Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Broken promises," March 25, 2006

Crash course

Students often complain that what they learn in school is irrelevant to their lives, but several in Illinois may have a point. A requirement in many Illinois school districts that all high-schoolers pass driver's education has forced dozens of blind students near Chicago to take a written driver's exam in order to graduate. Officials in the districts in and near Chicago say that before a group of 30 students formed an advocacy group this month, no one had ever brought it up. "I can't explain why up to this point no one has raised the issue and suggested a better way for visually impaired students to opt out of driver's ed," said Chicago schools spokesman Michael Vaughn.

Smelling a rat

A Traverse City, Mich., man's run for the border turned into a run for extortion. Police arrested 20-year-old Ryan Daniel Goff for attempted extortion after he allegedly put frozen mice from a pet store in a Taco Bell burrito and then tried to angle the restaurant's management for money. According to court records, he called managers and demanded money in return for keeping quiet about the mousy burritos. His plan was undone when his girlfriend ratted him out to police.

Sun down

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The last time it happened there were riots. This time, officials in tribal areas of Nigeria hope the locals respond better to an impending solar eclipse. During a 2001 eclipse, people in the northern Borno State rioted, thinking perhaps the sun wouldn't come back. Some in the region blamed other locals and evil spirits for the brief blackout. This time for the March 29 solar eclipse, government officials hope to better prepare the population. "The eclipse is not expected to have any real damaging effect," Information Minister Frank Nweke said. "Only social and psychological discomforts are envisaged."

Long journey home

It wasn't an SOS to the world, but one Massachusetts teen's message in a bottle came back to her after a trans-Atlantic voyage. Genevive Hernandez of Lynn, Mass., tossed the green Sprite bottle containing a message into the Atlantic Ocean on Nov. 20, 2003, as part of a fifth-grade project. Most of the bottles simply washed back on shore. Some made it as far as Cape Cod. One got to England, and as a letter by a 26-year-old African man confirmed, Genevive's letter arrived along the shore of Morocco last December. The 3,500-mile voyage had inauspicious beginnings: "I thought it wasn't going anywhere," said Hernandez. "Mine was stuck on the seaweed."

Habitual offender

Some work. Some beg. One Lithuanian woman has another way to make ends meet. Steal. Mother of three Viktorija Raudonyte, 25, was arrested for the 81st time last week for shoplifting in Klaipeda. Local police are very familiar with the bandit. "Stealing is like a regular job for her," said police officer Jonas Vaitkevicius. "There are probably no shopping centers left where she hasn't been busted." Ms. Raudonyte may be poor and uneducated (and a thief), but she's no dummy. In almost every case, she's stolen less than 125 litas ($43) worth of merchandise-something that can only be punished with community service.

Bad joke

A senior prank turned into a 90-day suspension when administrators decided four Springville, Utah, students' actions were more like a major disruption than a minor inconvenience. The students, all seniors at Springville High School, sprayed skunk oil onto carpets, walls, floors, and vents, making for a disastrously stinky situation that disrupted a basketball tournament and a parent-teacher event. At first, the school suspended the group for 10 days. Then, perhaps after they got the repair and cleaning bill, the school district bumped it up to three months, meaning the teens will be suspended through their pending graduation day.

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