Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "New Orleans' comeback kids," Oct. 22, 2005

Help wanted

Perhaps the War on Terror is progressing after all. Al-Qaeda, international terrorist organization and bane of the Western world, has resorted to online classified ads to try and find reinforcements. The terror group put an ad in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper's online classifieds looking for would-be jihadists to help with the group's video production and media propaganda. The ad asked interested terrorists to contact the group via e-mail-but did not furnish an address.

Flee fear and fish-flinging youth pastors

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First Assembly of God church in Florence, Ala., launched a Fear Factor--type ministry modeled after the hit television show in which contestants complete extreme tasks for cash prizes. In the first round, the voluntary participants-parental consent required-swallow between one and three live comet goldfish to help conquer fears and possibly win the $250 cash prize. "We need to be realistic about what the Bible says about fear and not be afraid to share our faith in school," youth minister Anthony Martin told the Florence TimesDaily. For the second round of elimination, Mr. Martin said students would race to get free from a coffin covered in chains. Good thing, too. Once the pet store owner found out how Mr. Martin used the goldfish, she declared it animal cruelty.

Plumped pumpkin

Ron and Sue Boor's prize-winning pumpkin surely would have made Charlie Brown proud. The truly great pumpkin raised by the Boors tipped the scales at 1,085 pounds-a record at the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival. Growing a pumpkin that size wasn't easy, though. The Boors installed special irrigation systems in their pumpkin patch, erected a shade tent to regulate sunlight, and watered up to 200 gallons a day for the big one. At one point, the prize-winning pumpkin was growing up to 35 pounds every night. "I say it's worse than raising a baby," Mrs. Boor said. But possibly more profitable. Once carved into a gigantic jack-o-lantern, the giant pumpkin's seeds will sell to gardening enthusiasts for perhaps $25 each.

Sky captain

You could say Air Canada almost dared him. Marc Tacchi couldn't resist taking advantage of a loophole in Air Canada's newest promotion after it became the first airline to sell a subscription to unlimited flights. Once Mr. Tacchi, a pilot himself for another airline, bought his $6,000 all-you-can-fly pass for two months, he set out to rack up some serious frequent flier miles. If his night-and-day flying schedule is right-and if his body holds up-he'll earn about 1 million frequent flier points worth about $60,000 of airline tickets once he's done.

Help the lady!

Small vindication for 83-year-old Australian woman Pat Gallen: The ticket police officers gave her for crossing a street too slowly has been torn up. The cane-wielding woman had originally been fined $23 for failing to cross a road in her Queensland town in "the most direct route." Public outrage sparked authorities to reconsider that fine.

Stones' roll away

One Chicago company has a new way to add a bit of luster to funerals. For just $13,000, families can turn cremated remains of a loved one into a one-carat yellow diamond. For those who always knew mom sparkled, LifeGem has a way to make it happen. The stones retail from $2,700 to up to $20,000 for a one-carat blue diamond.

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