NO SNOWMEN:A Saudi Arabian cleric has created controversy by issuing a religious edict forbidding the building of snowmen because that creates an image of a human being considered sinful under a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam. “It is not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun. God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships fruits, buildings and so on,” he wrote in his ruling.
OW, AS IN OWL: Watch out, early morning joggers are being warned in Oregon’s state capital, because a barred owl with an affinity for hats has attacked four people is the last month.
No one was seriously injured but one jogger who lost his headgear to the owl said, “It was kind of amazing how it just swooped down and grabbed my hat like that. It just pulled it off my head like it was nothing.”
MAPPING GENETIC RICHES: Volunteers and scientists from five continents are helping the “Drugs From Dirt” project, a global effort to turn up bacteria that may yield new types of antibiotics.
The hard work is already paying off. Participants have found an area in New Mexico and another in Brazil so rich that they have collected 185 soil samples and extracted DNA from them.
BEER IS GOOD FOR YOU: A compound found in hops called xanthohumol could protect neuronal cells and potentially slow development of brain disorders.
Scientists say the compound puts the brakes on Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons and other conditions of the brain. It may also offer cardiovascular protection and anti-cancer properties.
SUGAR BABIES: Girls who consume lots of sugary drinks start their periods earlier than those who don’t.
What’s more, twice as many white girls in the U.S. reach puberty at age seven than those who did a decade ago—with obesity and exposure to chemicals that mimic the female hormone estrogen being the prime suspects.
LUCKY LAPDOGS: Argentine President Cristina Fernandez ordered a change in policy at the state-run airline to allow passengers to carry their lapdogs with them on flights.
Fernandez, who has a five-pound dog named Lolita, said the perk will be shared by travelers on Aerolinas Argentinas, adding “Careful, I said only small pets. Don’t try to board with a 120-pound mastiff.”
CHERNOBYL, CHAPTER TWO: Fallout from the world’s worst nuclear accident may once again spread over Europe because forest fires will release radiation locked up in the upper layers of soil near Chernobyl.
The situation will worsen because of climate change and because of the strange effect of fallout on dead leaves The radiation itself seems to inhibit the decay of “hot” leaf litter, perhaps because it kills insects and micro-organisms.
HIGH PRICE FOR LITTERING: Singapore has fined a smoker $15,000—the most ever for littering—for throwing cigarette butts out of his window.
DEATH BY CHOCOLATE: New Hampshire officials are proposing to limit the use of chocolate as bait to entice black bears out of the woods after four of the wild animals were found dead at a trapping site from overdosing on the sweet.
YUMMY: An Icelandic micro-brewery has reportedly launched a new beer flavored with the smoked testicles of whales.
The testicles of fin whale—an endangered species—are cured “according to an old Icelandic tradition” before being salted and smoked.
In 1913, Iceland resumed commercial fin whaling after a two-year suspension, with most of its catch exported to Japan.
FEWER ROYALTIES: Monarch butterflies have dropped 90 percent in the last 20 years—they make make it on the endangered species list despite the long backlog of listings.
The herbicide Roundup may be the main culprit for the disappearance since it kills milkweed, the only source of food for the monarch caterpillar.