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Supporters of Andreas Baum of the Pirate Party react after first exit polls for the city-state election in Berlin September 18, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters/Thomas Peter/Reuters)
Supporters of Andreas Baum of the Pirate Party react after first exit polls for the city-state election in Berlin September 18, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters/Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Pirates set to enter Berlin parliament Add to ...

Berliners vote for pirates

“A protest party. A group of computer nerd misfits. Perhaps even a joke? Such were the portrayals of the Pirate Party in Berlin prior to Sunday’s city-state election,” reports Der Spiegel. “After all, how could a single-issue party made up largely of twentysomething men really be serious about politics? That was then. Now, with 15 Pirates set to enter Berlin’s regional parliament after receiving an astonishing 8.9 per cent of the vote, capital city residents are taking a closer look at one of the most surprising political success stories Germany has seen in recent years. And what they have found is a group which has tapped into a political vein that Germany’s more established political parties didn’t even know existed. … [The Pirate Party]platform no longer focuses exclusively on issues associated with Internet freedoms and digital privacy. The party also campaigned on demands for free urban transportation, a guaranteed minimum income for all and a student-teacher ratio in public schools of 15-to-1.”

Local money for local growth

“After school and on weekends, Carlos Leandro Peixoto de Abril [of Silva Jardim, Brazil]sells ice cream made by his grandmother from a stoop alongside the family’s cinder-block home,” says The Wall Street Journal. “Instead of Brazilian reais, though, the 11-year-old prefers payment in capivaris – a local currency emblazoned with the face of a giant rodent. Bills in hand, Carlos then heads to a local grocer and buys ingredients, at a special discount, for another batch of grandma’s goods. The capivari circulates only in this dusty, agricultural town [100 kilometres]north of Rio de Janeiro. The money is an effort by the town, one of the poorest in southeastern Brazil, to encourage its 23,000 residents to spend locally. Ten months after introduction of the capivari … the currency is lifting fortunes of local retailers and gnawing holes in the pockets of consumers. … The capivari is one of 63 local moneys … now circulating in needy neighbourhoods throughout Latin America’s biggest economy.”

Dog is off the menu

“A traditional dog meat festival with a 600-year history of slaughtering and tasting dogs in Zhejiang Province has been cancelled after outrage and protest from tens of thousands of animal-rights activists,” Shanghai Daily reports. “The annual three-day-long festival was planned for Oct. 18 in Hutou village of Jinhua City, where 5,000 to 10,000 dogs would be butchered on the streets and served to villagers on dining tables. Participants in past festivals described horrific scenes they called ‘doomsday for dogs,’ when dogs were kept in cages with their eyes scratched out and their mouths wrapped up by iron wires, waiting for customers to pick them up and get slaughtered in front of hundreds of other dogs. … A campaign to boycott the coming festival was started by animal-rights activists last week on several online platforms. On Weibo.com, a call for residents to put an end to the slaughterers’ festival was forwarded 55,000 times in one day.”

Expensive, house-eating pets

“In southwest Miami, a small subdivision is being called ‘ground zero’ of an invasion by a destructive, non-native species,” says National Public Radio. “ ‘It’s us against the snails,’ [said]Richard Gaskalla, head of plant industry for Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. … That’s the giant African land snail, to be precise. They can grow to be [25 centimetres]long. They leave a slimy trail of excrement wherever they go. They harbour the microscopic rat lungworm, which can transmit meningitis to humans. And they will literally eat your house. … Giant African land snails are restricted in the United States. Gaskalla says people often smuggle them into the country in their pockets, because they make popular novelty pets. ‘Back in 1965 we had an introduction that was traced back to an elementary-aged child that had put two of them in his pocket in Hawaii and brought them back to Miami,’ Gaskalla says. ‘Seventeen-thousand snails, $1-million and 10 years, we eradicated them.’ ”

Evidently not a Bieber fan

“And behold, another sign of the apocalypse: The Justin Bieber Singing Toothbrush,” writes Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. “… Just press a button on the toothbrush and you can hear Mr. Bieber sing two of his immortal hits, the sad Baby and U Smile, which is probably a happy song, but I really don’t know or care.”

Will astronauts ever see Mars?

“Astronauts who’ve spent long periods in space have experienced blurred vision,” reports United Press International, “a problem that could jeopardize long missions like a trip to Mars, NASA says. … While the condition normally goes away once an astronaut returns to Earth, at least one astronaut reportedly has never regained normal vision. … ‘No one has been in space long enough to know how bad this [condition]can get,’ said Dr. Bruce Ehni, a neurosurgeon who has worked with NASA on the issue. ‘When they [NASA]start going [to]long-distance [destinations]like Mars, you can’t end up having a bunch of blind astronauts.’ ”

Thought du jour

“If youth be a defect, it is one that we outgrow only too soon.”

- James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), U.S. writer and diplomat

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