Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Bird flu," June 10, 2006

Tailgate party

Note to driver: Perhaps tailgating a fuel tanker isn't the best thing to do when you're hauling a trailer stuffed with 18,000 pounds of contraband fireworks. "It would have devastated a quarter-mile radius if they had gone off," said Suffolk County (New York) Police Department spokesman Robert Boden, whose agency pulled the big rig over for tailgating, then arrested the driver once they found he was transporting fireworks without a permit. Just 25 pounds of roman candles and sky rockets would be enough to consume a passenger car in an enormous fireball.

Self-incrimination

It's probably not the first impression Justin Jacobson, a 21-year-old Washington man, intended to make during jury selection for his trial on charges of assault. After an apparent disagreement with his attorney, Mr. Jacobson viciously backhanded his lawyer, W. Larry Jefferson, in the chest in plain sight of potential jurors. Mr. Jefferson was helped out of the courtroom and later taken to the hospital as the men and women who were to decide Mr. Jacobson's fate on the assault charges looked on, stunned. "Not only did you see it, you heard it," said one of the potential jurors. The judge quickly declared a mistrial.

Swimming in it

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Residents in and around Melbourne, Australia, received water bills that not even leaky faucets could account for. The local water company overcharged nearly 300 customers for 8 trillion gallons of water-enough water to fill 35,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. One customer received a $96 million water bill. The water company apologized to all affected and offered a $25 discount on the next bill.

Crazy eights

Organizers of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics marked May 31 as 800 days until the games start. That may seem an odd thing to celebrate, but Chinese superstition holds the number eight to be lucky. The games themselves will start at 8 p.m. on the eighth day of the eighth month (August) of 2008.

The eight craze is strong enough that some Chinese pay more for telephone numbers with eights and for eighth-floor apartments. The number eight even played a role in the decision not to put a costly roof on the Olympic stadium. "We are considering what to do if it rains," Beijing Games construction office chief Jun Yuan told the Reuters news service. "But I'm really hoping August 8, 2008, will be a propitious day."

Hazzard County chase

Who was driving the police cruiser? Roscoe P. Coltrane? Sheriff Buford T. Justice? A Pennsylvania State Police cruiser had a van in hot pursuit until it lost the track after the driver got the cruiser stuck in drying concrete. Turns out, the van driver's plot worked. He made a quick turn out of the construction zone in Monroe County, but the trooper couldn't turn in time, careening his cruiser into wet concrete on a stretch of roadway that had been laid hours earlier, temporarily ending the chase. The suspect was later caught.

Domestic wiretapping allowed here

A Canadian judge thinks she knows what will stop a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist from rekindling his relationship with one of Osama bin Laden's chief lieutenants-his word. In releasing Mohamed Harkat on bail with some restrictions, Justice Eleanor Dawson ruled that the 36-year-old Algerian native was no threat to Canadian national security since al-Qaeda has never attacked on Canadian soil. The terms of Mr. Harkat's bail mandate that he wear an electronic monitoring device and that he submit to having his telephone wiretapped while awaiting his trial.

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