Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Democrats are all smiles," Aug. 7, 2004

Morbid message

Pranksters in Nigeria seem to have accomplished what movie theater managers cannot: They persuaded a large number of people to turn off their cell phones. A wave of fear reportedly spread across the country last month after a text-messaging rumor warned people that they would die if they accepted calls on their cell phones from two "killer numbers."
Many Nigerians say they turned off their phones, just to be safe. National police spokesman Chris Olakpe says authorities are investigating what they have assured Nigerians is a hoax: "It's the work of people who want to cause fear and promote disaffection within the system, the society."

Pricey runner-up

A classic Bentley Speed Six that could not win the 1930 24-hour Le Mans race has captured a different title: world's most expensive car. The AFP news service reports that the car, which finished second in the 1930 race, sold for $4.6 million at a July 23 auction in France, making it the highest-priced car ever. An unidentified American made the winning bid.

Getting the shaft

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A Swedish burglar managed to break into an office building in Stockholm last month, but he couldn't break back out. Police say the man, whom they did not identify, misjudged his size and became stuck in the ventilation shaft that he was trying to escape through.
He remained stuck until the next morning when office workers heard him knocking on the shaft. Stockholm police spokesman Bjoern Pihlblad said officers didn't have to rush to the scene to nab the burglar: "He was already fenced in, so to speak."

Monkey business

A simian at an Israeli zoo has apparently decided to quit monkeying around. A black macaque at the Safari Park named Natasha has ceased walking on all fours and now only walks upright, in the manner of a human being. Veterinarian Igal Horowitz says Natasha may have suffered brain damage from a severe illness last month: "I've never seen or heard of this before."

Bonded paper

The Sri Lankan company Maximus is trying an unusual free-market approach to saving the country's endangered elephants: It's making stationery products from elephant dung. Customers can choose from an array of textures and colors of paper that are produced by different elephant diets.
Former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe gave President Bush a box of writing paper, envelopes, and name cards made from the dung during a visit to Washington. An elephant orphanage in Pinnawela provides most of the raw material for the stationery: "Our orphanage produces six truck loads of elephant dung," said veterinarian S. Mendis. "So you see there is no problem with supply."

The criminal mind

Most criminals who turn themselves in do so after committing crimes. Not Brian Fenton of Barboursville, W.Va. Authorities say Mr. Fenton entered First State Bank of Barboursville on July 20 and promptly told a teller to call 911 because he intended to rob the bank. After waiting for the teller to make the call, Mr. Fenton gathered his loot and walked out-"directly into the arms of Deputy Todd Wentz," said Sgt. Mike McCallister. He now faces charges of felony bank robbery.

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