QUIRKY WORLD ... Koala-hugging costs Aussie taxpayers €269,000

AUSTRALIA: Australia’s opposition Labor Party has launched a ‘Waste-pedia’ booklet and a Waste Watch website, accusing the government of lavish spending — including some A$400,000 (€269,000) on “koala and other marsupial-related events”.
QUIRKY WORLD ... Koala-hugging costs Aussie taxpayers €269,000

“This government is obsessed with hugging koalas. We’ve had A$400,000 which included [foreign minister] Julie Bishop paying A$133,000 to fly four koalas to Singapore Zoo,” opposition minister Pat Conroy said outside parliament.

“She spent, I think it was A$130,000, taking diplomats to Western Australia where they hugged wombats for a change — so at least they changed up the marsupial.”

It was not immediately clear how the figures were reached.

Australia’s marsupials, including koalas and kangaroos, are mammals that mostly carry their young in a pouch and are a major tourist draw for the country.

The report also flagged the cost of koala hire during the 2014 G20 summit in Brisbane, in which then Australian prime minister Tony Abbott famously threatened to “shirt-front” Russian premier Vladimir Putin. Shirt-fronting is a term for a crude tackle in Aussie Rules.

“Tony Abbott ... was talking about shirt-fronting Vladimir Putin, but in the end, he spent A$24,000 on letting him hug a koala.”

Mr Abbott was ousted as prime minister by Malcolm Turnbull last September.

Australian’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Luna makes ocean return


Fishermen like to tell stories, but Nick Haworth will have a whopper of a tale.

The California man’s beloved dog, Luna, has returned more than a month after she fell overboard in the Pacific Ocean and was presumed drowned.

The one-year-old German shepherd was spotted on Tuesday on San Clemente Island, a Navy-owned training base 110km off San Diego.

The blue-eyed pup disappeared on February 10 as Mr Haworth, a commercial fisherman from San Diego, worked on a boat more than 3km from the island.

“They were pulling in their [lobster] traps, and one minute Luna was there, and the next minute she was gone,” said Sandy DeMunnik, spokeswoman for Naval Base Coronado. “They looked everywhere for her. They couldn’t see her. The water was dark, she’s dark.”

Mr Haworth notified Navy personnel.

“He insisted that he was 90% sure that she made it to shore because she was such a strong swimmer,” said Ms DeMunnik.

Mr Haworth searched the waters for about two days and Navy staff searched the island for about a week but found no sign of Luna.

She was presumed lost at sea until Tuesday morning, when staff arriving for work at the island’s Naval Auxiliary Landing Field spotted something unusual — a dog sitting by the side of the road. Domestic animals aren’t allowed on the island for environmental reasons.

It was Luna.

“She was just sitting there wagging her tail,” Ms DeMunnik said. The staff called to Luna, and she came over.

A biologist then examined the dog and found her a little thin but otherwise healthy.

“It looks like she was surviving on rodents and dead fish that had washed up,” said Ms DeMunnik.

The biologist called Mr Haworth, who was out of state working in the middle of a lake. “He was overwhelmed. He was so happy and grateful,” Ms DeMunnik said.

Dog swallows polar bear


A veterinarian helped save the life of an ailing New Mexico dog after discovering the source of the pup’s pain — a 15cm long, 5cm wide stuffed polar bear.

Santa Fe Animal Humane officials told KRQE-TV in Albuquerque that the bear was discovered in the dog’s stomach during surgery.

A veterinarian said the dog named Honey had been sick for about a week and would have likely died within two days. The dog is now expected to survive.

Game is up, chicken baron


A court has upheld the prison sentence of a former Romanian lawmaker known as “the chicken baron” who was convicted of bribing voters with 60 tons of packaged, ready-to-fry meat.

The top court of appeal rejected the appeal of Florin Popescu, who went on trial in 2014, a court official said.

Popescu bought 60 tons of chicken for 485,000 lei (€108,000) for his campaign for another term as local council chairman in June 2012 elections. He protested he had not even eaten “a chicken wing”.

Popescu later won a Parliament seat, but resigned on March 2. Romanian politicians reputedly have previously handed out oil and flour to voters in rural areas.

Police foil nun on the run


State police say a 78-year-old nun was caught shoplifting $23 worth of coffee, snacks, and toiletries from a Pennsylvania store.

Troopers say Sister Agnes Pennino was seen taking the items from the Surplus Outlet near Berwick on Monday.

WNEP-TV reports police determined the woman captured on surveillance video was the nun who lived about 30km away at a convent in Danville.

The nun will likely face a fine if she’s convicted.

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