City Desk

The Needle: Cat Scratch Fever Edition

It Was Much Better Than Cats: Look around long enough in almost any alley in the District, and chances are you'll find a cat. To most people, that's not real cause for concern; authorities say that for Nico Dauphine, a National Zoo researcher who specializes in bird conservation, alley cats represented a veritable feline menace. Police charged Dauphine with attempted cruelty to animals for allegedly poisoning food left for stray cats in Malcolm X Park. Her lawyer disputes the charges, but we suspect if the case goes to trial, the jury will hear about "Apocalypse Meow: Free-Ranging Cats and the Destruction of American Wildlife," the title of a lecture Dauphine gave at the University of Georgia in 2009. Meanwhile, others are sterilizing alley cats, then returning them to alleys—which the cats probably prefer to the poison approach. -3

Petworth Makes, the World Takes: Growing food in the backyard isn't just a hobby; with the U.S. government possibly poised to default on its bonds this summer, it's practically a survival skill. Apparently someone in Petworth has figured out an ancillary skill: plundering gardens. Massive herb plants were pulled up from a house in the neighborhood, the gardener, Deborah Bennett, writes on a local email list. The haul: Sage, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. No parsley, at least, which means police probably don't need to question Paul Simon when he's in town for a concert this week. -2

Photo Alarm: And now, time for another in a disturbing series of incidents in which a security guard incorrectly tells someone they're not allowed to take photographs in public. Today's installment: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms headquarters near Florida and New York avenues NE, where a guard informed The District Curmudgeon that it was illegal to shoot pictures of federal buildings. Which it isn't. This time, at least, there's a happy ending—the guard apologized when told he was wrong, and drove off. -1

Fit But You Know It: Bike lanes and farmers markets may be tough for politicians to figure out how to handle, but apparently they're good for arbitrary rankings. Which is why the D.C. region ranked as the second-fittest area in the country in a new list compiled by the American College of Sports Medicine. Minneapolis/St. Paul ranked first. The scores each region got, which are evidently so scientific they need a decimal point to report (D.C. got 76.8, the Twin Cities a 77.2), were based on obesity rates, smoking rates, availability of exercise trails and farmers markets, and other factors. Last year, D.C. won; if we want to take the title next year, apparently, we'll all have to act more Minnesotan. +1

Yesterday's Needle rating: 60 Today's score: -5 Today's Needle rating: 55

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