Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Stand in the gap," Nov. 5, 2005

Living will

He never saw it coming. Kunjilal Malviya, a 75-year-old astrologer in India, made news some time ago, predicting his own death for a two-hour window on Oct. 20. Much to the disappointment of the crowd who gathered around his home-and to the delight of his family-Mr. Malviya lived to see another day. "We are afraid of his prediction coming true because all his predictions till date have been correct," his son Anirudh told Reuters. Mr. Malviya isn't the first Indian astrologer to fail at predicting his own death. But in a country where millions consult astrologers regarding jobs and relationships, astrologers who failed in their death predictions have sometimes faced down disappointed crowds who try to make the prediction come true, anyway. Good thing for Mr. Malviya-Indian police surrounded his house during the non-event.

Stupid human mattress tricks

An inmate in a rural Pennsylvania prison wants to parlay injuries suffered during an escape attempt into a get-rich lawsuit. Prison officials say Scott Bolton hurt himself severely when he fell several floors from a prison cell window during an October 2003 breakout attempt with cellmate Hugo Selenski. In a lawsuit filed against prison officials, Mr. Bolton-who suffered head, spinal, and other injuries from the fall that have left him wheelchair-bound-doesn't admit to the escape attempt, but blames prison officials for not watching the two closely enough. Commissioner Todd Vonderheid, one official named in the suit, fumed to the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader: "Somebody is incarcerated because they broke the law, then agrees to be a party to an escape, then is dumb enough to act as a human mattress for Hugo, and they're not responsible for their actions?"

Day's labor

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A Georgia activist made no apologies when reporters discovered he paid a team of homeless men and women to protest for him. D.A. King acknowledged he paid "14 willing American workers to let their voices be heard about illegal immigration." One homeless man, whom Mr. King paid $10 to hold a placard during a rally, said he agrees with the anti-illegal-immigration message. "Trust me, they are angry," Mr. King said. "When the day comes when I cannot pay an American for an hour's worth of work for making their voices heard, it's a sad day."

Drinking games

Go figure: An Australian study has concluded that alcohol plays a major role in crocodile attacks-that's booze for the person being attacked, not the reptile. Researchers say one in three Australians bitten by the deadly saltwater croc had been drinking before the attack. "But it doesn't mean they were . . . (drunk) when they fell into the river-although it did happen," study co-author Charlie Manolis told the AFP, noting crocodiles are opportunistic hunters. "Sometimes when people do drink they throw caution to the wind." Not a good thing to do when you're around a deadly reptile.

Shooting for three

When Eric James Torpy went to negotiate his plea agreement after confessing to trying to kill a man, he took an unusual approach. He asked for three more years tacked onto his 30-year sentence. And it's all because Mr. Torpy, besides being a dangerous felon, is also a Boston Celtics fan who wanted to match his prison sentence with Larry Bird's old jersey number-33. "He said if he was going to go down, he was going to go down in Larry Bird's jersey," Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott said Oct. 19. "We accommodated his request and he was just as happy as he could be." So was the prosecutor.

Coffee break

A South Carolina carjacker got more than he bargained for when he attempted to take over a Bluffton, S.C., commuter's car on Oct. 19. As he tapped on the window with a handgun, the driver opened the car door quickly, jamming it into the carjacker's legs. Then the commuter dumped his steaming hot coffee on the man's face and wrestled him to the ground. A shot was fired-no one was hurt-and the carjacker escaped to the woods on foot.


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