Only in America

While the 24-hour news vacuum annoys many Americans with a constant stream of things labeled important, it does offer some truly baffling stories.

The Oracle gives a rundown of some headlines from around the country that you’ll have to read to believe.

Save the tater tot, Idaho

After reports that an amendment to the 2012 spending bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture will limit potato purchases for public schools, two Iowan senators are fighting to salvage the spuds. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo plan to offer legislation that would stop the USDA from cracking down on potato consumption, according to on Monday. Tuesday night’s “Colbert Report” featured a segment about Colbert’s outrage over the issue.

The two competing factors are the nation’s rising obesity rate and the cost-cutting effect of serving fries, tots and mashed potatoes for school lunch. The article cites an Iowan dietitian who said potatoes aren’t the problem, but rather the cheese, salt and fatty toppings that are put on them.

Booze and baseball, Massachusetts

Tampa Bay Rays fans know firsthand the enormity of the Boston Red Sox late-season collapse, but allegations surfaced last week that indicate some Boston players may not take the game seriously. WHDH-TV cited two anonymous Red Sox employees who claimed that pitchers John Lackey, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett would fill their cups with beer at the stadium clubhouse and then return to the dugout to watch the game out of apparent boredom.

Another report last week in the Boston Globe cites team sources who say the three would also enjoy beer, fried chicken and video games in the clubhouse during games, instead of sitting in the dugout with the rest of the team. The three pitchers denied all accusations in a press release from the organization Wednesday.

Textbook extinction, Indiana

Several school districts around the country have begun using laptops in place of textbooks. But the district of Munster, Ind. has completely restructured the classroom to cater to digital learning. This $1.1 million overhaul replaced textbooks for 2,600 students, grades 5 – 12, with laptops, according to the New York Times on Wednesday. The computers, handed out with a $150 annual rental fee, are blocked from non-educational websites.

The article stated that kids sent alerts to their teacher’s iPad when stuck on a problem, watched commercial-free “Mythbusters” videos and received math lessons from a cartoon character.

Cyclops shark, Gulf of California

Many know of the three-eyed fish, “Blinky,” from “The Simpsons,” but fishermen in the Gulf of California have come across a similarly freaky fish.

A one-eyed, albino shark was sliced out of a pregnant dusky shark earlier this summer, according to CBS News on Wednesday. Scientists have recently proved that this is no Photoshop hoax, despite widespread skepticism. Scientists said that, though extremely rare and fascinating, the Cyclops shark would likely have not survived.

The sky is gone, Texas

Texans went outside this week to enjoy a fall day, only to find the usually blue sky smothered in red and black dust. An 8,000-foot dust cloud sped across Texas on Monday night at 70 miles per hour, according to the Washington Post.

Videos of the swirling dust make Texas look similar to Mars. The dust storm was caused by a severe drought across the state that has damaged crops and oyster production during what the National Weather Service has stated could be the driest period ever across the South Plains.

Lions and tigers and bears, Ohio

A group of more than 50 exotic animals was released in Zanesville, Ohio on Tuesday night, causing local officials to shut down school districts and clear roads. Police took down the majority of the animals with live ammunition, as the Muskingum County sheriff’s office does not carry tranquilizers. Renowned animal expert Jack Hanna helped authorities search for the animals, warning citizens who see any: “Do not run,” according to the New York Times.

The animals’ owner was found dead and is believed to have committed suicide just after releasing them. As of early Wednesday afternoon, a monkey and a wolf remain unaccounted for.

Colossal cell phone bill, Florida

If you’ve ever traveled abroad with your cell phone, chances are you got a litany of warnings from parents or friends about outrageous international roaming fees. Celina Aarons’ two deaf brothers never received those warnings. Aarons received a cell phone bill from T-Mobile stating she owed $201,000, according to the AP on Tuesday.

The charges stemmed from thousands of text messages and a multitude of downloaded videos her brothers racked up on her plan while spending two weeks in Canada. T-Mobile informed her that the figure was accurate, but later reduced her bill to $2,500 and gave her six months to pay it off.