Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Rick Santorum: Penn Station," April 30, 2005

Tree huggers

Nearly a thousand people in Calcutta, India, attended a wedding in which the bride and groom stood side-by-side but didn't move. The April 16 "marriage" was between a banyan tree and a fig tree, and it was arranged by locals who believe an evil spell has caused a recent crime wave and two suicides. The marriage of the trees is supposed to ward off the spell: "There is an evil eye that has been cast on us," wedding organizer Gouri Shankar Sengupta told the Reuters news service. "So we decided to take recourse to spiritual means to ward it off."

Picture perfect?

Hundreds of Chicagoans flocked last week to an expressway underpass, bringing with them flowers, candles, and paintings to create a makeshift shrine to the Virgin Mary. The reason: They believe that they see her image in a stain from salt run-off on a concrete wall. "We believe it's a miracle," said visitor Elbia Tello. "We have faith, and we can see her face." Jim Dwyer, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, took a more relativistic approach: The meaning, he said, "depends on the individual who sees it. To them, it's real. To them, it reaffirms their faith."

Yankee ingenuity

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Bill Stanley, president of the Norwich (Conn.) Historical Society, is lobbying for $10 million to build a presidential library for America's first president. And no, he doesn't mean George Washington. Mr. Stanley argues that Samuel Huntington of Norwich was the real first president, serving under the Articles of Confederation, which preceded the Constitution. Mr. Stanley so far hasn't been able to gain funds from any government-local, state, or federal-but he remains undeterred: "Facts are on our side. History is on our side, and the first president came from Norwich, and we should have a presidential library."

Historic danger

Workers remodeling an apartment this month in the French town of Melun made a shocking discovery: a World War II-era bomb lodged in the chimney stack. Melun was the site of intense fighting between Allied and Nazi forces in 1944, and the bomb had apparently been in the chimney stack ever since. The AFP news service reports that a bomb squad safely disposed of the weapon.

Playing possum

Out of gasoline and trying to attract attention, a man decided to lie down on the Trans Canada Highway near Vancouver in the early hours of April 18. The Reuters news service reports that witnesses alerted police and that officers were surprised to find the man, whom they did not identify, was "quite alive." He had merely wanted help with his car. "Guess it worked," said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in a statement, "but police don't really recommend this method."

Memorable surf

Surfer Simon Letch caught more than a wave while surfing off the coast of Australia on April 16. Sitting on his board 100 feet from shore, Mr. Letch was suddenly attacked by a shark. Witnesses say he quickly shoved the board in the shark's mouth and waited for the shark to let go. Then he caught a wave and surfed back to shore unharmed. "It was only about 10 or 15 seconds that I was waiting for a wave," Mr. Letch told Sydney's Sunday Telegraph, "but it seemed like an eternity."


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