Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Iraq: Bloody Ramadan," Nov. 29, 2003

Dressing to kill

Ohio truck driver John Gilmore took the trucker's obsession with time management a little too far. The LaPorte County (Ind.) Sheriff's Department says he crashed his tractor-trailer early this month because he was trying to change clothes while driving 60 mph. A witness who checked on him right after the accident says she found him naked. Mr. Gilmore was not injured, but the accident held up traffic on U.S. 6 for more than three hours.

Modern art?

In a time when a dung-covered canvas and a sliced-up elephant pass for great works of art, students at Budapest's sculpture-laden University of Arts made what has to be considered an honest mistake. For an entire day, they thought the corpse of a man who had hanged himself in a campus building was a modern sculpture. It wasn't until late in the day on Nov. 14 that onlookers concluded something might be wrong and called police.

Speed bumps

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More anti-speeding European politicians have been caught speeding (see "Quotables," Nov. 8). This time, reporters with the French magazine Auto Plus say they used radar guns to record Transport Minister Gilles de Robien traveling 98 kilometers per hour and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy going 103 kph on a 70 kph road. The two officials have been leading a nationwide crackdown on reckless driving. Mr. de Robien doesn't dispute the report. "The fact that he was running late on this particular day and being escorted by a security convoy is no excuse," his office said in a statement. "Nobody is above the laws of the road-and certainly not the transport minister." Where were the two officials going in such a hurry? An unveiling ceremony for new radar speed traps.

Money-for-nothing watch

Perhaps taking its cue from the American farm program, the British media company BskyB has reportedly agreed to pay departing chief executive Tony Ball over $17 million for not working. Mr. Ball, in return, has agreed not to work for a rival company for the next two years. This means that Mr. Ball will receive twice as much for not working as he received for leading the company. A BskyB director told London's Sunday Telegraph that Mr. Ball could do immense damage to the company by working for a rival: "This is valuable insurance and investors should be grateful for it."

Lost in translation

The Shreveport (La.) Police Department's automated voice-recognition telephone system apparently doesn't speak Southern. Shreveport authorities say the system, which asks nonemergency callers to name the person or department they want to reach, sent callers to the wrong extension more than half the time. The authorities concluded that the system didn't recognize the Louisiana drawl and last week switched back to a lower-tech, touch-tone system. "I can count on one hand when I have been transferred to where I've wanted to go, and I know the system," said Interim Police Chief Mike Campbell. "I can imagine how frustrating it would be for a citizen."

Stick shock

Malaysian doctors weren't quite sure why 30-year-old patient Ng Keng Choon couldn't move his eyeballs-until they found a nearly 2.5-inch portion of a chopstick lodged near his brain. Mr. Ng says the chopstick, which ran from under his right eye through his nose and to the back of his left eye and missed his brain by only 0.2 inch, must have been a vestige of a fight he had with several strangers five years ago. Mr. Ng said that he didn't realize the chopstick was there and didn't feel any pain or discomfort until his right eye became inflamed last month. Doctors successfully removed the plank from his eye during an hour-long operation.

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