Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Snakepit," Feb. 11, 2006

Not-so-great escape

With just a few days left in his 20-day jail sentence for stealing some copper tubing, Lance H. Gauthun attempted his own great escape from the Thurston County (Wash.) Jail. On Jan. 24, the 20-year-old made a break for the exits of the minimum-security jail, but he fell down a steep embankment just as he started his getaway. With temperatures near freezing, Mr. Gauthun was soon shouting for help. "They actually rescued the escapee from himself," sheriff's deputy Daniel Kimball said. With the failed jailbreak attempt on his rap sheet, Mr. Gauthun could be facing between one and three more months in jail.

Currency nukes

Wanted: radioactive money. Kazakhstan's central bank has issued a bulletin to the nation's banks and financial institutions to be on the lookout for radioactive American cash. Apparently about $4,000 worth of $100 and $50 bills in circulation in the central Asian nation somehow became contaminated with radioactivity 100 times above normal levels. For decades, Kazakhstan was used by the Soviet Union as a testing ground for nuclear bombs. No word on whether the government will provide banks with Geiger counters to manually check for the hot money.

Accidental tourist

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Everyone trips and falls, but one art lover in Cambridge, England, had an epic stumble late last month. The visitor at Fitzwilliam Museum reportedly fell down a flight of stairs and crashed into a display of Qing dynasty Chinese vases. The visitor was uninjured, but the priceless vases, which date from the late 17th or early 18th century, were left in pieces. "It was a most unfortunate and regrettable accident," museum director Duncan Robinson told the Reuters news service, "but we are glad that the visitor involved was able to leave the museum unharmed."

Free of charge

Tourists in Paris won't have to worry anymore about carrying change for the public toilets. City officials announced in January they'd be refitting their nearly 200 public self-cleaning porto-potties and eliminating the 50-cent fee for usage. Local pols say the move was an attempt to make life more pleasant for the city's homeless, who depend on the public toilets. The facilities were used 2.4 million times in 2005, and the city agreed to pick up the tab for upkeep.

Party room

Party Noir may have been a hit with hospital employees, but health officials in Norway were nonplussed when they discovered that employees threw a holiday party in the hospital's post-mortem room. Workers at the Fredrikstad hospital set out a white tablecloth and candles on the room's autopsy table and used it to stock beer. "This is unacceptable and unheard of," Health Minister Sylvia Brustad told NRK, a state Norwegian broadcaster. "It makes me sick."

On the prowl

Based on the eyewitness accounts of a Malaysian local, scientists in the Pacific nation are heading into the countryside on a government-funded expedition to search for Bigfoot. Since the reported sighting of a 10-foot ape, Bigfoot talk has dominated local newspapers. Jungle natives have told stories about large apes for generations, though they've been called the "Snaggle-Toothed Ghost," not Bigfoot, Yeti, or his North American cousin, the Sasquatch.

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