University ponders Chinese institute

URBANA - The University of Illinois may open a new institute financed by the Chinese government and focused on Chinese language and culture.

The Confucius Institute would be based at the Urbana-Champaign campus and paid for by $150,000 a year from the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported that Chancellor Phyllis Wise signed a tentative deal with the Chinese government last fall to set up the institute. University trustees and the state Board of Higher Education still need to approve the plan.

Similar Chinese-funded Confucius Institutes are operated on 300 college campuses worldwide.

Some schools have declined to open them over worries that the institutes are used to spy on Chinese students abroad. University of Illinois officials say they've found no evidence to back those concerns.


West Des Moines council drops idea for veggie ban

WEST DES MOINES - West Des Moines' mayor said Thursday that city officials are dropping plans to consider banning residents from planting fruits and vegetables in their front yards.

Mayor Steve Gaer said a resident who initially brought the issue to the West Des Moines City Council has withdrawn his complaint. The council then decided not to move forward with any action, the Des Moines Register reported.

"I spoke with all the council members and we all agreed that because we don't have any problems at this time we're going to drop it," he said.

Gaer also said residents had recently expressed concern that such a ban would infringe on their rights as property owners.

The initial resident complained last fall about his neighbor's front yard gardens. A council code enforcement subcommittee, which meets quarterly, reviewed a proposal stemming from that complaint Wednesday.

The subcommittee discussed plans to study the issue further and to come up with alternatives to a blanket ban, including size limitation and looking at similar ordinances in other cities. But the withdrawal Thursday means they will not pursue it, Gaer said.


Frog habitat designation called a federal 'land grab'

NEW ORLEANS - A property rights nonprofit claims federal wildlife officials made an illegal land grab by listing 1,500 acres of private land in Louisiana as critical habitat for an endangered burrowing frog now found only in Mississippi.

The Pacific Legal Foundation sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday over the dusky gopher frog.

About 100 to 200 of the creatures are known to live in Mississippi, with fewer than 900 more in zoos around the country.

Fish and Wildlife exceeded its authority because none of the frogs lives on the land in question, and the acreage would need extensive work - which landowner Edward Poitevent will not do - to be suitable for them, said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney M. Reed Hopper. He filed the lawsuit in federal court in New Orleans.

Designation as critical habitat requires the agency's consultation for federal permits. About 5,000 acres in Mississippi, much of it on federal land, also was designated as critical habitat last June.


Mayor: Rat bounty won't be offered in Detroit area

ST. CLAIR SHORES - The mayor of a suburban Detroit community says officials won't offer a $5 bounty for every rat caught in the city as part of a broader rodent-control effort.

The idea was part of a multipronged proposal to deal with rats in St. Clair Shores, which is among a number of communities facing rodent problems. Officials earlier had an aggressive pilot program taking place to help curb the rat population.

The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens reported that the bounty idea is off the table. Mayor Kip Walby said the decision came following negative comments on the city's Facebook page about the issue as well as what officials considered negative media coverage.

The broader rat-control program could include efforts such as inspections, baiting and updated garbage cans.


Decline in numbers cancels moose hunting seasons

MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota canceled the state's 2013 and future moose hunting seasons Wednesday, citing a "precipitous" decline in the moose population.

Department of Natural Resources officials said in a news release that their annual aerial survey to estimate Minnesota's moose population was "extremely disappointing."

The survey conducted last month pegged the population at 2,760 animals, down from 4,230 last winter. Minnesota's moose numbers were estimated as high as 8,840 in 2006.

Commissioner Tom Landwehr and other DNR officials called a news conference for Wednesday to discuss the details.

"The state's moose population has been in decline for years but never at the precipitous rate documented this winter," Landwehr said in the statement. "This is further and definitive evidence the population is not healthy. It reaffirms the conservation community's need to better understand why this iconic species of the north is disappearing from our state."


Court's dress code: No more flip-flops

BENTON - Those making court appearances in southeast Missouri's Scott County had better start dressing for the occasion.

The Sikeston Standard Democrat reported that Circuit Clerk Christy Hency, after consulting with judges, is drafting a dress code. Bailiffs will be given the authority to send away those who don't dress appropriately.

Hency says the idea came up at a recent seminar she attended for the National Center for State Courts. She says people are showing up in clothing that indicates a lack of respect.

Among the clothing that will likely be banned: Pajamas, tank tops with offensive wording and flip-flops.


Actor Cromwell arrested for animal-testing protest

MADISON - Actor James Cromwell has been arrested for disrupting a University of Wisconsin Board of Regents meeting where he was protesting animal testing.

University police Sgt. Brent Gruber says the 73-year-old Cromwell was arrested and ticketed on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. Cromwell and an activist from an animal-rights group also arrested were released from jail by Thursday afternoon.

They held two large signs showing a cat with metal implanted in its head at a UW-Madison lab, while shouting about the treatment of cats Thursday morning.

The director of the school's Research Animal Resources Center says federal agriculture officials have found their claims to be false.

Cromwell was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1995 film "Babe." Other credits include "L.A. Confidential," "The Green Mile" and "The Artist."

The Associated Press