Watercooler Stories

By United Press International  |  Dec. 13, 2006 at 6:30 AM
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Warm weather brings rats out in Norway

OSLO, Norway, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Unusually warm weather in Norway this year has brought the rats out.

The high temperatures allow the rats to reproduce more quickly and to stay above ground instead of keeping warm in insulated burrows, Aftenposten reported. Heavy rains have also flooded the sewers, driving rats out into the open.

"Fewer rats die in mild weather and they have better reproductive abilities," said Eilif Lundberg, who works for a pest control firm Anticimex.

The Norwegian brown rat or rattus Norvegicus is a prolific mammal. Females become sexually mature at 4 months and produce as many as five litters a year of seven young each.

While brown rats can live as long as 3 years, only one in 20 usually survives the first year.

Nothing like a mortgage for happiness

MELBOURNE, Australia, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- An Australian researcher finds that making payments on a mortgage is a good way to feel better.

Professor Bob Cummins of Deakin University told the Sydney Morning Herald that his studies of well-being have found that homeowners are more content than renters at all levels of income.

Renters tend to be more footloose, Cummins said. Couples also find that holding a mortgage together increases their feeling of commitment.

Oddly, events like the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States or the Bali nightclub bombing that killed scores of Australian tourists can also increase a feeling of well-being.

"All of this created an amazing sense of external threat that Australia had not really had since World War II," Cummins said. "This kind of threat caused people to bond much better."

But there's nothing like a mortgage, especially for couples.

"They have a clear investment in their combined future. People who rent have not made that kind of mutual commitment," Cummins said.

Seattle named USA's most literate

SEATTLE, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Seattle and Minneapolis top a rating system determining "America's Most Literate Cities."

The rankings, undertaken for the past four years, rate the 70 largest U.S. cities based on whether residents read. USA Today said John Miller, a researcher and president of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, developed the system. He says "The top stayed at the top and the bottom stayed at the bottom."

Six categories determine where a city ranks: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and Internet resources.

Seattle and Minneapolis retained their top spots from last year while Atlanta pulled into a tie with Washington for No. 3. Minneapolis' Twin City -- St. Paul -- came in fifth. At the other end of the list came No. 69 Stockton, Calif., and 70th El Paso, Texas, USA Today said.

Counterfeiters like Illinois doughnut shop

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill., Dec. 13 (UPI) -- A Crystal Lake, Ill., doughnut shop and a children's charity are out $70 after bills in the cash register and collection box were found to be counterfeit.

Whoever was passing the bills in the community northwest of Chicago passed two bad $20 bills with the doughnut cashier sometime between noon and midnight Saturday, Crystal Lake Police Chief Dennis Harris said.

The shop owner found the bad bills Sunday, and the next day, a counterfeit $20 and two bad $5 bills were found in a Toys for Tots collection box near the cash register, the Chicago Tribune reported.

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