Dispatches > The Buzz

Quick Takes

Issue: "One nation under God," June 26, 2004

Fault finder » Former hostage Nobutaka Watanabe has found the people responsible for his abduction-and it's not his former captors in Iraq. Mr. Watanabe, a Japanese activist, is suing his own government, saying its participation in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq unduly angered terrorists, prompting them to kidnap him. He's seeking $46,000 for the mental and physical burdens of his four-day captivity. Japan has dispatched only 550 troops to Iraq for such humanitarian missions as rebuilding schools and hospitals. Peter's pence » Peter Shelley of Salt Lake City may be sorry that he did the crime, but he still has to do the time. Police say the accused robber punched a convenience store clerk and stole a pack of cigarettes on June 6 after the clerk asked for identification. Mr. Shelley, however, returned on June 12-twice-to apologize to the clerk, who promptly called police. Officers arrested Mr. Shelley near the store on charges of felony strong-armed robbery. Coke machine » Norwegian customs officials grew suspicious when a Nigerian refugee who was seeking asylum refused food and water. It turned out that the man had swallowed 3.5 pounds of cocaine in 160 plastic bags in a smuggling attempt. The cocaine had a street value of about $300,000, and officials say it is the most cocaine ingested on record. "It was a terrible risk," a customs officer pointed out. "If any of these packages had leaked it would have resulted in death." Dead zone » Construction workers in Tokyo knew a building they were preparing for demolition was old and decrepit, but what they found must have surprised them. In a forgotten apartment, workers discovered a skeleton reclining on a futon still wearing pajamas. The man, a former construction worker himself, died 20 years ago and was found near a newspaper dated Feb. 20, 1984. Neither his family nor his employer had inquired after he went missing. One elderly neighbor said he didn't even know the apartment existed. Pulling our legs? » Who says Europeans aren't religious? A Swiss newspaper campaign last week encouraged devoted soccer fans to stick voodoo pins in an effigy of England's team captain, David Beckham, before Switzerland's Euro 2004 match against England. "Join in," the advertisement said, "give the English pains in their legs on June 17 against Switzerland." Rock & a hard place » Only minutes after Brenda Archer's 1-year-old grandson had finished playing near a couch in her Auckland, New Zealand, home, a three-pound meteorite crashed through the roof, hit the couch, bounced off the ceiling, and fell under a computer. "It was like a bomb had gone off," Ms. Archer told the local Sunday Star-Times newspaper. "I couldn't see anything, there was just dust." She plans either to sell the chunk of space debris (worth more than $6,000) or donate it to a museum. Spare the rods » Huynh Ngoc Son of Ho Chi Minh City swallowed three 6.7-inch metal construction rods last month on a dare-and then waited a month to go to the hospital. The dare had been part of a rice whiskey drinking challenge in mid-May, but it wasn't until mid-June that the 22-year-old sought out doctors, complaining of stomach pains. The metal rods, which are less than a quarter of an inch thick, had lodged in his stomach. Doctors removed the rods and expect Mr. Huynh to recover fully.

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