Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Nuclear threat in Korea," Aug. 16, 2003

Don't drink the water

Ron Kazel of Cape Coral, Fla., says he is "livid," and it's easy to understand why. He learned late last month that utility workers in June had hooked up his home, along with the home of a neighbor, to the city's wastewater system instead of to its drinking water system. Another neighboring family had been hooked up to the irrigation system for more than three months. The city filters and treats its wastewater, but Lee County Public Health Director Judith Hartner said some parasites remain that can cause short-term health problems for those who drink it. "Mistakes were made," said City Manager Terry Stewart. "The best we can do is make it right."

High-tech collar I

A clever Pittsburgh bank teller stopped a robbery by electronically sealing the thief in the entrance to the building. Police said the employee, who was new on the job, flipped a switch that locked suspect Louis Pack between a set of double doors as he tried to leave with the stolen money. The unarmed Mr. Pack reportedly banged on the bulletproof glass trying to get out until police arrived.

'Your sin will find you' watch

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Michael Castiglione allegedly first tried to burglarize the home of Charles Lee of Des Moines, Iowa. Then, when Mr. Lee caught him and was dragging him outside to "whoop him a little," he tried to pay Mr. Lee to let him go-with a fake $100 bill that had a picture of President Bush on it. The burglary and the bribe both failed, and authorities are holding Mr. Castiglione on $13,000 bond in the Polk County Jail. Mr. Castiglione's problems started when he entered the house through the window of Mr. Lee's 87-year-old mother. Mr. Lee, in the basement at the time, rushed upstairs when he heard his mother's screams. As Mr. Lee subdued him, the suspect whipped out his C-note. "I knew it was fake, but I wouldn't have taken it anyway," said Mr. Lee. "It was one of those 9/11 George W. Bush bills."

Cat nap

Jim Albert of Chambersburg, Pa., accidentally took an 8-week-old kitten on a road trip-stuffed under the hood of his Mercedes. Mr. Albert drove 220 miles to Chester, W.Va., without knowing the tabby was trapped behind the grill of his Mercedes. A friend found the stray cat when he tried to check out the car's motor. "She was traumatized, but otherwise, there wasn't a mark on her," said Mr. Albert. His nickname for the cat: "Mercedes."

High-tech collar II

A New Jersey teenager used his cell phone to foil a would-be kidnapper, but he didn't call anybody. Clifton, N.J., police say the boy used the camera attached to his Sprint phone to take snapshots of William MacDonald and his car after the suspect allegedly offered the boy a ride and used sexual language. Mr. MacDonald then left his car and grabbed the boy, but the boy struggled and escaped. Police used the photos to track down the suspect.

Testy test taker

The job of a public-school administrator-who has suspended two dozen teachers for failing basic English proficiency-is in jeopardy for the very same reason. Lawrence, Mass., Superintendent Wilfredo T. Laboy has three times flunked a routine literacy test. The Puerto Rico native points out that English isn't his first language, and he also blames lack of preparation and concentration. The state requires all educators to pass the standard exam, which measures such basic reading and writing skills as capitalization, vocabulary, and spelling. Mr. Laboy, who is eligible for a raise this month that would bump his salary to $156,560, has four more opportunities to pass the test by the end of the year. "It bothers me because I'm trying to understand the congruence of what I do here every day and this stupid test," Mr. Laboy told The Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence.

Black, white, and green

Shreveport, La., pastor Fred Caldwell wants to integrate his predominantly black Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Baptist Church. So much so that he's offering white persons $5 an hour to attend Sunday services and $10 an hour for Thursday night services. "God wants a rainbow in His church," said the pastor. On Aug. 3, between 30 and 50 whites showed up for Sunday services. Only five asked for the money.

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