Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Rich man, poor man," May 5, 2007

Highway robbery

Cash falling from the sky caused some motorists on I-90 in Washington state to step out of their vehicles and dash for dollars. A man dragging a camper trailer along the interstate highway in Spokane caused the problem. His boss had stuffed $14,000 in bills in the vents of the trailer. But when the unaware driver took off later, he left behind him a green floating trail that sparked many motorists to action. Highway patrolmen responding to the incident reported that many motorists returned the found cash. But about $7,000 remains either blowing in the wind or stuffed in pockets.

Red rage

Sixty-three years after winning fame as the first redheaded Miss America, 82-year-old Venus Ramey has found her way back into the news. Retired and living on her Waynesburg, Ky., farm, Ramey discovered a man pillaging one of her barns for anything metal to be sold for scrap. Problem: The man rummaging through her stuff was only the latest of many thieves stealing from her barn of antique machinery. Ramey jumped into her vehicle and blocked the scrapper's truck. Then she took aim on the thief's car with her .38 snub-nose revolver, blowing out a tire. "I didn't even think twice. I just went and did it. If they'd even dared come close to me, they'd be 6 feet under by now," the 1944 Miss America told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He was probably wetting his pants."

Bird therapy

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A United Kingdom family credits their pet parrot, Barney, with teaching their 4-year-old autistic son, Dylan, to say his first words. "Before he arrived, Dylan would try to speak, but the sound came out as a noise," Michelle Hargreaves told the Sun. "Then we got Barney and, a few months later, Dylan began to talk. It was only the odd word, but I could clearly understand what he said." A speech therapist confirmed to the family that a parrot's slow style of speech and endless repetition can actually help learning-disabled children to talk.

Hugo's watching

Hugo Chavez watch: Some Venezuelans are beginning to resent their Hermano Mayor. The Latin American dictator has launched a crime-fighting blimp over violence-plagued Caracas. The zeppelin is unmanned, but beams back photos from high-tech cameras as it hovers ominously over the capital's skyline. But some are calling the half-million-dollar blimp a waste of money, or worse yet, a sinister plot by Chavez's socialist regime. "It reminds me of 1984, of George Orwell. This is Big Brother. It is not going to solve crime," said one Venezuelan lawyer who wished not to be identified.

Gentle approach

A Canadian court awarded a grocery store thief over $10,000 in damages after he bumped his head and lost a tooth as store officials attempted to apprehend him. Justice William Ehrcke told the court that although the thief was trying to steal about $95 worth of razor blades, store officials had no right to tackle him so roughly during the apprehension, nor restrain him so forcefully when he struggled.

Monkey see . . .

Antwerp, Belgium, Zoo to patrons: Do not feed the chimps; do not stare at the chimps; do not make eye contact with the chimps. Zoo officials have posted new rules outside the chimpanzee enclosure asking zoo fans not to spend too much time staring at the animals for fear that one chimp, Cheetah, will try to form an unhealthy bond with the observing humans. "He was raised by humans in a family and therefore we are trying to integrate him, to try to get more social integration with the group," said one zookeeper.

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