The floods that ravaged parts of northeast England in December received considerable media coverage, but a resultant emergency flew under the radar of the international press: Parts of Britain ran out of cookies.
United Biscuits, maker of popular brands such as McVitie's, Jacob's, and Crawford's, was forced to halt production at its Cumbria plant, as the Independent reported, leading to a shortage of a staple of the British diet.
Yet an international effort has saved the day: On Tuesday, as the Dubai-based Gulf News reported, airline Emirates flew in two Boeing 777 cargo planes earlier this month with 90,000 kilograms of biscuits to mitigate the disaster.
Britons should keep this gesture in mind, so that in the highly unlikely event of flooding in the United Arab Emirates, they could help to alleviate any shawarma shortage.
Face up to it
See something you want to buy on Amazon? Well, face up to it. That's what the online retail giant wants you to do.
The company has a facial-recognition software payment system in the works, according to a patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week. The 18-page filing goes into detail about how it would require selfies taken from different angles.
Application No. 14/887,274 also explains the procedure that would be used to verify user identities. The company is pursuing the technology because it believes facial recognition would be even more secure than credit card payments.
And there's another bonus: Shoppers would no longer have to go through the cumbersome process of making several clicks to pay – it could be done with just a couple.
Stop, thief! You're hired!
If ever there was a heartwarming story about shoplifting, the experience of a Malaysian man last week is it.
The father of three, who declined to be named, was offered a job instead of being prosecuted after he was caught stealing from a supermarket in the town of Alma. And not only has he bagged a job, he's also been given some financial help, Malaysia's The Star reported last week.
The man had quit his job as a contract worker after his wife fell into a coma during a birth complication the previous week. Out with his hungry son, he pilfered fruit and drinks from the store.
The store's general manager Radzuan Ma'asan interrogated him and decided to take a different approach in dealing with the crime. Warning the man never to steal again, he was offered a job at the store, and cash for some basic expenses.
"The man's situation really touched our hearts. We visited his relative's house. It was so empty and poor," he said. Store staff also visited the man's wife, who is happily now out of a coma.
"For now, our priority is to ensure that he enrolls his seven-year-old son in a school," Mr. Radzuan said.
It's all a rare example of how sometimes crime does actually pay.
The Disney yardstick
Move aside, Big Mac.
The worldwide presence of the Golden Arches has made it a convenient yardstick for how expensive a place is, prompting The Economist to develop what is known as the Big Mac index. The index measures purchasing-power parity (PPP) to determine whether a currency is at its "correct" level, and compares what an identical service or product costs in different countries.
Now there's a new kid on the PPP block: You could call it the Mickey Mouse index.
Oriental Land Co., the Tokyo-based operator of hotels and theme parks including Tokyo Disneyland and several Disney hotels, will be raising the cost of a visit to Tokyo Disneyland for the third year in a row. Starting April 1, an adult admission will rise to ¥7,400 ($86.30) from ¥6,900 – a hefty 7.2-per-cent jump, Nikkei Asian Review reports.
But Japanese Disney fans shouldn't grouse: Compared with all of its international counterparts, Tokyo's Magic Kingdom is by far the cheapest. Leading the pack (all prices converted to yen) is Orlando, Fla.'s Disney World, at a steep ¥12,000, followed by its California sibling Disneyland, at just under ¥11,000. Disneyland Paris charges the equivalent of just over ¥9,000, with Shanghai's and Hong Kong's parks rounding out the next two positions.
But back to that yardstick. The price differential tells us the yen is undervalued against the greenback, the euro, the yuan and the Hong Kong dollar.
So quit griping, Japan. Not only are your cheaper exports boosting your trade balance, you also get a cheap day out with Goofy and his friends.
Streuth, now it's koala diplomacy
While Canada has its share of government spending scandals, they're nowhere near as colourful as the ones they have Down Under.
The Australian Labor Party recently created its "Wastepedia," or "The Taxpayer's Guide to Liberal Waste." And the party has plenty of ammunition to aim at the governing party.
Starting at the top, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is described as "the attacker of the prime ministerial suite, prophet of a 'budget emergency,' and defender of serial spenders."
And he has plenty of depth in his benches, Labor claims, including "a rock star Foreign Minister who likes to party," and a "cowboy Agricultural Minister with a whisky taste on a sarsaparilla budget." (Which is presumably Australian for "champagne taste on a beer budget.")
Even spending on national symbols had the Opposition up in arms, as Reuters reported.
"This government is obsessed with hugging koalas. We've had $400,000 Australian [$395,000] which included [Foreign Minister] Julie Bishop paying $133,000 to fly four koalas to Singapore Zoo," Opposition minister Pat Conroy said outside Parliament.
"She spent I think it was $130,000 taking diplomats to Western Australia, where they hugged wombats for a change – so at least they changed up the marsupial."