Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Middle East: No easy answers," May 31, 2003

Mother's day in court

Bill Green of the British Isle of Wight apparently didn't honor his mother and as a result his days may not be long on his land. Mr. Green, 46, borrowed $180,000 from his mother, 72-year-old Terry Green, spent it on profligate living, and then refused to pay back what he called a gift. He also threw his mother out of her coach house on his estate, which sits on the isle off the south coast of England. But last week, a Brighton County judge ordered Mr. Green to pay his mother $184,000 and froze that amount of his assets. Mrs. Green said the money had been the bulk of her life savings but wasn't the most important issue: "Whether a kid is 4 or 40, they should be kept in their place, and I have done my bit today."

LaGrand's finale

Usually a bank robber settles on an escape plan before a heist, but a man police suspect of robbing a bank in Florence, Ore., wasn't so prepared. Shortly after he allegedly took money from a bank teller on May 16, 48-year-old Sandine LaGrand asked a pedestrian for directions to the bus station. He was in a hurry, he said. But the pedestrian, Jared Torgison, was the son of the bank's manager, who had already told him about the robbery and given him a description of the man. After Mr. Torgison's short conversation with Mr. LaGrand, he phoned police, who arrested the alleged bank robber just a few blocks from the bank.

A trillion here, a trillion there...

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Has the Pentagon lost track of $1 trillion? The San Francisco Chronicle's Tom Abate reported last week that the Pentagon's inspector general could not find records for that much in spending. (Mr. Abate didn't say how many years the IG's report covered.) Mr. Abate also reported on a General Accounting Office study that found the Army couldn't account for 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch units. "I've been to Wal-Mart," the GAO's Gregory Kutz told the paper. "They were able to tell me how many tubes of toothpaste were in Fairfax, Va., at that given moment. And DOD can't find its chem-bio suits." Attempts to make Defense more responsible have failed, according to Mr. Abate. The Pentagon, for example, abandoned a reform of more than 2,000 overlapping systems for billing, inventory, and personnel after burning through $20 billion.

Did they see it coming?

Real artists won a victory this month over con artists when New Orleans banned fortune-tellers from the French Quarter's historic Jackson Square. The square has long been a venue where artists gather to paint. But lately fortune-tellers, catering to tourists, had begun populating the area and taking up space where painters had displayed their work. Palm and tarot "readers" are planning a court challenge.

French hens

Not just country-music fans but now the industry itself has turned against the Dixie Chicks for their anti-war posturing. At the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas, the group won nothing-even against inferior competition-and was booed. The band continues to perform before packed houses, which were sold out long before the controversy began. But the icy reception last week should trouble the Chicks: The ACM is made up of the fellow musicians, disc jockeys, song writers, and record producers who make up the infrastructure of the country-music scene.

Target marketing

Salesmen stress the importance of knowing their market, a lesson a Nay-Tah-Waush, Minn., teenager learned last week. The 17-year-old tried to sell marijuana to Mahnomen County Sheriff Brad Athman, who was enjoying an off-duty motorcycle ride down the town's main street. The sheriff said the boy, after being arrested, was "very upset" to learn the identity of his intended customer.

Fishy exhibit

Which is worse, a Danish art museum that displayed goldfish in blenders and dared patrons to blend the fish or the unidentified patron who hit the mix button and ran? Danish Judge Preben Bagger last week acquitted Peter Meyer, director of the Trapholt Art Museum, of animal cruelty charges because he said the two fish were killed "instantly" and "humanely." Danish "artist" Marco Evaristti designed the exhibit.

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