Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Hope or hype?," Jan. 20, 2007

Beer bashed

Tampa, Fla., residents perhaps need to rethink their New Year's celebrations. Consider this series of seemingly unrelated incidents: First, a Tampa woman watching fireworks just before midnight was struck in the bra by a bullet falling from the sky fired, apparently, by someone shooting a revolver into the air. She was not badly wounded. Next, a church burglar somehow managed to leave a trail of pickles to a nearby shopping center where police arrested him. Far from trying to evade the law, Fred Holley of St. Petersburg dialed 911 some 14 times on New Year's Eve to wish the local sheriff's department a happy new year. A spokesman for the sheriff's office found a common denominator: "It's definitely true that alcohol plays a role in New Year's for many people."

Life saver

Ever since Hurricane Katrina, Lt. Eric Bumgarner of the Illinois Conservation Police has wondered what had become of the roughly 1,400 frozen human embryos he and six other colleagues rescued from New Orleans' Lakeland Hospital. Nine months after having one of the rescued embryos implanted, Rebekah Markham is scheduled this month for a C-section to give birth to a baby who needed extraordinary efforts just to get into the womb. Fearing rising temperatures from a loss of electricity that could have thawed-and thus killed-all the embryos, a fertility expert at the hospital made frantic phone calls that eventually led to Bumgarner's crew arriving at the facility to carry the embryo tanks through high water to safety. Bumgarner says he saw potential all along in his rescue mission: "One of these embryos could be the next president."

Plugged nickel

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Surprise: When auctioneers for rare and valuable coins put a unique 1913 Liberty Head nickel up for auction for $4.5 million, no bidder could be found. It's a bit of a shock for the coin's owners. The last time one of the five 1913 Liberty Head nickels went up for auction, it fetched a bit more than $4 million. But apparently a half million dollars more for a 5-cent piece is simply too much to ask.

Camera doesn't lie?

Something seemed out of place on the ticket received for speeding in Wales by cabbie Tom Matthews. Primarily, Matthews objected to the speed at which the remote-controlled speed camera clocked him-420 mph in a 30 mph zone. Matthews says he'll fight the ticket. "I drive an old [Vauxhall] Cavalier-not a jumbo jet. According to this, I've broken the land speed record," he told The Sun. "There has been a printing error. If they insist I was going that fast I should be a Grand Prix driver-I'm wasted in taxis."

Blast from the past

More than six decades after Ray Heilwagen left a French battlefield on a stretcher during the European campaign of World War II, he's finally been reunited with one of his prized possessions. Heilwagen got a call from an Illinois man whose father had found Heilwagen's wallet in Europe but had never been able to return it to the veteran. Using the internet, Steve Breitenstein tracked down Heilwagen in Mexico, Mo., and returned the veteran's billfold, which contained not only the original cash, but also pictures, newspaper clippings, and his original Social Security card.

Russian lights

Perhaps 20 years ago, it would have caused an international incident: NORAD reported that the streaks of light that Denver residents saw on Jan. 4 weren't from a meteor shower, but rather a Russian rocket burning up over Colorado. But the light show wasn't a hostile act marking the resumption of the Cold War. Rather, it was just the reentry to Earth of a rocket Russia used to launch a French space telescope into orbit.


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