Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "George W. Bush: Gut check," April 24, 2004

Electronic appeal

Lee Alaban of Port Macquarie, Australia, used technology to appeal to the conscience of a thief who stole her car last month. Knowing her son's cell phone was in the sedan, Ms. Alaban sent text messages to the phone, pleading with the thief to return the car. "He started apologizing, and I felt I was getting through," she said. He finally abandoned the car and sent her a message that told her where to find it. (He kept the cell phone and some birthday presents that were in the vehicle.) A relieved Ms. Alaban sent the thief a final note: "If I ever lock myself out of my car, I'll send you a message."

Tough love

A Mexican woman was so intent on saving her unborn child that she performed a Caesarean section on herself. When the woman, who lives in a rural area, could not deliver the baby naturally, she "took three small glasses of hard liquor and, using a kitchen knife, sliced her abdomen in three attempts," said Dr. R.F. Valle, who later treated the woman and described the procedure in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. After the C-section, one of the woman's children summoned a local nurse, who stitched the wound. Both mother and baby survived.

Number nonsense

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The Shanghai Daily reports that a cell-phone user bid $1.1 million for the rights to the number 135-8585-8585 in an online auction. The Chinese pronunciation of the number, which drew 70 bids, is similar to "let me be rich, be rich, be rich, be rich." Other "lucky" numbers went for up to $12,000.

Modest nudists?

Denizens of a nude beach in Vancouver apparently want only so much exposure. They're protesting plans by the University of British Columbia to build a 20-story dormitory on the cliffs overlooking Wreck Beach, saying the plans threaten their privacy. "It's mean for the university to do," said 12-year-old Stephanie Gibson, who was raised on the beach. "I know they need more residences for the students, but they have to think of us."

The eyes have it

An eye-catching fashion trend may be emerging in the Netherlands. The Reuters news service reports that Dutch surgeons have inserted small, .13-inch pieces of jewelry onto the eyeballs of six women and one man. Doctors at the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery in Rotterdam developed the procedure, which costs $1,232, and they say that they have a waiting list for the tiny implants. Gerrit Melles, director of the institute, says the operation is safe: "So far we have not seen any side effects or complications, and we don't expect any in the future."

Target marketing

How aggressively do online casinos try to lure gamblers? The Reuters news service reports that some are running pop-up ads on the website for Australia's Gamblers Anonymous. The group, which helps gambling addicts, is trying to block the ads but cannot use legal means because the casinos are based overseas. According to national statistics, Australians spend more on gambling than the country spends on defense.

Conflict resolution

Hoping to avoid confrontations with her parents and her boyfriend, a Croatian woman shut down Germany's third-busiest airport for hours with a fake bomb threat. A Duesseldorf court on April 8 convicted the woman, identified only as Marina B., of disturbing the peace after she admitted to perpetrating the September hoax to get out of a vacation with her boyfriend. "I didn't know how I would be able to tell my parents about the holiday with him, and I couldn't really say to him, 'Listen, my parents wouldn't approve,'" she told the court. "Then I had the idea that if the trip could somehow be blocked by someone else, for example a bomb threat, then that would solve all the problems." The court gave her only a two-year suspended sentence, but the Duesseldorf airport and airlines are suing her for $1.9 million in damages.

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