Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.

Do birds target light-colored cars to divebomb?

Q: It seems my car -- a dark silver -- always has more bird droppings on it than other cars, and it's not because I don't wash it often. I do. Do birds target different color cars differently?

A: "Amusing question," said Christy Childs of the St. Louis Zoo, who laughed through the rest of the phone conversation. Maybe she was seeing a squadron of birds with tiny goggles gearing up for your silver car just after it had been washed, making sure to strike surgically with no collateral coverage of nearby vehicles.

The reason your car gets hit "probably has to do with where you park it: underneath a tree or near a building where birds like to roost," she said. "But birds aren't aiming for your car."

Then again, maybe Childs is running a disinformation campaign for the enemy.

Q: I was wondering if you could tell me, on our last two city water and sewer bills there were two new charges. One is a primacy fee and the other is a state sewer fee. I want to know what they are for. I don't remember seeing these on our bills in the past.

A: According to assistant city manager Heather Brooks, they are both state fees that are charged annually in May. The primacy fee has been levied since 1993. The money goes to help fund a safe drinking program, she said.

The state sewer fee has been levied since 2001 as part of the Missouri Clean Water law.

Q: Is it true that in the letters to the editor on May 3, professor Alan Journet of Southeast Missouri State University plagiarized an article published by the Union of Concerned Scientists? See [their Web site] for the original article. Except for the final paragraph of the letter, Journet's letter matches word for word with the Union of Concerned Scientists' article. Journet gives no credit to the Union of Concerned Scientists in his letter and signs it as if the words in the letter are his own.

A: The article you identified does, in fact, match the letter Alan Journet submitted to the Southeast Missourian. A spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists said that professor Journet did not author the original article on its site.

When asked for an explanation, Journet said in an e-mail: "This was an error on my part. Not as an excuse, but as an explanation I note that at the time of submission, I selected from my file of letter ideas one that I thought was mine; it certainly reflected my views as expressed in previous letters, and was entirely consistent with both my writing style and the required length. However, as I was subsequently informed and then recalled, I had, indeed, taken several paragraphs from information I received via a friend from the UCS. I am embarrassed by and deeply regret the error."

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian. Reporter Mark Bliss assisted with information from Heather Brooks. E-mail questions to factorfiction@semissourian.com. Or call Speak Out (334-5111) and identify your call as a question for "Fact or fiction?"