Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Bush: Hail to the chief," Jan. 29, 2005

Chewed out

An alleged tractor-trailer thief in Vancouver, Wash., took more from the rig's driver than he expected. Police say Cuitlahvac Renteria-Martinez was stealing a $60,000 Freightliner last week when he took a drink from a cup that had been left inside the cab. He didn't realize until he had swallowed that the cup contained the driver's tobacco spit. Police were already in pursuit when Mr. Renteria-Martinez called 911, telling the operator that he was choking and needed help.

Cold snap

How cold was it in Canada last week? The Reuters news service reports that police in Ottawa received around 20 calls on the evening of Jan. 17 from citizens reporting gunshots and other suspicious noises. Authorities responded to each call, but quickly determined that a crime wave was not occurring: The minus-40-degree weather had caused some houses to produce large cracking noises.

Nail biter

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Colorado construction worker Patrick Lawler couldn't figure out why he had a toothache and blurred vision earlier this month. He finally went to a dentist when the problems persisted and discovered the culprit: A four-inch nail had been embedded in his skull for six days after a Jan. 6 work accident with a nail gun. Mr. Lawler had thought that only the gun itself had hit him, but in reality it sent a nail into his mouth and 1.5 inches into his brain. At a press conference after doctors successfully removed the nail, reporters asked Mr. Lawler what was going through his mind. His response: "a new career."

Animal house

What may have looked like a zoo last week in San Jose, Calif., was really a convention of about 1,700 "furries," or adults who like to take on the identities of animals and dress up like them. The Further Confusion convention, aka FurCon, is held annually, and Raccoon impersonator and FurCon co-founder Lee Strom says the event is a matter of perspective: "Just because it's weird, it's still perfectly normal to the people involved in it."

Ghost busted

Mysterious creaking sounds and other strange nighttime noises had some convinced that a 15th-century Alpine castle was haunted. But the noises turned out to have a very this worldly source. The AFP news service reports that police this month set up hidden cameras in Castel Coldrano to find the source of the noises, which turned out to be the woman who ran the castle's cultural center. An Italian court sentenced the ghost impersonator, whom police did not identify, to four months in prison.

Fighting Frank

Purveyor of such cheesy items as Virgin Mary sandwiches, eBay last week proved it can cook up real value. The parents of David Dingman-Grover, 9, had been using the website to raise money for a biopsy their son needs on a large brain tumor he named "Frank." But the Richmond, Va., family announced last week that Dr. Hrayr Shahinian of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has agreed to perform the highly specialized pediatric neurosurgery for free. It may have been the family's good-humored approach that impressed the doctor: To raise money, the Dingman-Grovers were auctioning bumper stickers that said "Frank Must Die."

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