The morning Odds & Ends |

The morning Odds & Ends

MONTPELIER, Vt. Strapping that Christmas tree to the top of a sport utility vehicle can be a real drag.A couple of engineers at the University of Vermont claim that sport utility vehicles topped with trees have 26 percent more aerodynamic drag than treeless SUVs.Knowing the energy density of gasoline, typical engine efficiencies and the number of trees sold, they concluded that an extra 53,000 gallons of gas are used each year to retrieve trees.And given high fuel costs, that translates to a nationwide a total of about $100,000.Its a modest impact per vehicle, but nonetheless when you add it all up the gross effect is not negligible, said Darren Hitt, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the university.Hitt, whose main research project is with the U.S. Air Force looking at miniaturized compulsion systems for next generation satellites, said hes part of a research group that favors satire.

PERTH, Australia Customs officials in Australia are serious about the countrys quarantine laws and thats no baloney.A Swiss national discovered that when he was caught at Perth International Airport trying to smuggle a salami in his luggage. Dylan Pascal Graves, who was studying English in Western Australia state, was fined $3,057 at the Perth Magistrates Court.Australia has strict quarantine laws, and customs officials inspect all incoming flights for agricultural pests and food that could carry diseases. Sniffer dogs patrol airport terminals and luggage is passed through X-ray machines.Graves twice told customs officials in November that he was not carrying any food, but an X-ray revealed salami meat concealed in his luggage. When asked why he had not declared the salami, Graves said he had planned to eat it.Graves was charged with making a misleading statement to an officer and knowingly importing prohibited food into the country.

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia It seemed a planned statue of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was all but forgotten except by the artist.The city of Rimavska Sobota commissioned the sculpture in 1988 a year before communism fell in the former Czechoslovakia. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the city lost interest in the project.Tibor Bartfay, however, has not. He has been fighting to be paid for the work he put into producing the sculptures model and a court several years ago ordered the city to pay $10,830 for the plaster model, city official Katarina Eliasova said.The city has made the payment, she said, and this week the council figured out how to incorporate the cost in its accounting books.The sculpture was never produced and the model sits in a storage room, Eliasova said.Before 1989, sculptures of Lenin and other Soviet or local communists officials dominated many cities around Slovakia. After communism fell, they were removed and most were destroyed. At least one Lenin statue that once belonged to a former Soviet state has gone on sale on eBay.

MANKATO, Minn. Donors bought a bus ticket and gave traveling money to a man who suffered a series of misadventures after illegally crossing the Mexican border, but he probably just needed a good map.Juan Rivera, 46, left his home in Juarez, Mexico, last week. He slipped into El Paso, Texas, and went to Riverside, Calif., to look for a temporary job. When he couldnt find work, he asked someone which train headed back to El Paso.But the train went to the wrong city. So he got on another train, then another. Somehow he ended up in Mankato in the middle of the night, according to Blue Earth County Sheriff Brad Peterson, who heard Riveras story through an interpreter.Wearing only jeans and three shirts, Rivera walked to a convenience store and crawled into a trash bin to stay warm. But at about 5:30 a.m. Monday, a garbage truck dumped the contents of the trash bin, including Rivera, into the truck.When the truck got to its next stop, Rivera crawled out the back and the driver called 911. He was treated at a local hospital for minor injuries.Although he entered the country illegally, Peterson said the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement had no interest in him. Having broken no local laws, and considering his harrowing experience, Peterson told Rivera he was free to go.Rivera was brought to the Mankato Salvation Army, where he had a good meal and slept in a warm bed, said Elaine Schoeneberger of the Salvation Army.He gave me a hug before he left on the bus.Salvation Army Capt. Bill Mealy made sure the driver knew where he was headed.

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