Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Narnia unleashed," Dec. 10, 2005

Pole vault

Baltimore has a new crime spree to worry about-pole burglars. Bands of thieves are roaming the city, setting out orange traffic cones, disassembling street light poles, and making off with the 30-foot hunks of aluminum. The poles cost the city $750, and though bulk aluminum can fetch up to 35 cents per pound, there've been no reports of them showing up at local metal salvage yards. But local police are convinced that the bandits-who sometimes dress up as utility crews-are fencing the public property somewhere.

Bush whacked

Even in liberal Vermont high-school teacher Bret Chenkin's vocabulary test was deemed too political. Mr. Chenkin posed this question to his students at Mount Anthony Union High School: "I wish Bush would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes." The correct answer was "coherent." Mr. Chenkin, who says he generally teaches with his political views worn on his sleeve, got grief after administrators were tipped off. But Mr. Chenkin said he won't stop taking swipes at the president-"I'll put in both sides . . . especially if it's going to cause a lot of grief."

Lego empire

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Police say 40-year-old William Swanberg's attraction to children's Lego toys is man-sized. So much so, the Reno man is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Legos from Target stores to be sold on eBay. After clearing out local stores, Mr. Swanberg raided Targets as far away as Oregon, authorities say. Police captured the man outside of Portland, Ore., with 56 Star Wars Legos sets (worth nearly $100 each) and 27 other assorted sets. According to records, Mr. Swanberg has sold $600,000 worth of Legos since 2002-a heist so large, a Nevada grand jury learned Nov. 23, investigators needed a 20-foot truck to haul away the evidence.

Dead meat

It's not exactly making license plates, but at least some Alaskan inmates will have something to do. Under a joint agreement between the Department of Corrections and the Alaska Food Bank, inmates will butcher scores of elk felled by trains statewide. "Moose meat is, like all protein in the food banking business, just like gold," said Merri Mike Adams, an executive for the Anchorage-based food bank. "We don't want to give the impression that we're celebrating moose being killed. But if it's going to happen, then let's not waste the meat." And there's a lot for inmates to do. Last year, trains killed 183 moose across the state.

Walk the line

Security guards at an Orlando Wal-Mart did what every justice-minded American has wanted to do after overexposure to long checkout lines. They confronted a man trying to buy a laptop who cut in line. When he wouldn't move, they tackled him. One shopper accurately described the scene as crazy when the laptop, the object of the whole episode, went flying in the air.

Mind over matter

New Yorkers don't just have a weight problem, some have a reality problem. According to a study published by New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, nearly 1 million adult New Yorkers are obese-but two-thirds of them don't think they are. The study shows one in five New Yorkers is obese, but only 39 percent of them would describe themselves as "very overweight." Nationwide, 28 percent of men and 34 percent of women are obese.


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