Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Tortilla wars," March 10, 2007

Fighting back

A word of caution to foreign-born perps who don't know any better: Don't mess with American senior citizens. When three armed gunmen attempted to mug a tour bus full of American seniors vacationing in Costa Rica, the elderly men and women fought back. The counterattack began when one ex-Marine grabbed a 20-year-old assailant and put him in a headlock that broke his collar bone. When about a dozen other seniors began attacking the two other muggers, the pair fled, leaving their friend behind. Police say the third assailant died of asphyxiation in the scuffle.

Not stranger than fiction

A bus security camera late last month caught what was almost a harrowing scene. After Springfield, Mo., bus driver Chris Leslie pulled up to a bus stop and opened the door, a 3-year-old girl said "bye," stepped off the bus, and walked into heavy traffic as her mother was occupied with another child in a stroller. Leslie then raced out the door after her and grabbed her just as a car made a rapid stop right in front of them. "It's pretty special," said John Twitty, general manager of City Utilities, which operates the city's buses. "He put his own life on the line." Leslie won the city's Driver of the Year award last year.

Record obsession

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When it comes to squat thrusting his way into the Guinness Book of World Records, New Yorker Ashrita Furman's motto may as well be the same as the real estate mantra: location, location, location. Undaunted by the regular squat thrust record, Furman pursued the record for calisthenics atop a live elephant to add more challenge. For the attempt, Furman traveled to Thailand. "To me the real beauty of this record is that I did it on the back of a live elephant," Furman said after completing 40 squat thrusts in one minute, breaking the world record of 30 (not atop an elephant). "I've had this dream of doing a record on the back of an elephant for many, many years but I've had no way of really accomplishing it until I came to Thailand." But if those are Furman's dreams, what are his nightmares?

A difficult day

New Zealand tree trimmer Gavin Finch only thought he was out of peril. After he spent more than an hour and a half trapped high up in a pine tree after having his leg broken by a wayward limb, paramedics in a rescue helicopter finally were able to lift him out of the tree. But as the copter tried to swing him out of the forest, it dragged Finch through another tree, adding cuts and bruises to his injuries.

Catch of the day

Chill out, sperm whales. The largest documented colossal squid is finally out of the waters. Fishermen off the coast of New Zealand pulled in what most believe is the largest squid ever captured. The colossal squid weighed in at 990 pounds. The fishermen had hooked a toothfish on a deep-sea line. But before they could bring the fish up, the largest-ever squid latched on hoping for an easy meal. After being dragged more than a mile to the surface, the 33-foot squid was too hurt to be released, so the fishermen hauled it in for scientific research. Larger even than the famed giant squid, the colossal squid is believed to be the world's largest invertebrate.

Cross-channel invasion

Having blitzed through France, swarms of angry hornets have set their sights on England's shore. The Asian hornets with their three-inch wing span have been terrorizing Western Europe for nearly three years after they hit the continent, scientists suspect, in some crates of Chinese pottery in 2004. Since then, the hordes of hornets have decimated local honeybees. Scientists say just a few hornets can take down a hive of 30,000 bees in no time. That news has made England's beekeepers quiver, noting their only hope may be Great Britain's winter frosts.

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