Originally created 02/03/05

Odds and Ends



MARSEILLE, France - Most people wouldn't pay 10 cents for a dead hedgehog. The French government has shelled out over $4 million.

On March 22, 1998, the hedgehog's carcass was lying at the end of a runway at the airport in the southern town of Marseille, attracting about 20 seagulls that were picking at it.

Soon an Air France Airbus A320 roared past and the plane's right engine sucked in the flock of hapless birds, causing the plane to skid to an emergency stop. The engine was damaged.

A court in Marseille ruled Tuesday that the French government was responsible for keeping the runways clear of such perils and that its staff at the airport should have noticed "such a large group of birds" in the path of the jet.

It ordered the government to pay $4.2 million to Air France and five insurance companies that had paid out after the accident.

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PENTICTON, British Columbia (AP) - A statue called The Baggage Handler is turning out to be a heavy load for this town.

The statue went up earlier this month showing a man's nude figure surrounded by a number of colorful suitcases meant to represent emotional baggage.

After distracted drivers narrowly avoided accidents, artist Michael Hermesh was told to bolt a metal plate in front of the statue's genitalia. Then it was removed because it drew attention to the groin area.

Now vandals have bashed away the genitalia on the 6 1/2-foot epoxy-impregnated plaster statue, broken the ankles and knocked over the 24 suitcases.

"It's like being censored for the second time," Hermesh said.

Council members said they were unaware of the nudity last year when they approved the statue as one of four temporary art works for the roundabout near the marina.

"Nudity begets controversy, and controversy is the issue here," said Mayor Dave Perry. "We don't need the controversy, we just need some public art the majority of the community can buy into."

The statue will stay up until September.

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HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - Mike Johanns is out as Nebraska's governor, but his stationery will stay.

Gov. Dave Heineman said he would have his name printed at the bottom of Johanns' stationery. To do otherwise would be wasteful, Heineman said.

"That's just one small way for me to send a message to every single agency. Let's watch our pennies and if we watch our pennies together, ultimately, we can save millions," he said.

Heineman said the state also would continue handing out state maps with photos of Johanns and his wife on them.

Heineman, the former lieutenant governor, became governor Jan. 20 after Johanns began his job as U.S. agriculture secretary.