QUIRKY WORLD ... A daily look at some of the world’s stranger stories

Rodents help rat out criminals.

QUIRKY WORLD ... A daily look at some of the world’s stranger stories

HOLLAND: Ten brown rats have been recruited by Dutch police to help forensic firearms experts sniff out gunshot residue.

The rats have a highly developed sense of smell, and are easier and cheaper to train than dogs, said force spokesman Ed Kraszewski.

“If we have a suspect, the forensic expert takes the residue from the hands and the rats can tell in a few seconds if it’s from a gun,” he said.

Officers place the sample behind one of a number of holes in a box. When the rat scratches at the right hole, the experts send the residue off for a final check in a lab, he said.

Rats are already used in some countries to sniff for landmines.

Say what? China says 400 million can’t speak national language

CHINA: More than 400m Chinese are unable to speak the national language Mandarin, and large numbers in the rest of the country speak it badly, state media said as the government launched another push for linguistic unity.

China’s ruling Communist Party has promoted Mandarin for decades to unite a nation with thousands of often mutually unintelligible dialects and numerous minority languages, but has been hampered by the country’s size and lack of investment in education, especially in poor rural areas.

Officials have admitted they will probably never get the whole country to be able to speak Mandarin, formally called Putonghua in China, meaning “common tongue”, suggesting everyone should be able to speak it.

£20 coin created

ENGLAND: The first ever £20 coin has been created.

The Benedetto Pistrucci-designed silver coin will carry the classic design of St George and the Dragon, normally associated with the gold sovereign, and recently used to commemorate the birth of Prince George on a silver £5 crown.

It is the first time the Royal Mint has produced a £20 coin, and only 250,000 have been made.

Bees making red honey

USA: What appears to be red honey is showing up in some Utah beehives — with officials saying it may be coming from bugs feasting on candy cane by-product.

Utah agriculture officials have received several complaints about the odd-coloured goo in hives in Davis, Salt Lake, and Utah counties. They said the bees were apparently fed the by-product that came from a sweets factory.

Officials said they do not have any reason to call the red substance unsafe, but advise beekeepers not to mix it with normal-coloured honey and to report it to the state.

Lighthouse goes for record price

USA: A 110-year-old working lighthouse near the entrance of Boston Harbour has been sold for a record price.

A cash bid of $933,888 (€711,710) for the Graves Island Light Station is the most ever paid for a US lighthouse.

The five-storey, two-bedroom structure was built in 1903 and stands 24m-high on a rocky 10 acres. It has a private dock, but no baths.

Health organisation takes on porn industry

USA: A health organisation that successfully pushed for a Los Angeles county law mandating condom use in the adult film industry has filed a complaint about a porn movie made in Florida after it claimed filmmakers started shifting production to other states to avoid the law.

The California-based organisation, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), formally requested an investigation in a letter to Florida’s Department of Health. The complaint claims that a Florida production took health risks by making pornography without condoms.

AHF president Michael Weinstein said California-based porn producers are trying to get around the new LA county law, known as Measure B, by having actors perform outside the state.

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