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The Weird Week in Review

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Daily Mail

GPS Lands Belgian Woman in Croatia

Sabine Moreau left her home in Solre-sur-Sambre, Belgium, for trip to Brussels, about 38 miles away. But the 67-year-old ended up in Zagreb, Croatia -900 miles away!

Despite crossing five borders and seeing multiple-language traffic signs, she did not stop to question her sat-nav until two days later when she realised that she may not be in Belgium any more.

Although she stopped to refuel her car several times, Ms Moreau did not think her TomTom could be leading her down the wrong path.

Moreau's son had already reported her missing by the time she called home to say she was in Zagreb. 

Motorist Arrests Policeman for Driving Drunk

Russell George was driving in Prestbury, South Africa, when he noticed a police van swerving. The officer would come to a stop and start off again, leading George to believe the driver was drunk. The van came to a stop and George called police, but when they did not arrive within a few minutes, he approached the officer, smelled alcohol, pulled the policeman out of the car and locked him up in the back of the van! The inebriated police officer was arrested and his firearm was taken away. There had been a report earlier that same evening of the cop pulling a gun on his girlfriend at a nightclub, and a motor vehicle collision in which witnesses reported a police van that had left the scene. The unnamed  officer did not deny being drunk.     

Smurfs Arrested for Assault

First it was Oomps-Loompas, then came Smurfs. Four men painted blue and dressed as Smurfs entered a store in Pascoe Vale, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

A 37-year-old Pascoe Vale man was buying cigarettes at a convenience store when he was approached by a man painted blue and dressed as a character from the 1980s cartoon show, police say.

The Smurf asked for a cigarette and was offered one, but he demanded the man light the cigarette before handing it over.

The man refused and was later assaulted.

Police appealed to the public and asked the four men to come forward. Three unidentified 19-year-men and one 18-year-old turned themselves in, and will be charged with "assault-related offences."

Fire Breaks Out During Surgery

A fire started in an upstairs dishwasher at Medivet veterinary clinic in Southend, Essex, England. When the Essex Fire and Rescue Service arrived, they found a vet performing surgery on a dog. The crew determined that the surgery could continue, with a little help. Firefighters battled the blaze and evacuated other animals, and also protected the operating room until the surgery could be completed. They used a high pressure fan to ventilate the operating area. The fire was brought under control in a half hour, and the animals were taken to another clinic.

$4,000 Golden Vibrator Stolen

An armed man entered a luxury sex shop in Brazil, tied up the clerk, and took only one item: an 18-carat gold-plated vibrator with a retail price of $4,000. He neglected to take the charger. The store owner said the thief would have a difficult time removing the gold plating, as the vibrator has a stainless steel core. Besides, the value of the item as stolen goods is questionable. If it was meant to be a gift, the lack of a charger might raise suspicions.

Cat Survives 1,700 Miles Under Train

Polly the cat was found after riding 1,700 miles around England and Wales in the undercarriage of a train. It is thought that she stayed in the undercarriage for at least two days in fear after badly mangling her front limb. Train manager Emily Mahoney-Smith found her when she heard meows on a stop on the way to Cornwall. Taken to a veterinary clinic, the cat was almost put down until the vet scanned for a microchip and found one from a cattery in Plymouth, where Polly's owners had adopted her a couple of years before. Arthur and Louisa Westington hadn't seen Polly in three weeks, and didn't even know she had been microchipped. They gave permission for the cat's limb to be amputated. Polly is now recovering nicely, and will be taken home soon.     

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To Curb Exploding Kangaroo Populations, Ecologists Urge Australians to Eat Kangaroo Meat
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Australians eat everything from Vegemite, a spread made from leftover brewer's yeast extract, to a snack called fairy bread, otherwise known as white bread smothered in butter and rainbow sprinkles. Now, they may need to add another unique national food to their diets. BBC News reports that ecologists and landholders Down Under are encouraging people to embrace kangaroo meat to curb the nation’s surging marsupial numbers.

In 2010, Australia was home to just 27 million kangaroos. But by 2016, this figure had skyrocketed to nearly 45 million—nearly double the nation’s human population— thanks to rainy weather conditions that supplied the grazing animals with an abundance of vegetation. That's not necessarily a good thing for the species in the long run. If a drought occurs, there’s a good chance that millions of kangaroos could starve to death.

