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Parrots' hit parade

"They are known as great mimics, but now scientists have discovered that parrots also have varied musical tastes – and an intense dislike of dance tunes," The Sunday Telegraph reports. "Researchers monitored the listening preferences of a pair of African grey parrots … and found that while one favoured soothing 'middle of the road' music, the other opted for more upbeat, modern pop. Both birds also enjoyed rock and folk music and 'danced' along by bobbing their heads and legs. They even 'sang along' by squawking. But neither animal appreciated electronic dance music, which left them both distressed."

Finding ideas in nature

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"If you need your work force to generate great new ideas, you might be tempted to have your employees look for options online," says The Boston Globe. "You'd do better to take away their computers and pack them off to the woods. In a study by psychologists at the University of Kansas and the University of Utah, people who went on a backpacking trip run by Outward Bound – and were banned from using electronics the whole time – performed 50-per-cent better on a test of creative problem-solving after several days out in nature than people who hadn't yet started the trip."

Deciphering the buzz

"A British bee lover has developed a system that eavesdrops on hives and analyzes the sound of their buzzing to monitor the colony's health," says BBC Focus magazine. "Dr. Huw Evans in Newcastle analyzed the audio signatures of colonies in different states and found that a humming frequency of 250 hertz, for instance, indicates a swarm is imminent. Once the hum is recorded and analyzed, data can be fed back to the keeper on a tablet computer."

Blame the cellphones

"An Indian village has banned women from using mobile phones, saying the devices have led to an increase in elopements," The Sunday Times of London reports. "Women in Sunderbari face fines of up to 10,000 rupees [$180] if caught using the devices in public. 'Mobile phones are debasing the social atmosphere,' said Manuwar Alam, of the village council. 'It always gives us a lot of embarrassment when someone asks who has eloped this time. Even married women were deserting their husbands to elope with lovers.'"

No. 1 tongue? Poor English

"German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble admits his English is not the best, but, he notes, he's not alone," says United Press International. "'Badly spoken English is however the most spoken language in the world,' Schauble said in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. Schauble recognizes English is the language of choice for multinational corporations and most young people speak it. He said he once suggested that the European Union forgo interpreters and require business to be conducted in English."

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Retro Russians rock on

"A forbidden cultural import during the Cold War, American swing dance and rock 'n' roll are now seeing a jump in popularity among Russians who embrace the retro Americana," The Christian Science Monitor reports. "… Dance instructor Olga Moiseeva says she has seen a tenfold hike in the number of Muscovites wanting to twist and shake. Ten years ago, only three pupils would show up to one of her classes. Nowadays she arranges Lindy Hop parties that draw hundreds of dancers. 'The Lindy Hop is about freedom,' Moiseeva says. 'And the music is fantastic. But it's about more than the dance, it's about taking classes, competing and, for some, about the cars and the fashion.'"

Thought du jour

"The world gets better every day – then worse again in the evening."

– Frank (Kin) Hubbard, American humourist (1868-1930)

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