Dispatches > The Buzz

Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Iraq: The image war," May 22, 2004

Compound interest

A painting that sold for $30,000 in 1950 went for more than $104 million at a May 6 auction in New York. The $104,168,000 price tag for Pablo Picasso's "Garcon a la Pipe" shattered the previous record for a painting-$82.5 million in 1990 for a work by Vincent Van Gogh. Former diplomat John Whitney bought the 1905 painting 54 years ago, and a philanthropic foundation created by his wife put it up for sale.

Warren Weitman, chairman of Sotheby's North America, made the winning bid on behalf of an anonymous buyer. Auctioneer Tobias Meyer told Agence France-Presse that he allowed potential buyers more time than he usually does to ponder their bids. "You have to be patient," he said. "A million-dollar increment is an enormous thing."

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Drink offering

First it was sporting events and stadiums. Now a company is buying naming rights to a rural New Jersey community. The Buena Vista Township Committee last month voted 5-0 to accept $5,000 from rum maker Bacardi to change the name of Richland, a section of the town, to "Mojito." Bacardi will use images of the community in promoting its version of the traditional Cuban drink of the same name. Township administrator Ron Trebing said the community will spend the money on recreation projects: "Anything helps out."

Gas guzzlers

More than 100 people took advantage of a computer glitch at a Pittsfield Township, Mich., gas station to fill up their tanks for free. The glitch allowed them to swipe their drivers' licenses instead of credit cards at the pump, and a total of 107 customers over three weeks (with some returning up to 15 times) did so. Police, however, are having no trouble finding the petroleum pirates: The station's computer stored their drivers' license information.

Cutting the prison population

A family court judge in Campbell County, Ky., is offering some habitual deadbeat dads a way out of 30-day prison terms: They can have a vasectomy instead. Judge D. Michael "Mickey" Foellger reportedly offers the option to men with more than four children by multiple women and more than $10,000 in child-support debt. Judge Foellger said he has made the offer six or seven times in the last 17 months, and only one offender has chosen prison. "I have no qualms about it," he said of the controversial sentence. "I don't think these men deserve to have any more children."

Tougher than nails

Doctors say it's "close to a miracle" that California construction worker Isidro Mejia is making a full recovery after an accident with a nail gun caused six nails to be drilled into his head. The accident occurred on April 19 when Mr. Mejia fell from a roof onto a co-worker who was using the nail gun.

At first doctors who removed the nails didn't think he would survive, but they announced on May 5 that the patient had made "remarkable" progress and is "basically normal." Neurosurgeon Rafael Quinonez said Mr. Mejia is grateful to be alive: "He was very happy when he opened his eyes, and he saw that he's still with us."

Bar none

A British woman paid $3,828 cash for 10,656 chocolate bars at a Woolworths branch in north London early this month. The Reuters news service reports that the woman asked for every Mars bar in stock, and then had employees load the 220 boxes of candy bars into her chauffeur-driven limousine. "Nobody thought to ask her why she wanted so many," said a store spokesman. "Perhaps she has a sweet tooth."

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