures. According to local Lancaster, Pa., newspaper LNP, the flocks of vultures with wingspans of up to 5 feet have been pecking at roofs, porch furniture, and other soft targets in Marietta. “This is the worst year,” homeowner John Enterline said. “There are many more of them.” Enterline said the birds have been so destructive, he’s had to pay thousands of dollars to repair his roof. Because the birds are protected under federal law, residents’ options are limited. Harris Glass, the Pennsylvania director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, suggested harassing the birds in nonlethal ways to persuade them to move on. According to LNP, residents have resorted to banging pots and pans to get the birds to leave their property alone.

Exclusive island

After effectively buying an Australian island, a Chinese real estate firm may be attempting to discourage Australian nationals from going there. Developer China Bloom negotiated a long-term lease for Keswick Island off the northeastern coast of Australia in 2019. In December, Australian media reports indicated the company had closed local beaches, prohibited short-term rentals, and blocked access to the island’s airstrip. “I just don’t think they want Australians on the island,” former island resident Julie Willis told Australia’s A Current Affair television program. “I think that they want to have this island solely for the use of the Chinese tourism market.” China Bloom, which controls the island until 2096, plans to create a tourist resort there.

Bear vs. Benham

Quick thinking and fists of fury helped a California man save his dog from the clutches of a bear. Kaleb Benham said he heard his dog Buddy growling on Nov. 25 outside his Nevada County residence. By the time he located the pit bull, a 350-pound bear had Buddy by the teeth. “I just ran down there, plowed into the bear, tackled it and grabbed it by the throat and started hitting it in the face and the eye until it let go,” Benham told CBS 13 Sacramento. After chasing the bear away, Benham rushed Buddy to a veterinary hospital in Grass Valley, Calif., where the animal received stitches and staples to heal lacerations from the bear attack. 

Hot items

One discount store has issued a nationwide recall notice on candles because the products do their job too well. In a Dec. 2 notice posted on the website of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Dollar Tree said its Sure Scents 2-1 Peaceful Stream/Moonlit Waves Candles can be dangerous because high flames are able to ignite the candles’ wax, creating a fire hazard. No injuries have been reported due to the candle, but the recall noted “two reports that flame height reached above the glass, causing the glass to break.” The recall affects 142,000 candles exclusively sold at the dollar store.

To headlock a thief

Police in Australia credit a heroic grandfather for breaking up an attempted larceny in a quiet neighborhood south of Sydney. Police say Dapto resident Paul Robinson spotted a man breaking into his neighbor’s home in the morning hours of Dec. 9. As the alleged thief was trying to make away with his neighbor’s Ford Focus, Robinson crossed the cul-de-sac and put the suspect in a headlock as he tried to drive away. “I tried to get the ignition key off him and tried to hang on and he hit the accelerator and dragged me out of there,” Robinson told 9News. After dragging Robinson over 100 feet, the car slammed into a parked trailer. Authorities say the suspect then broke into another home and attempted to flee the scene on a riding lawnmower. Authorities apprehended the suspect in a nearby residential neighborhood. Emergency workers treated Robinson for minor injuries.

Mountain measurements

The world’s tallest mountain is growing. China and Nepal, resolving a long-standing dispute between the two Asian nations, jointly announced a newly agreed-upon height for Mount Everest that adds 3 feet to the previously accepted figure. Everest stands on the border between Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet. In 2005, a Chinese survey declared the mountain to be 29,015 feet tall, contradicting the Nepalese claim of 29,029 feet. Scientists in Nepal suggested the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015 may have actually added to the mountain’s height. In the ensuing years, both nations have conducted surveys of the peak and studied the data together. In December, the two neighbors jointly released findings of their surveys and agreed to a height of 29,032 feet.

Close call at sea

A broken-down watercraft led to a cold dip and a lifesaving rescue for a 62-year-old boater off the coast of Florida. Mechanical trouble had left Stuart Bee adrift in his 32-foot boat roughly 86 miles off Florida’s east coast. When night fell on Nov. 28, Bee fell asleep, then awoke to the sound of water rushing into the cabin. Bee escaped out a hatch as the vessel capsized, then clung to the bow as it bobbed above the water. Hours later after sunrise on Nov. 29, Bee spotted the container ship Angeles and was able to draw the attention of her crew, who threw him a life ring. Bee stayed on with the container ship until it made port in Wilmington, Del., on Dec. 1.

A few good turns

A kind act by an Irish bus driver on Dec. 9 saved the day for one lost passenger looking to spend time with her mother. When Jacqueline Mason got on the wrong bus in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the mistake threatened to make her late for a 30-minute appointment to visit her aging mother at a retirement home, where family visitations were restricted due to the pandemic. Driver Alec Bailey said he was moved by pity for the distraught woman after she realized her mistake. “I just said to myself, I have to get this woman as close as I can to that home,” Bailey told the BBC. The driver asked the other passengers if they minded, and then drove Mason as near to the nursing home as he could get in his double-decker bus. Afterward, Mason told the BBC, “He’s made my Christmas and he’s made my year, I can’t thank him enough.”