Short Takes: News From All Over

Birding Babylon
By Jonathan Trouern-Trend, Birding Babylon
Part soldier’s memoir and part naturalist’s field guide, Birding Babylon meticulously explores the surprising wealth of biodiversity in war-torn Iraq. A lifelong birder, Jonathan Trouern-Trend devotes much of his blog to desert ornithology, but on more than one occasion digresses into humorous anecdotes that take place ‘around the base.’ The National Guardsman has kept posting since leaving Iraq in early 2005. Read his recent ponderings about avian flu outbreaks in northern Iraq or delve into the archives and discover anything from the author’s run-in with an angry ‘Dhub-Dhub’ lizard during combat training to his recommendation of a traditional Kuwaiti recipe for desert truffles boiled in camel’s milk. A book based on the blog — Birding Babylon: A Soldier’s Journal from Iraq — is due out in May from Sierra Club Books. — Evan Noetzel

Five Minutes With Helen Thomas
By Staff, Campus Progress
Helen Thomas — the ‘first lady of the press’ — has questioned every president since John F. Kennedy, served as the White House bureau chief for United Press International, and was a front row fixture at White House press conferences until 2003 (when the Bush administration booted her to the back). A few weeks before Bush made headlines by breaking his three-year ban on fielding her questions, Thomas sat down for an interview with Campus Progress. In it, she takes on the tragedies of modern journalism, robotic press secretaries, making it in a man’s world, and the path to war in Iraq. — Kristen Mueller

Burgerville Turns Used Cooking Oil into Fuel
By Allan Brettman, The Oregonian
Burgerville, a ‘fast casual’ chain in the Northwest known for its ecofriendly ways, is beginning to use its excess grease for fuel. Instead of shipping the oil off to Asia to be used in soaps and cosmetics, the fat will now stay in the United States to be converted into biodiesel, a cleaner form of diesel fuel. The chain already buys enough wind power to offset the emissions of 1,700 cars. Now it might be able to power those cars. (Thanks, Treehugger.) — Bennett Gordon

Sexy Birds More Immune to Avian Flu
By Staff, LiveScience
Beauty has its perks, and in the bird world one of those may be surviving the avian flu. The male flycatcher bird has a spot on his head, the size of which determines his sexual attractiveness. Studies suggest that expressions of sexual traits signal a stronger immune system. That, scientists say, means attractive males are less likely to get avian flu. — Bennett Gordon

SMU’s Shame
By Jim Schutze, The Dallas Observer
Sites in Texas are jockeying for position in the race to host George W. Bush’s presidential library. The Dallas Observer’s Jim Schutze points out that Southern Methodist University, a main contender, proposes to build the library on land allegedly acquired by obtaining a majority population in a condo complex and then forcing out the remaining residents — some of them elderly. While he allows that it would be a ‘darkly appropriate final chapter to the entire Bush saga,’ he wonders if anyone would want a presidential library with such a dubious background. — Nick Rose

Desperate Makeover: An Ex-Felon Decides To Become An ‘Immigrant’
By ‘Amadaeus,’ Pacific News Service
Estranged from his native country — the United States — a felon explains his decision to take ‘a cue from my undocumented brothers’ and replace his identity with a clean slate and fake papers. Denied employment because of his status as a felon, he sees a new, forged, illegal identity like the ones adopted by illegal immigrants as the only way out. Redemption may be tough, but getting a job, for this felon, seems tougher. — Nick Rose

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