Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Rita: After the storms," Oct. 8, 2005

Pucker penalty

An Israeli couple vacationing in India found out their public display of affection wasn't so customary in the Indian hinterlands. After deciding to get married in India, they discovered the smooch was illegal. A court in the Northwest town of Pushkar ordered the couple to pay about $11 each for their post-marriage kiss.

Bonus baby

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France has turned to cash incentives to combat a shrinking population. Faced with a fertility rate of 1.9 children-below the 2.07 needed to avoid population decline-the nation will offer incentives of $916 a month in some situations for parents who decide to have a third child. But France will only pay if a third-time parent opts to take a one-year unpaid leave of absence to care for the child. The move comes even as France holds the second-highest fertility rate in Europe. The fertility rate across the European Union is 1.5, and nations like Greece, Italy, and Spain are even worse, hovering around 1.3 to 1.4 (see "Money: Disappearing act")

Bring on the brioche

Stephen Lanzalotta figures his diet makes as much sense as anybody else's diet. Whereas many fad diets are based on science, or even pseudo-science, the Maine baker has created his diet book based on the bestseller The Da Vinci Code. In baker Lanzalotta's book, The Diet Code: Revolutionary Weight-Loss Secrets from Da Vinci and the Golden Ratio, Mr. Lanzalotta skewers the low-carb craze. Using the Golden Ratio, or Phi, trumpeted in the Dan Brown bestseller, he argues for a protein-carb-fat ratio of 20-52-28 percent. He wrote the book after the low-carb Atkins diet craze cut sharply into the sales at his Italian bakery. His proof the diet works? It worked for him.

Soccer SOS

Talk about priorities. Pilots on a plane chartered by Gambian president Yahya Jammeh and carrying 289 Gambian soccer fans faked an emergency to land in Piura, Peru, all in the name of soccer. After being delayed for nearly a week in Africa, the Gambian fans feared they would miss the start of the FIFA Under-17 Championship soccer match pitting Gambia against Qatar in Piura. So instead of making their scheduled landing 550 miles away in Lima-and risk missing the match altogether-pilots made a distress call, claiming they were low on fuel, and managed a landing in the same city where the match was to be played. "It truly was a scam," said Betty Maldonado, a spokeswoman for Peru's aviation authority. "They tricked the control tower." But the city welcomed the guests with local folk singers and dancers while authorities discussed what, if any, penalty to apply.

Queen for a day

The newly named Miss Thailand has decided to turn in her crown after discovering she'd actually have to live there. Angela MacKay, an Australian beauty queen with a Thai father, said she entered the Thai contest to learn the Thai language and to enjoy a cultural experience. She never expected to win and says she's not prepared to live in Thailand as the country's official beauty queen.

Dogs allowed

Apparently New Zealand's nationwide election last month was for the dogs. On a lark, Peter Rhodes of Queenstown registered his dog, Toby, to vote in the election. Mr. Rhodes dutifully filled out the card, signed it with a paw print, and mailed it in. Mr. Rhodes said he was flabbergasted when the government approved his Jack Russell terrier's voter registration. Though Toby elected not to vote, election officials weren't as amused. "It's an offense, and whoever's done it will be in the hands of the police," one official said.

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