Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Ideal Idol," June 2, 2007

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Perhaps they don't have internet access in British courthouses. Otherwise it's tough to understand how a British judge presiding over an important terrorism case could be so baffled by online life that he needs help understanding what a website is. Judge Peter Openshaw asked the court to start from the beginning in explaining the internet during a trial in which three Muslim men are being held on charges of inciting terrorism. When prosecutors began to talk about the trio's online activity, the 59-year-old judge interjected. "I haven't quite grasped the concepts," he said. "The trouble is I don't understand the language. I don't really understand what a website is."

Rodents of unusual persistence

After a dozen years of government sanctioned sniping of nutria, New Orleans area law enforcement officials think they're finally making a dent in the population of the unusually sized rodents. Back in 1995 after years of nutria attacks on local canals and repairs costing up to $8 million, the Jefferson Parish sheriff unofficially sanctioned the nutria death squads, suggesting his deputies might want to begin shooting members of the rodent horde on site. Since then, SWAT teams have been organized for nutria sniping expeditions. Now after years of hunting-and the implementation of a state-wide $5 per tail bounty-officials say they are beginning to see fewer of the rat-like rodents imported from South America in the 1930s for their fur.

Slow train coming

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Far from being the little engine that could, a locomotive in India needed an outside assist. No, not from another train-the conductor of the stalled train enlisted the passengers to push. The electric train came to an accidental stop in one of the rail's nonelectrified zones, leaving it without power to reach the electrified portion. Usually a train's momentum carries it through the so-called neutral zone. After an hour, passengers were apparently able to push the train 12 feet into the powered zone.

Fruit nuts

Attention shoppers: The mangoes have arrived, and, yes, there may be a waiting list. For the first time, specialty Indian mangoes arrived in grocery stores in May while fruit fans buzzed around trying to figure out ways to acquire the scarce treat. And even though the Alphonso and Kesar mangoes are expected to retail at nearly $3 apiece, that hasn't stopped shoppers in Pittsburgh from requesting advance purchases. The Indian importers originally requested permission to bring the mangoes to the United States in 1989, but requirements and red tape at the U.S. Department of Agriculture delayed the delivery until now.

'They were cowards'

A 91-year-old carjacking victim in Detroit has some choice words for his 22-year-old assailant who left him bruised and broken: "I would tell him he was a coward, not a man," Leonard Sims told the Detroit News. "I would tell him what he did to me was uncalled for, unjust and unfaithful." The story has elicited an outcry from Detroit residents fed up with crime. Sims hopes he'll get to testify in the case against his alleged attacker, Deonte Edward Bradley. But his harsh words aren't just for Bradley. He also condemned onlookers who watched passively while he was beaten. "They were cowards," said the retired barber. "A whole group of them just stood and looked."

Lost in translation

Here's one nuance the Associated Press missed out on when it reported on claims by the father of Guantanamo Bay detainee Majid Khan that his son suffered through torture at the U.S. detention facility. Turns out, Khan's definition of torture might vary a bit from the way many understand it. Ali Khan said his son suffered mental torture when he was forced to use deodorant that was unscented, and had to play sports with a ball that wouldn't bounce, among other injustices. The AP article didn't mention the details later divulged by Fox News.

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