Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Faith-based campaigning," Jan. 27, 2007

Organized crime

Police in Thailand have a big problem. With a long nose. A gang of elephants reportedly has been holding up and looting cargo trucks that pass through a wildlife sanctuary in the Chachoengsao province. The herd of about 20 huge mammals has tipped over trucks bearing food, making trucks with tapioca and sugarcane cargo a special target. Unable to stop the marauding elephants, local authorities say they will simply close the road to night travel.

Unlucky strike

A failure to double-check city ordinances has left several tobacco company executives smoking hot in anger. When organizers began planning the Tobacco Asia Expo, they mistakenly believed Hong Kong's new no-smoking ordinances wouldn't be in effect until later this year. Not so. But instead of snuffing out the long-planned January conference, organizers said the show would go on-just without much actual smoking.

Name game

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Forget traditions: Greg Marshall of New Zealand opted to give his new bride a sporting chance to keep her last name-or for him to take hers. The couple used a game of miniature golf to determine which spouse would take the other's last name. After a close front nine, Marshall finally pulled away from his wife, Adrienne, to preserve traditional naming rights.

Gift that keeps giving

After a Chinese farmer dug up what could be a world-record-sized 4.5-foot long and 23-inch circumference kudzu root, a Hong Kong plant expert called the medicinal root that spawns the kudzu vine a "gift from nature." Residents of the American South aren't so certain.

Trap door

A portly cat that ran away from his ailing owner was finally done in by its Garfield-like quest for food. Though Hercules wasn't going for the lasagna, the 20-pound feline got stuck in a dog door while trying to sneak in to pilfer some dog food. Since pictures and video of the hefty kitty surfaced on the internet, Hercules (also sometimes known as Goliath) has become a web phenomenon. But owner Geoff Ernest says he's just happy to have the cat back after it left six months ago while he was out of town receiving a lung transplant.

Royal treatment

Two British brothers were convicted on animal cruelty charges for overfeeding their pet dog, making the pooch morbidly obese. According to the government's case, David and Derek Benton from Fordham fed their pet dog Rusty until the Labrador weighed in excess of 150 pounds. Vets who observed the dog noted the brown hound could barely walk without lying down for rest. "The [Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] have gone overboard on this," David Benton told BBC television. "Rusty was overweight, we're not denying that. But he was loved, you'll never get another dog like him." After putting Rusty on a diet in which the dog lost around 45 pounds, authorities returned him to the Benton brothers.

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