Some experts in Australia think that hunting kangaroos would be the most humane and efficient way to keep their numbers in check. But it’s not so easy to convince people to eat them.

Kangaroo meat is lean and sustainable, with a taste that’s been likened to sweet filet mignon. It can be transformed into steaks, roasts, meatballs, sausages, and kebabs. Even so, many Australians tend to dismiss the meat's culinary potential, since kangaroos are the country’s national animal. The stigma against eating them means that when hunters do nab kangaroos, the meat often goes to waste.

Plus, kangaroo meat currently fetches such a low price that hunters have little incentive to pursue the animals for commercial reasons. That means they’re not obtaining the special licenses required to hunt the nationally protected species.

Professor David Paton of the University of Adelaide supports the notion that Australia should cull the nation’s kangaroo population with humane hunting methods, he told Australian news outlets. "It's not the kangaroos' fault they're overabundant," he said. "It's probably we've just been too reluctant to take a stick to them, remove them out of the system sooner, to actually prevent the damage being caused [by the animals]," Paton said. That damage includes losses to biodiversity as the marsupials overgraze vegetation and outcompete other animals [PDF].

But no matter where Australians stand on the controversial killing and eating of kangaroos, some admit that their overpopulation leads to broken fences, trampled crops, damaged local ecosystems, and plenty of car accidents. Animal lovers are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place—and unlike kangaroos, they can’t simply leap out of the crevice.

"Two or three weeks ago we had thousands [of kangaroos] on here, just moving through,” a farmer named Garry Hannigan, who lives in New South Wales, recently told the ABC. "They were here in droves, and the amount that are being hit by cars is amazing. They're just devouring anything we've got grass-wise, they're starting to cause erosion along fences. Any of the grass country is just being pulled up by the roots." In turn, we may have to devour them.

[h/t BBC News]

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Big Questions
Why Are Cats Afraid of Cucumbers?
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Thanks to the internet, felines around the globe seem to have found a new—and unlikely—foe: the seemingly harmless garden cucumber. You’ve likely seen viral video compilations of pet owners surprising their cats with the fruit (yes, a cucumber is technically a fruit), which include footage of frightened kitties jumping, running, or clawing at the mysterious green objects before them.

Are cats and cucumbers really mortal enemies? Did an early feline ancestor eat a bad salad, or find that cucumbers made terrible scratching posts? “No, I don’t think that cats are inherently afraid of cucumbers,” Mikel Delgado, a certified cat behavior consultant who studied animal behavior and human-pet relationships as a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, tells Mental Floss.

Cats are creatures of habit, and Delgado thinks the cats in those videos—who were often ambushed from behind while bent forward eating—were simply caught off-guard while engaging in a familiar activity.

“Their eyes face forward, much like ours do,” Delgado explains. “That’s a very common structure for a face in a predator—you’re looking forward, and you’re not as worried about seeing behind you. Personally, I think that a lot of people were inadvertently startling their cats when they were already distracted. They were putting a strange object behind the cat while it was eating, the cat can’t see the object, they’re focused [on their food], and then they turn around” and see a cucumber.

The cats’ fright could be likened to how we sometimes jump or scream after we turn around and see someone standing behind us. But even though we typically laugh these moments off once the adrenaline dies down, it’s not cool to subject your cat to the same unsettling experience—especially when it’s eating.

“You want cats to feel safe when they eat,” Delgado says. “If cats don’t eat, they can become sick quite fast, and develop what’s called fatty liver disease.”

Plus, “stress can have really serious health effects on cats,” Delgado adds. “There’s been research showing that something as trivial as changing their routine can cause cats to exhibit what we call sickness behaviors: vomiting, not using their litter box, diarrhea, changes in appetite. Cats are sensitive.”

This doesn’t mean that you can’t introduce new items (say, a couch in the spot where your cat typically likes to sleep) to your household. But when you do, let Fluffy check out these unfamiliar objects on his or her own terms.

“A lot of the time people try to show a cat that something they’re afraid of isn’t scary,” Delgado says. “They’re going to inadvertently make the cat more afraid, because they’re forcing it to interact with something they’re fearful of.”

As time passes, the object will start smelling familiar, and your favorite feline will gradually relax. In the meantime, though, save the cucumbers for your salad, and keep them far away from your kitty’s food dish.

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