Following is a summary of current odd news briefs.
Symbol of French Republic defaced in art attack
PARIS (Reuters) - A woman has defaced Eugene Delacroix's painting "Liberty Leading the People" with a black marker as it hung in an outpost of the Louvre gallery in northern France. Police arrested a 28-year-old woman on Thursday for writing "AE911" across the bottom of a painting so closely identified with the French Republic that its image once graced the 100-franc note and it has been reproduced on postage stamps.
Canadian prime minister moonlights as author with ice hockey book
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an avid hockey fan, has juggled running the Canadian government with 15-minute daily writing sessions to finish a book on the history of ice hockey. His publisher said Thursday that the book, still untitled, about Canada's most popular sport will appear in bookstores in November. It draws on archives, early hockey histories and old newspapers to paint a picture of hockey at the turn of the 20th century, publisher Simon & Schuster said.
Singing Korean airmen score a hit with love, snow and "Les Mis"
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean military conscripts may have dreamed a dream of defending the homeland, but their life is one of snow shovelling and thwarted love - at least in a parody of "Les Miserables" starring real airmen that has become an Internet hit. The opera-style video "Les Militaribles" was made by 80 conscripts for $900 and has garnered over a million views in three days, raising hopes it could be on the way to a repeat of rapper Psy's "Gangnam Style" blockbuster hit. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZunEARBb6I)
German dumpster divers get connected to wage war on food waste
BERLIN (Reuters) - Just past midnight behind a Berlin supermarket, two youngsters with flashlights strapped to their woolen hats sift through trash cans for food that is still edible, load their bikes with bread, vegetables and chocolate Santas and cycle off into the darkness. It is not poverty that inspires a growing number of young Germans like 21-year-old student Benjamin Schmitt to forage for food in the garbage, but anger at loss and waste which the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates at one-third of all food produced worldwide, every year, valued at about $1 trillion.
Hong Kong snake kings a dying breed
Hong Kong (Reuters) - When a king cobra lunges at Chau Ka-ling as the door to its wooden cage falls open in her busy Hong Kong restaurant, she just laughs, then pulls it gently into her arms. For Chau is a "snake king," one of scores in Hong Kong who have through generations tamed snakes to make soup out of them, a traditional cuisine believed to be good for the health.
South African skateboarder faces dangerous driving arrest
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - One of South Africa's top skateboarders is facing arrest over a video posted on YouTube of him careering down a Cape Town street at a professed 110 km/h (68 mph) to set off a speed camera, city officials said on Thursday. The "Spoofing the Traffic Camera" video, which has notched up more than 200,000 YouTube hits, shows skater Decio Lourenco, hands folded behind his back to decrease wind resistance, hurtling down the mountain road in fading light.
Russian alcohol crackdown topples monument to vodka
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian monument to a bottle of vodka has been toppled over fears that it could be seen as an illegal advert for the country's favorite tipple. The three-meter metal sculpture had become a local landmark in the Urals town of Glazov, 1,000 km (600 miles) east of Moscow. But residents woke up one morning last week to discover it had disappeared, leaving only an empty plinth.
Canadian pens erotic answer to "Fifty Shades" as a dare
TOKYO (Reuters) - Canadian novelist Lisa Gabriele never felt she was especially good at writing sex scenes, but when an editor dared her to write an erotic novel to rival the wildly popular global hit "Fifty Shades of Grey," she took up the challenge. A week later she had some 40 pages written on "S.E.C.R.E.T.", the just-published story of an underground society that helps women realize their wildest sexual dreams.
Rubber chickens, diapers suggested for China's holiday travel
HAINING, China (Reuters) - A luggage trolley that converts into a seat and a pole with pads that props up sleepy passengers are just a couple of the gadgets intrepid Chinese have devised to help make their annual New Year train trips home a little more comfortable. About 200 million people in China are expected to take trains home for the New Year's holiday at the weekend in what has been described as the world's largest annual migration.
Big Mac prices show which euro zone states best at belt-tightening
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Forget about statistics for employment and industrial production, it is being claimed that the price of a hamburger is showing where Europe's economic reforms are working - and where they are not. By studying the different prices for McDonald's <MCD.N> Big Mac burger throughout the euro zone between July 2011 and January 2013, Guntram Wolff, an economist at think-tank Bruegel, found evidence that struggling countries like Ireland had tightened their belts and others had not.