A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.

NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

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"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

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How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

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After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.


Animals Who Love to Rub Themselves With Ants. Is This Addictive?

Oct 5, 2012
Originally published on October 5, 2012 11:28 am

This is how we do it.

This is how they do it.

I'm talking about birds. Every so often, they, like us, let loose and do what it takes to feel really, really good. The bird version is to sit on an anthill so that hundreds of ants crawl all over their bodies, or, even better — and I hope you can imagine how fabulous this must be — some birds gobble up mouthfuls of squashed ants and rub themselves all over.

Birds call this bliss. Scientists call this "anting." It's a common avian practice, seen in many songbirds, and is especially done by the smarter birds. Ravens do it, magpies do it. Crows do it. Here's what it looks like:

Why birds "ant" is something of a mystery, but one thought is that mashed ants become, oddly, a form of insect repellant. Ants have defensive secretions, chemical weapons they use to fight off other insects and fungi, so if you smear what they've got all over your feathers, you're stealing their fungicides, miticides, insecticides and biocides so you can move through the forest unpestered.

Plus, ants are cheap. They're around. They smoosh easily.

The Better Reason For Anting

But that's a sensible explanation. Here's a better one:

Birds "ant" a lot in spring and summer, when they lose their feathers. For many birds, that's molting season. So maybe ant secretions are like bath oil; they soothe the skin during feather replacement. Science writer (and Radiolab regular) David Quammen wrote about this years ago. He quotes a British scientist who declared "the purpose of anting is the stimulation and the soothing of the body," and that the general effect "is similar to that gained by humanity from the use of external stimulants, soothing ointments, counter-irritants (including formic acid) and perhaps also smoking."

Anting Addicts?

Well, there you go. Instead of two packs a day, these birds rub themselves with ant juice. And like cigarettes, anting can become a bad habit, even an addiction. There are scientists who think birds do become anting addicts. Quammen references a second study that compares anting to "the human habits of smoking and drug taking," and says, "it has no biological purpose but is indulged in for its own stake, for the feeling of well-being and ecstasy it induces."

That's why you often see mother birds screeching at their fledglings who come near their first anthill. "Stay away from there, child. ... Don't you touch those ants. ... Do you hear me?" they cry. Or so I'm told. I don't speak raven. Or crow. But I've been a parent. So some things I know.

I found Y.C. Wee's recent (2008) paper on anting fun to read. In it, he describes how Kelvin K.P. Lim (probably from Singapore) saw a Javan myna bird "carefully picking up live kerengga ants and placing them, one at a time, under its wings. Each time it did this, the bird went into a curious dance that involved flopping around on the grass with its wings outstretched and beak opened." (There are pictures.)

David Quammen's essay on crows, "Has Success Spoiled The Crow?" can be found in his book Natural Acts. That's where he refers to anting, and in particular to two studies, "A Review of the Anting Behavior of Passerine Birds," K.E.L. Simons, in British Birds, Vol. L, October 1957, and "Avian Play," Millicent S. Ficken, in The Auk, vol. 94. July 1977.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.