Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "As the West burns," Sept. 6, 2003

Weed eaters

More than a dozen Ohio teenagers almost died last month after trying to get high by eating flower seeds. The teens from the Akron and Cleveland area apparently thought "moonflowers," a type of flower common to the region, would act as a narcotic but didn't realize that some species are toxic. The teens suffered from dilated pupils, rapid pulse rates, hallucinations, and other symptoms, but doctors treated them in time to save their lives. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that the eating of moonflower seeds "may represent a new trend of substance abuse in this area."

Dead man breathing

Nguyen Van Quan apparently looked dead, but he wasn't a stiff. The Reuters news service reports that a Ho Chi Minh City hospital last month prematurely declared the 73-year-old Vietnamese man dead and transferred his body to a morgue. That's where his daughter went the next morning to retrieve his body for the funeral-only to find him still kicking, so to speak. "I was shocked and frightened when I saw the blanket that covered my father moving," said Mr. Nguyen daughter. "When the morgue's officials pulled the blanket back, my father's eyes moved, brightening with joy." Mr. Nguyen, who had lain for several hours among corpses, was taken back to Nguyen Tri Phuong hospital, where he had earlier checked in complaining of chest pain. A doctor there told Reuters that hospital officials were investigating the incident.

Powerful pill

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A Turkish burglar took some pills and was caught by a doctor in the morning. Ismail Saripinar allegedly broke into the doctor's office in Denizli and stole about $220, but he had a headache, so he also stole some pills. After taking them, he fell into a deep sleep and was found the next morning in the office by the doctor, who called police. The pills, it turned out, were tranquilizers.

Boys will be girls?

In the latest attempt to make little boys more like little girls, 12 child-care centers in Melbourne, Australia, have banned superhero costumes. The problem, child-care workers told the Reuters news service, is that such costumes encourage aggression. But many Aussies aren't convinced that the ban will save the day. "Children can get aggressive with a piece of stick," said Vickii Jenvey, a Monash University expert on children's play. "Superheroes are actually archtypal characters, good fighting evil, and can be quite moral."

Money for nothing

Sichuan Airlines may have the most expensive phone bill in the world. The Xinhua news agency reports that the Chinese company paid about $278,000 at a state auction for rights to the phone number 8888-8888. (Many Chinese consider the number 8 lucky because it sounds like the Chinese character for "rich.") The auction raised about $850,000 from the sale of 100 "lucky" phone numbers.

Stool pigeons

Belgian Marcel Pirson flew the coop 14 years ago, but his passion for pigeons has made him a jailbird. After being questioned by police about the 1989 death of his wife, Mr. Pirson assumed an alias and disappeared, but he didn't go undercover enough. Police caught up to him last week after seeing his picture in a magazine for pigeon fanciers.

'I must have been meant to get caught'

Misty Quackenbush of Cortez, Colo., thought she had gotten away with her crime. Prior to being sentenced in July for distribution of methamphetamines, she faked her death by putting her ID and some blood in an abandoned pickup truck and fleeing to Shamrock, Texas, some 600 miles away. But her plan was foiled when former childhood friend and current Texas lawman Brandon Brown, who had read about her "death," spotted her in Shamrock. Said Mr. Brown: "Her comment to me was, 'I must have been meant to get caught, because, what are the odds?'"

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