Chuck Shepherd

Kids as young as 6 who live atop a cliff in China's Atule'er village in Sichuan Province will no longer have to use flexible vine-based ladders to climb down and up the 2,600-foot descent from their homes to school. Beijing News disclosed in October, in a report carried by CNN, that a sturdy steel ladder was being built to aid the 400 villagers after breathtaking photographs of them making the treacherous commute surfaced on the internet earlier this year.

Ant version of hell

Researchers in Poland reported in August the "survival" of a colony of ants that wandered unsuspectingly into an old nuclear weapon bunker and became trapped. When researchers first noticed in 2013, they assumed the ants would soon die, either freezing or starving, but, returning in 2015 and 2016, they found the population stable. Their only guess: New ants were falling into the bunker, "replacing" the dead ones. Thus, ants condemned to the bunker slowly starve, freezing, in total darkness, until newly condemned ants arrive and freeze and starve in total darkness — and on and on.

Florida name game

Arrested in October and charged with kidnapping a 4-year-old girl in Lakeland: a truck driver, Mr. Wild West Hogs. Arrested in West Palm Beach in August and charged with trespassing at a Publix supermarket and screaming at employees, Mr. Vladimir Putin. And in August, at the dedication of a new unit at Tampa General Hospital's pediatric center, longtime satisfied patients attended, including Maria Luva, who told guests her son, now 8 years old, was born there: Ywlyox Luva.

Feline predators

In 1921, researchers for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife stated categorically in a journal that "the one predatory animal" inspiring practically nothing "good" is the mountain lion, but recent research in the journal Conservation Letters credits the animal for saving the lives of many motorists by killing deer, thus tempering the current annual number (20,000) of driver-deer collisions. But mountain lions still trail pussycats as predators; researchers in Nature Communications in 2013 estimated that "free-ranging (U.S.) domestic cats" kill at least 1.4 billion birds and 6.9 billion small mammals annually.

The art of smuggling

At press time, Leston Lawrence, 35, an employee of the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa, was awaiting a court decision on charges that he stole $140,000 worth of thick gold coins ("pucks") that, over time, were taken from the mint in his rectum. The mint's "highest security measures" never turned up a puck on or in Lawrence; he was arrested after the mint investigated a tip that he had sold an unusual number of them for someone of his pay grade.

Tiny thrills

The town of Warley, England, announced it has applied to the Guinness people for the honor of having the world's smallest museum. The Warley Community Association's museum, with photos and mementos of its past, is housed in an old phone booth. So far, there are no "hours"; visitors just show up and open the door.

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