Funny old world: The week's offbeat news
From zombified Indonesian teenagers to Canadians getting the right to be rude. Your weekly roundup of offbeat stories from around the world.
- Only in New York -
New York's 311 non-emergency hotline is there to log complaints about noise or rats, but it also has to field some pretty bizarre requests like "Can you check if my boyfriend is married?", and "Please transfer me to a UFO-ologist."
One caller asked to be talked through "the steps for boiling a live chicken" while another wondered if they could claim their dog on their taxes.
One desperate New Yorker even rang to find out who won the TV talent show "American Idol".
But some of the strangest calls were about animals, like the woman who rang to report that "a raccoon is eating lasagna on my porch".
- The right to be rude -
Canadians have a reputation for being terribly nice. But centuries of civility has been rocked by a judge ruling that they have a God-given right to give each other the finger.
"Flipping the proverbial bird is a God-given, Charter enshrined right that belongs to every red-blooded Canadian," said Judge Dennis Galiatsatos in a 26-page decision after a teacher in French-speaking Quebec was arrested for insulting his neighbour in a Montreal suburb.
The gesture "may not be polite, it may not be gentlemanly... nevertheless, it does not trigger criminal liability," Galiatsatos said.
The judge was so sure of his ruling he said "the Court is inclined to take the file and throw it out the window".
"Alas," Galiatsatos added, "Montreal courtrooms do not have windows."
- Teenage zombies -
It is never easy to get teenagers out of bed. But in Indonesia it is even harder since the governor of East Nusa Tenggara province ordered secondary school students to be in class by 5:30 am.
Eureka Ata, 16, now has to get up at 4 am every morning.
"She is exhausted and falls asleep immediately when she gets home," her mother told AFP.
The governor is adamant, however, his experiment will improve discipline despite the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending that teenagers actually start school later than others.
But Marsel Robot, an education expert from Nusa Cendana University, said teenagers zombified by sleep deprivation were more likely to lose it.
- US loves French lapdogs -
First they came for "frites" and made them French fries, then they turned croissants into cronuts, now America has taken another beloved French institution to its ample bosom. The French Bulldog has supplanted the loveable Labrador as the most popular dog in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club.
Yanks are barking about the little lapdogs, despite their bat ears and the wheezing and drooling which has prompted the Dutch to consider banning them on cruelty grounds.
- Smog big buzzkill for flies -
We all know air pollution is bad, but it is even worse for fruit flies. Ozone-laden smog is playing havoc with their sex lives. Not only does it cause male flies to lose their sex appeal, it also leaves them unable to tell the difference between he-flies and she-flies, according to German scientists.
While this is unfortunate -- tragic even -- for flies, it is also extremely worrying for the planet, said Markus Knaden of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.
For it may be a driver in the accelerating decline of nearly half of all insect species.
"We're talking about millions of species," said Knaden, adding, "Things were great until we came along."