Where's The Snake?
HONG KONG - There's no snake in the soup in Hong Kong this winter. Restaurants report they're missing the main ingredient for one of their most popular dishes. The snake supply dried up last year during the SARS outbreak. China cut off the snakes when there was concern the deadly disease might have originated in wildlife. Snakes have since been let off the scientific hook. But Chinese officials haven't permitted the resumption of exports. Hong Kong snake traders say the only ones they have are last year's frozen leftovers and less desirable Southeast Asian snakes. Snake soup lovers claim the delicacy wards off colds and is an aphrodisiac.
No More Monkeys Jumping On The Bed ...
LOPBURI, Thailand - At least seven patients crowded the hospital room. Four with respiratory diseases were on the same examination table, out cold from anesthesia. Another had survived a fall from a building, and one more - hit by a car - had a broken leg.
It was a busy day at Thailand's first monkey hospital, which opened Wednesday in Lopburi, 70 miles north of Bangkok.
The 2,000 monkeys roaming free in central Lopburi are the city's main tourist attraction. A feast held for them each November brings thousands of visitors.
Treating monkeys is hard work, said Dr. Somsak Naksomboon, a veterinarian who works at the hospital.
"If you work with wild animals, you have to anesthetize them," he said. "Plus, they're harder to catch than your regular domesticated pets."
Medics who try to take the sick and injured animals to the doctor are treated like kidnappers by the monkeys.
"We have to be quick, because hundreds will rush in to bite you to protect their pack," Somsak said.
The 8,440-square-foot monkey hospital, located at the Lopburi Zoo, has operating, examination, treatment and admittance rooms. The $45,000 center was built with loans and donations from animal lovers.
Respiratory problems are common among monkeys when seasons change, Somsak said. Winter has arrived in tropical Thailand, and temperatures can drop to about 59 degrees at night.
Four big monkeys, suffering from colds, had to be put on intravenous drips because they hadn't eaten in days. They also had to be anesthetized, or they'd pull out their IV needles.
Coincidence Or Poetic Justice?
TUCSON, Ariz. - Call it a case of bad karma.
A man who stole a Salvation Army donation pot outside a drug store was hit by a car as he tried to run away, police said.
Edward Sanders, 40, grabbed the pot Tuesday and pulled it away after a short struggle with volunteer Patricia Parra, a 60-year-old woman who suffers from cerebral palsy, said South Tucson police Sgt. Dan Snyder.
As Sanders started to run away, he was struck by a Honda sedan and police captured him.
The red pot and the $53.97 inside were returned to the Salvation Army, Snyder said.
"I think God has a poetic sense of justice," he said.
Sanders, treated at University Medical Center, was arrested on suspicion of robbery and criminal damage.
No Santa Claus Clause
MIRAMAR, Fla. - Mrs. Jolly thinks her son's teacher is a Grinch.
Sandra Jolly said her 6-year-old son's Christmas was spoiled when his teacher told the first-grade class Monday that "Santa Claus is make-believe."
"He had this sad, lost puppy dog look on his face. This unhappy, empty look," Jolly said. "He said his teacher informed the entire class that Santa is make-believe."
D.J.'s teacher, Geneta Codner, was reading a story about the Tooth Fairy when the class started discussing what was real and what was not, said district spokesman Joe Donzelli.
When the subject of Santa came up, the teacher started questioning parts of his story - How could a fat jolly man fit down a chimney? How could reindeer fly around the world in one night? - and told the children that wasn't possible.
"It's all been blown out of proportion," Codner said. "I'm sorry (parents) think I meant it that way. We were just having a discussion. I don't know where all this hurt came from."
The teacher said none of the children acted upset or sad during class.
But Jolly and others disagree.
"How do you destroy a 6-year-old like that?" said Pam Sturt, whose son Bradley is in D.J.'s class.
Donzelli said the school's principal "had a real stern conversation" with the teacher. But there will be no written reprimand because she did not violate any school district policy.
"We have no Santa clause," Donzelli said. "We would think that teachers would use better judgment."
Bad Sex In Fiction Award
LONDON - A steamy bit of writing featuring engine oil, Bugattis and Volkswagens won the dubious honor of the Literary Review's "Bad Sex in Fiction" award Wednesday.
Judges said Indian writer Aniruddha Bahal's novel, "Bunker 13," merged the styles of Andy McNab, a British writer who specializes in special forces yarns, and Jilly Cooper, mistress of the horse and horseplay novel.
"Bunker 13" was described as a thriller about a reporter going undercover to expose evildoing in Kashmir.
The award-winning sex scene involved a woman dropping her trousers to expose a strategically placed swastika, and the judge saluted the "exuberance and energy" of the writing. A sample:
"Your RPM is hitting a new high. To wait any longer would be to lose prime time...
"She picks up a Bugatti's momentum. You want her more at a Volkswagen's steady trot. Squeeze the maximum mileage out of your gallon of gas. But she's eating up the road with all cylinders blazing. You lift her out. You want to try different kinds of fusion."
DAVIE, Fla. - A woman upset at being refused the sale of wine at a gas station rammed her car into a pump, setting it ablaze, police said.
Debra Ann Marren, 43, tried to buy some cheap fortified wine, but the Citgo clerk told her he couldn't sell it to her since it was illegal to sell alcohol between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., according to Davie Police.
"She became irate and started screaming at the clerk, but he held his ground," Lt. Bill Bamford said Tuesday.
Marren then jumped in her car, reversed into the pump, and fled with the pump on fire, Bamford said.
Police received another call about a woman arguing with a man, and officers found Marren and a car matching the description of the one at the Citgo station.
No information on what Marren was charged with, or whether she had an attorney was immediately available.
Woman Jailed For IQ Fraud
BROOMFIELD, Colo. - A woman who faked test scores to pose her son as one of the most gifted children in the world has been sentenced to four days in jail for fraud.
Elizabeth Chapman, 31, was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of second-degree forgery Tuesday for providing the Broomfield Department of Human Services with bogus IQ test results from when her son Justin was 3.
Chapman admitted fabricating most of her son's achievements, including a perfect 800 score on the math section of the SAT.
The boy, now 10, was placed in foster care after his mother took him to a hospital last year for what she feared was a suicide attempt. They were reunited in February.
'Attention Wal-Mart Jurors ...'
GOLDSBORO, N.C. - The Wayne County sheriff says his deputies had a hard time finding what they were looking for in the aisles filled with holiday shoppers at Wal-Mart.
Not gifts - jurors.
Judge Ripley Eagles Rand ordered deputies Wednesday to go to the department store after he failed to find enough possible jurors for a murder trial set to begin Monday. About half of the 150 jurors summoned for the case were excused or had their duty deferred, a court clerk said.
But Sheriff Carey Winders says the search forced his officers into confrontations with people shopping for Christmas gifts.
Some shoppers were upset by questioning Wednesday, a day before Thanksgiving, he said. Some were rude, but the deputies were instructed to be cordial and apologetic.
"They were raising Cain with my officers and don't understand why they have to (serve)," Winders said.
The officers found 50 possible jurors Wednesday.