No. 456: "Calcutta Cops"

No. 456: "Calcutta Cops"

No. 456: "Calcutta Cops"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
July 21 2000 11:30 PM

No. 456: "Calcutta Cops"

India is all atwitter over "Operation Gentleman," which sent police raiding parties across the country Thursday. To do what? 

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Send your answer by 9 p.m. ET Sunday to newsquiz@slate.com.

Wednesday's Question (No. 455)—"No Business Like Crow Business":

The discovery of two dead crows on Staten Island prompted New York officials to announce immediate plans to do something. What?

"Leak a story to the New York Post charging Hillary with animal abuse."—Greg Diamond (Charlie Glassenberg, Doug Sheppard, and Josh Kamensky had similar answers.)

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"Release the birds' juvenile records."—Charles Star (similarly, Tim Carvell, Neal Pollack, Alex Frantz, Will Vehrs, and Tim Olevsky)

"Make sure Giuliani's father is still dead and incapable of causing harm."—Adam Bonin

"Pay some jerkwater southern state to take all of New York City's dead birds off its hands."—L.K. Peterson

"Ask Roger Clemens to go back to throwing at batters."—Charlie Glassenberg

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Click for more answers.

Randy's Wrap-Up

Crows are any of several black birds belonging to the family Corvidae (order Passeriformes) that are smaller and less heavily billed than most ravens and, by extension, than the late Ann Miller. They are named for their typical call: "caw" or "crah," but why they are not known as caws or crahs is never explained. (In America, a rooster says "cock-a-doodle-doo"; in France it says "Coquerie-Co," but it's still called a rooster or something French.)

More than 20 of the 30 species of the genus Corvus are known as crows, and the name has been widely borrowed, most recently by Sheryl Crow and many pop bands. Crows are omnivorous and eat grain, berries, insects, carrion, and the eggs of other birds. The crow's habit of eating cultivated grains has made it very unpopular with farmers, but not nearly as unpopular as it is with those other birds whose eggs it eats. (Then again, who wants to be popular with farmers? Well, Garth Brooks, which doesn't make it any more appealing.) Crows also eat economically harmful insects, so maybe the farmers were too quick to judge, which wouldn't surprise me. Crows feed chiefly on the ground, where they walk about sedately. Much the same could be said of the late Ann Miller, except for the part about walking sedately. Oh, let's face it: She moved like an extraordinarily talented and energetic horse.

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Crows are gregarious, and at times they roost together in great numbers (tens of thousands), and yet at the end of the evening, how many stick around to help clean up? Not Garth Brooks or the late Ann Miller, I can tell you that. Although many farmers are helpful sort of people, like with those barn raisings and government subsidies. But I bet they'd be scared if they saw Ann Miller dancing her ass off out among the soy beans, what with her being dead and all. Farmers are often superstitious

Each mating pair has its own nest of sticks and twigs, usually high up in a tree, in which are laid five or six greenish-to-olive eggs that have darker speckles. We're back on crows here, although perhaps Garth and Ann have taken a fancy to one another. Who can predict these things? Who'd begrudge them the comforts of love in a harsh world where a crow could swoop down at any moment and eat you, particularly if you were an economically harmful insect let alone a high-kicking hoofer.

A crow may live 13 years in the wild and more than 20 years in captivity, if they're captured someplace nice like a really good French hotel, maybe by a rooster or "Rooz-teur" as a Frenchman would say, speaking English in his comical French accent. Some pet crows "speak," and in the laboratory some have learned to count to three or four and to find food in boxes marked with symbols. I suspect Garth Brooks could do much of that (and could even "sing") although I've not seen him in a laboratory setting.

Source of the (West) Nile Answer

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New York officials plan to start spraying mosquitoes.

The crows' cause of death was the West Nile virus, a disease carried by mosquitoes. No human infections have been found so far this year. A chicken, thought to have the virus, was strip-searched then released, or something like that.

Officials intend to use a pesticide called Anvil with the active ingredient Sumithrin, similar to a natural pesticide produced by chrysanthemums. Anvil breaks down in sunlight and water and is considered easy on cats and dogs. There was no comment about its effect on chickens.

Unused Question Extra

I nearly went with a "you give the lead; I give the headline" for this BBC story: " 'Lizard Found' In Toddler's Chips"

It's got a lot going for it—Englishness, odd use of quotation marks, catalyst for responses about tiny children in tribal casinos. However, it was a small and wacky story, and the quiz works better when it provokes amusing responses to essentially serious events. You can't beat that treachery-and-betrayal-leading-to-widespread-suffering humor, that flood and famine comedy.

But for your dancing pleasure, a bit of this unused story:

Fast food chain Burger King has launched an investigation into claims that a deep-fried lizard was found in a two-year-old's portion of chips.

Toddler Toby Sharpe from Halifax, West Yorkshire, was said to have made the discovery as he was tucking into some chicken nuggets and fries. He was travelling in the back of his aunt's car with his brother Ellis, five, when he spotted the crispy reptile among his fries. His aunt Adele Coulter, 26, said the toddler was so distraught he was sick in the car. She had treated the boys to a drive-thru after Ellis, who had broken his arm, had his cast removed.

"Toby ate a few chips and then he just screamed and ended up being sick all over the car," she said. "It's put him off Burger King for life."

I particularly like the use of "Toddler" as an honorific, as if he might be Dr. Toby Sharpe or the Rev. Toby Sharpe. And the unresolved mystery of just how Ellis broke his arm.

Read more about it  here, but if you go prowling around for today's actual question, you're only cheating yourself and those of us who bet heavily on the quiz.

Common Denominator

New York's brutal racist police force.