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Cash-strapped country fixates on the IMF shoe

In Romania this week, it's all about the shoe. Romania has borrowed billions from the International Monetary Fund but some are wondering whether IMF envoy Jeffrey Franks needs a loan himself after he was seen wearing shoes with a hole on a visit with President Traian Basescu. The image on Saturday has eclipsed any of Franks' comments about public spending, layoffs or inflation in the Balkan nation. Mysteriously, the photo of the shoe also disappeared Tuesday from its previous location on the presidential website. No matter, the shoe kept dominating the news. "There is no excuse to go to the president of a country with torn shoes," popular television commentator Mircea Badea said. Franks was asked to comment on the shoe Monday at a news conference on the Romanian economy. "I prefer to talk about Romania, not personal matters," he said, but added, "I changed my shoes today."

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Quake myth has Italy all shook up

Italian officials have gone to extraordinary lengths to try to debunk an urban legend predicting a devastating earthquake in Rome today. The country's Civil Protection department posted a dense information packet on its website stressing quakes can't be predicted and Rome isn't particularly at risk. Toll-free numbers have been set aside at city hall to field questions. The national geophysics institute will open its doors to the public today to inform the curious and the concerned about seismology. The effort is all designed to debunk a purported prediction of a major Roman quake on May 11, 2011, attributed to self-taught seismologist Raffaele Bendandi, who died in 1979.

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Just call this dog Harry Houdini

After three late-night escape attempts from an Oregon veterinarian's office, a German shepherd named Jack finally made it. The Medford Mail Tribune reported the crafty canine managed to pull open his kennel, trip the dead bolt on the clinic's back door and pull down the handle to get outside. He set off three motion-detector alarms on the way and ripped open four bags of food. He roamed 7 miles from the vet's office, but only made it home when animal control officers took him to a shelter where he was reunited with his worried family.

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Polar bears? How about the kids

A group of attorneys representing children and young adults began filing legal actions in every state and the District of Columbia last week in an effort to force government intervention on climate change. The ploy was backed by activists looking for a legal soft spot to advance a cause that has stumbled in the face of stiff congressional opposition and a skeptical U.S. Supreme Court. The goal is to have the atmosphere declared for the first time as a "public trust" deserving special protection. It's a novel approach considering the public trust doctrine dates to Roman times.

Compiled from Times wires.