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Cats in rehab, outsourcing a city, money and marriage Add to ...

Cats in rehab

The Ogasawara Islands, a clutch of tropical islands 1,000 kilometres south of Tokyo, are overrun with a growing number of feral cats, The Daily Telegraph reports. "Attacks on the islands' birds and other creatures have prompted fears that the wild cats are threatening the region's unique ecosystem. As a result, veterinary experts have joined forces with locals to round up the cats, before deporting them to Japan's main Honshu Island. The deported cats subsequently undergo training to become domestic pets for periods of up to three months before starting their new lives." A veterinary spokeswoman said: "The process involves firstly putting the cat in a cage and then placing the cage in a place where people often pass by. The cat is touched every day and after a month, can normally be held."

Outsourcing a city

After years of whittling staff and cutting back on services, U.S. towns and cities are now outsourcing some of the most basic functions of local government, from policing to trash collection. Services that cities can no longer afford to provide are being contracted to private vendors, counties or even neighbouring towns, Tamara Audi reports for The Wall Street Journal. "Maywood, a tiny city southeast of Los Angeles, is taking contracting to the extreme. The city of around 40,000 is letting go of its entire staff and contracting with outsiders to perform all city services. The city is disbanding its police force and handing public safety over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff. Its neighbour, the city of Bell, will take over running Maywood's City Hall."

What's that in water?

"Geologic time is such a vast concept," writes Nobel laureate Robert B. Laughlin in The American Scholar, "that it's helpful to convert it to something more pedestrian just to get oriented. I like rainfall." He notes:

- The total precipitation that falls on the world in one year is about one metre of rain, the height of a golden retriever.

- The amount of rain that has fallen on the world since the time of Moses is enough to fill up all the oceans.

- The amount of rain that has fallen on the world since the Ice Age ended is enough to fill up the oceans four times.

- The amount that has fallen on the world since the dinosaurs died is enough to fill up all the oceans 20,000 times - or the entire volume of the Earth three times.

Money and marriage

"Who says money can't buy love?" Kevin Lewis writes for The Boston Globe. "An economist at the University of Georgia has found evidence that helping people save also greases the wheels of the marriage and divorce market. In the late 1990s, hundreds of low-income individuals in Tulsa, Okla., were randomly assigned to receive funds they could use to help make a down payment on a house. Initially unmarried individuals were over 40 per cent more likely to be married after four years in the program [than singles who weren't] Meanwhile, initially married individuals were even more likely to be divorced after only 18 months in the program."

Solidarity forever

"[U.S.]Border agents say a New York man tried to explain away the ankle monitor he was wearing while returning from Canada by claiming it was a show of support for actress Lindsay Lohan," Associated Press reports. "Customs and Border Protection officers say they found the bracelet around Eugene Todie's ankle July 9 after he tried to re-enter the United States using someone else's passport. They say he's on probation and not supposed to leave the country. They say Mr. Todie told them a probation officer friend gave him the bracelet to wear for Ms. Lohan, who's had to wear an alcohol ankle monitor. Record checks showed the Buffalo man is on probation for criminal contempt."

Non-helping professions

"It's a nagging question that has long haunted the equality-minded world of academia: Why are women so underrepresented in the fields of science and technology?" Tom Jacobs writes for Miller-McCune magazine. "Do they simply have less innate ability in these areas.… Or are they held back by ingrained sexism? A team of Miami University researchers led by psychologist Amanda Diekman has come up with a different explanation. In a paper just published in the journal Psychological Science, they argue women perceive STEM careers (those in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as largely incompatible with one of their core goals: Engaging in work that helps others."

It has come to this?

One of Britain's top stores is to start its Christmas sales 145 days before the holiday, BBC News reports. "Selfridges in Oxford Street will launch its Christmas season on Aug. 2 - its earliest-ever start for the store.… The store said previous sales had shown some customers, especially overseas tourists, started thinking about Christmas during August." A buying manager said she could see a time when Selfridges offered a Christmas collection throughout the year.

Thought du jour

"Life is like an overlong drama through which we sit being nagged by the vague memories of having read the reviews."

- John Updike

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