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Dispatches Quick Takes

Quick Takes

(Karim Bouchetata)

A frost in the desert

A rare cold snap in Algeria created a picture-perfect landscape for some North African photographers—a frozen Sahara Desert. For just the fourth time in 42 years, sand dunes outside of ’Aïn Séfra, Algeria, froze over in January. Local photographer Karim Bouchetata captured scenes of ice crystals accumulating in the ridges of the dunes outside of town. Temperatures in the Atlas Mountains town dropped to 27 degrees Fahrenheit—30 degrees cooler than the average January temperature. Still, this year’s frost, while a rarity, pales in comparison to some recent wintry weather: Fifteen inches of snow fell on the desert town in 2018. The year before that, a rare blizzard dropped 3 feet of snow. According to Sky News, temperatures in ’Aïn Séfra, sitting on the northern edge of the Sahara and known as “the gateway to the desert,” average 100 degrees in the summer.

To catch a sasquatch

An Oklahoma representative has introduced a bill into the state Legislature to create a hunting season for the mythical Bigfoot. Republican Justin Humphrey, whose southeastern Oklahoma district hosts a yearly Bigfoot festival, said he hoped establishing a Bigfoot hunting season would increase tourism to the state. “Establishing an actual hunting season and issuing licenses for people who want to hunt Bigfoot will just draw more people to our already beautiful part of the state,” he said in a statement. According to the lawmaker, the bill would allow only for the trapping, not killing, of a Sasquatch.

Smells like France

Responding to complaints about noises and odors, French Parliament has passed a law designed to preserve France’s countryside. According to Minister for Rural Affairs Joël Giraud, the new law will “define and protect the sensory heritage of the French countryside.” For years, France’s rural citizens have complained about cosmopolitan French moving out of cities and into their territory. For their part, the new arrivals have complained about their rural neighbors’ livestock. In one publicized 2019 case, a new arrival from the city lodged noise complaints about a rooster’s early-morning crowing. The new law should make it harder for countryside noise and smell complaints to gain traction. “The rooster cry is a French tradition that needs to be preserved,” Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron Mayor Christophe Sueur told CNN.

Fishy fact-finding

A lawsuit filed in a federal court in California alleges that Subway’s tuna isn’t really tuna. In an email to The Washington Post in January, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case said, “We found that the ingredients were not tuna and not fish.” The lawsuit claims the sandwich chain’s tuna is actually a mixture of various nonfish ingredients. Subway has denied the allegations.

Lights, camera, haircut

Seeking a way around Ontario’s strict lockdown rules, a barber in St. Catharines near Niagara Falls decided to reopen her storefront as a production studio. Alicia Hirter said the addition of cameras, lighting equipment, and microphones at her Chrome Artistic Barbering shop qualified her to reopen her store and resume cutting hair. According to Hirter, customers may enter her shop to audition for a future podcast or documentary. The audition comes at the cost of $29 but includes a haircut. So far, Hirter said she’s collected a terabyte of data from the auditions. The masquerade prompted an investigation by local officials who, according to media reports, have issued fines against the shop.

Spotting birds, finding loot

While tracking a pair of magpies at the edge of a farmer’s field in eastern England in September, a birdwatcher found something even more stunning: Celtic gold. After the unnamed man caught the glint of gold on the ground, he picked up what turned out to be a Celtic gold stater, a term for a handmade coin. Nearby, the man found a second coin. He then raced home to retrieve a metal detector. After digging down 18 inches, the birder found a copper vessel filled with nearly 1,300 gold coins. The cache has a value of around $1.2 million. Historians who examined the coins said they dated back to the first century when the Roman Empire was conquering Britain. One treasure hunting expert in the United Kingdom suggested the location and age of the loot might associate the coins with the famed revolt of the Iceni tribe under the leadership of its queen, Boudicca. “It is possible that they may form a deposit as a ‘war chest’ for Boudicca’s eastern campaigns,” Treasure Hunting magazine editor Julian Evan-Hart said in a statement.

Anti-germ hijinks

A British woman narrowly avoided a sticky pandemic prank set up by a group of local teenagers. Kathy Smith said a small group of boys approached her outside a supermarket in Bradford, England, on Jan. 18 and asked if she wanted some free hand sanitizer. Smith told YorkshireLive she almost fell for the offer. “The lad approached me showing me the bottle of ‘sanitizer’ asking if I would like a free pump,” she told the English outlet. “He was eagerly waiting for me to hold my hand out with a massive smile on his face.” Laughs from the teens gave Smith pause, and she declined the offer. As she walked away, Smith said the boys began laughing about how the container was actually filled with superglue.

Lizards in his luggage

One smuggler’s plan to traffic dozens of live reptiles into Austria was foiled by sharp customs officials in Vienna Airport on Jan. 20. The 56-year-old man, whom authorities did not name, had stuffed inside his suitcase dozens of endangered chameleons from Tanzania. He managed to hide 74 of the rare animals inside his luggage, tucking them into socks and plastic boxes. But airport officials caught on to his scheme after taking a close look at an X-ray image of the suitcase. Officials said the man intended to sell the chameleons, which have the ability to change their skin color to match their surroundings, on the black market in neighboring Czech Republic for up to $44,000. “While they would have been well camouflaged in a natural environment, [the lizards] ultimately did not outwit the X-ray machine,” noted officials in a press release. The smuggler will likely face a fine of around $7,000.