Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Rice: Starboard at State," Dec. 4, 2004

Death wish

A Hindu seer almost incited a riot by failing to die on Nov. 17. The AFP news service reports that the chief cleric of Sriguru Ashram in eastern India had predicted that his soul would leave his body sometime that morning, and 15,000 people showed up to watch. The crowd was quiet when he sat down to meditate at 6:00 a.m. but turned violent when he was still alive at noon; it took a police baton-charge to disperse the crowd. The seer says he is sorry: "I wanted to leave my mortal body, but I could not. Please forgive me."

A quarter-ton loss

At 6' 6" and 270 pounds, Peter Loiselle is a big man, but he's not nearly as big as he used to be. In October 2001, the elementary school teacher from Ellsworth, Maine, weighed 763 pounds when doctors insisted that he undergo gastric bypass surgery. He decided that he didn't want the surgery, so he started to diet and exercise instead, losing almost 500 pounds over the following three years. He's scheduled to be on Oprah Winfrey's talk show next spring: "Someone said, 'Now you'll have to keep the weight off until then.' It didn't really bother me; it was just a little ignorant."

Pricey plate

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The great-grandchildren of Elinor Majors Carlisle knew that their family valued a pretty hand-me-down dish; they didn't know that anyone else would. But that was before art experts told them that the dish was Ming dynasty porcelain dating from the late 14th century. Carlisle had picked up the plate during a trip to China in the early 1900s, and she often used it for family-style crab dinners. Its selling price at a Nov. 17 auction: $5.7 million.

Door jam

Australian authorities last week were looking for a trio of thieves who may have watched too much television. The Reuters news service reports that the masked men attempted to rob a restaurant in the coastal village of Gerringong by trying to kick open its door-an unlocked sliding glass door with a sign that reads, "Slide." About 20 diners reportedly watched calmly as the men failed to kick down the door and ran away. Police investigator Jamie Williams said authorities are taking the slapstick case very seriously: "They're probably more dangerous because they're dumb."

Out of this world

Apparently hoping to find and impress some Swedish-speaking aliens, a group of poets in Stockholm have beamed readings of their work into outer space. The poets gathered at an observatory on Nov. 16 and aimed their transmission at Vega, a star that is 25 light years from earth. "I can't think of anything more adequate than poetry to communicate what it means to be human," Daniel Sjolin, editor of the Swedish poetry magazine Lyrikvannen, told Reuters.

Tough on crime

Librarians in Bay County, Mich., are not keeping quiet anymore. Fed up with a rash of overdue books, they are pushing for jail terms of up to 90 days for chronic late-returners. The county estimates that people keep out about $25,000 worth of overdue materials each year, and one patron owes $1,190 for keeping 73 books for more than a year. "We want to go after some of the people who owe us a lot of money," Frederick J. Paffhausen, the library's system director, told the Bay City Times. "We want to set an example."

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