Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "2004 Election: Clinch time," Oct. 30, 2004

The great pumpkin

Seven other pumpkin growers brought pumpkins weighing over 1,000 pounds to the Safeway Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, Calif., on Oct. 11-and they all lost to Joel Holland of Puyallup, Wash. Mr. Holland's pumpkin weighed in at 1,229 pounds and had a circumference of 13 feet, 7 inches. A total of 80 pumpkins were entered in the contest.

Crocodile huntress

A 60-year-old woman in Australia may have saved the life of a fellow camper by jumping on the back of a 12.6-foot-long crocodile. The animal had walked into the man's tent around 4 a.m. on Oct. 10 while he was sleeping and began dragging him out when the woman, who was camping in a nearby tent and whom wildlife officials did not identify, jumped on the crocodile and began wrestling with it. The crocodile let the man go and began dragging the woman toward the water when a third camper shot and killed the animal. The attack left the man with a broken leg and arm and the woman with a broken arm.

Gun nuts

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Seventeen-year-old Joshua Phelps of Pine Bush, N.Y., brought a gun onto school grounds on Oct. 12, and he was arrested, handcuffed, and charged with misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon. Never mind that he had merely left the replica musket, which fires blanks, in his car along with a Union soldier's uniform after participating in a Civil War reenactment during the previous weekend. Police Chief Daniel McCann said the replica, which included a bayonet, could fire a projectile: "I know this might appear to be a minor thing, but it's not." Meanwhile, the school board in Londonderry, N.H., decided that its stated policy to "encourage the use of school sponsored publications to express students' points of view" could only go so far. Student Blake Douglass wanted to hold a shotgun over his shoulder in a traditional sportsman's pose for his senior photo. School officials rejected the photo, and the board opted for compromise: Blake's photo can feature elements of skeet and trap shooting, only without a gun, and his sportsman photo can appear in the yearbook's "community sports" section.

Heart rending

Steven Dulka III of Detroit had his broken heart mended on his wedding day-by doctors at Henry Ford Hospital. Mr. Dulka suffered from inflammation of the heart, and two hours before he was scheduled to marry Deidre Jacobini, he received a phone call from the hospital's transplant coordinator. They had a new heart for him, he was told, and he should go to the hospital right away. "Um, I'm getting married at 2 today," Mr. Dulka replied. The couple went ahead with the Oct. 2 wedding, moving it up an hour and making it shorter, and then rushed to the hospital for the operation. Mr. Dulka spent the next 11 days recovering in a fifth-floor room at the hospital. "This is our honeymoon suite," said the new Mrs. Dulka.

Bank run

A bank robber with a mask and a gun provoked not fear but laughter Oct. 14 at a bank in Zagreb, Croatia. The man pointed his gun at a teller and demanded money, apparently not realizing that the glass shield separating him from the teller was bulletproof. The teller, identified by police only as Martina S., "laughed aloud." She then called the police, and the humiliated robber promptly fled.

'Affront to human dignity'

Laser tag violates human rights, according to the European Court of Justice. The European Union's highest court on Oct. 14 upheld a German ban on the game, in which participants pretend to kill each other in a maze. The court ruled that German officials were correct to prohibit the building of a proposed laserdome in Bonn: "The affront to human dignity posed by that activity justifies a restriction on the freedom to provide services."

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