Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Darfur," Nov. 25, 2006

Pretty in pink

Several inmates who staged a breakout attempt and set fire to the Dallas County (Mo.) Detention Center in October returned to their cells only to find Sheriff Mike Rackley had done some redecorating. "Basically, if they are going to act like children and commit a childish act, then we'll make a childish atmosphere," Rackley said after having the cells painted pink with blue Teddy bears. "And it's a calming thing-Teddy bears are soothing. So we made it like a daycare and that's kind of like what it is, a daycare for adults who can't control their behavior in public. . . . How do you feel tough in a pink atmosphere?"

Gramr dsnt matr

Despite condemnations from English purists, high-school students won't be marked off for the abbreviated and phonetic-style grammar popular in text messaging while writing essays for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Developed as shorthand in instant messaging or texting, language purists say the bastard grammar devalues English as a language, and therefore English-speaking culture. Wellington's Dominion Post printed examples of the shorthand used in essays: "We shal fite dem on d beaches" (a reference to Winston Churchill's famous line) and "2b or nt 2b" (from Shakespeare's Hamlet).

Busy beggars

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India has a creative, if misguided, new idea for stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. Government officials plan to hire beggars to spread safe-sex messages with song-and-dance routines in buses and trains and beside busy roads. "Beggars are great actors and very creative," Vijay Prakash, Bihar's welfare secretary, told the Reuters news service. "They always had the skills, but lacked direction which we are giving them and the experiments have so far been very successful." No word yet on how Indians react to getting health advice from vagrants.

Dying to serve

As one North Carolina man pushes up daisies, voters punched his name on a Nov. 7 ballot for an environmental post. Sam Duncan died on Oct. 7, but voters elected him one month later as the new Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor in Union County over a few living candidates. Though previously unheralded, the race has caught the eye of the Charlotte media as residents try to sort out exactly what happens when you elect a dead person.

Inverted voter

A voter in Florida may have cast the most expensive vote of his life in the Nov. 7 election, and it didn't even count. Florida officials reported that someone used a rare stamp worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to mail in an absentee ballot. The 1918 stamp, known as the "Inverted Jenny," depicts an upside-down biplane and only 100 have ever been found. Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom told the Reuters news service that the vote was disqualified because it didn't include a return address or anything else to identify the voter. Peter Mastrangelo, director of the American Philatelic Society, later said the stamp might be a counterfeit.

Slow motion march

Walk for your lives: Barbados is being invaded at a snail's pace. According to reports, hundreds of thousands of giant African snails-about the size of a human hand-have swarmed St. George parish, destroying crops and even making walking around difficult. "We saw snails riding on each other's backs and moving in clusters," said David Walrond, an emergency response officer in the island nation. "You're just crunching the shells as you're walking through."

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