Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Social Security breach," Feb. 19, 2005

In the driver's seat

What Sgt. Jay Osga saw at about 1:30 a.m. gives new meaning to signs in car windows that read "Baby on Board." During the policeman's patrol of a rural Michigan town, he spied a slow-moving vehicle weaving with its headlights off. At first, Sgt. Osga figured he was trailing a driverless vehicle that had rolled away from a gas station. But then the car made a turn into an apartment complex, crunched two parked cars, and backed into the police cruiser. Inside the car, the policeman found a 4-year-old boy at the wheel who eventually explained that he had taken his mother's car on a late-night expedition to a video store about a quarter-mile away. Finding the store closed, the boy made his way home, using the engine's idling power because he couldn't reach the pedals.

Dressing down

A Section 8? It didn't work for Cpl. Maxwell Klinger in the TV series M*A*S*H, and it won't for one Norwegian doctor called back into mandatory service in Norway's armed forces. Instead of cross-dressing like the popular television character, the doctor prepared for his physical by dousing his hair in sour cream, his shoes in booze, and his trousers in beer. To top it off, the man hid in a closet smoking two packs of cigarettes at once. "I used a made-up life story about how things had gone downhill from being a student in medical school to being down and out," he told a Norwegian newspaper. But hospital records belied the man's story: His patients rated the very sane doctor highly.

Unlikely pirate

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In its quest to make examples out of those who pirate music through internet programs, the Recording Industry Association of America filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against a person they believe used the screen name "smittenedkitten" to share 700 songs. But there was a problem: The music industry somehow targeted 83-year-old Gertrude Walton who hated computers and died last December after a prolonged illness. Her daughter, who faxed the RIAA a copy of her mother's death certificate, said Ms. Walton objected to the machines even being in the house. A spokesman for the RIAA said they may have targeted the wrong person.

A $30,000 kiss

Sure, public displays of affection can be gross, but should they be illegal? Some in Indonesia's government think so. Islamists in the Indonesian government are pushing for so-called decency laws that would make kissing in public a crime punishable with fines of up to $30,000 or 10 years in prison. Neighboring Malaysia and Brunei already have laws that ban khalwat, or "close proximity" during unchaperoned meetings between men and women.

A bite out of crime

Police in one Swedish town had no trouble finding a man who broke into a cafeteria nearly 400 miles south of Stockholm. He left his dentures at the crime scene. Moreover, when police examined the false teeth, they discovered the man's social security number engraved on the side. At that point, finding the culprit was easy. When confronted, the burglar said he must have dropped his dentures in haste after he discovered nothing of value to take. After all, what's the use of dentures if there's nothing to eat?

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