Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "All's fair at the fair," Aug. 25, 2007

Four on the floor

City officials in Haiko City in China's Hainan province have announced plans to remove the numeral 4 from all license plates of vehicles registered in the provincial capital. Police in the city had complained about the license plates because, in Chinese, the word for "four" sounds much like the Chinese word for "death"-and saying such words could mean bad omens to certain superstitious Chinese.

No accounting for taste

Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported it had discovered Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's record collection in the attic of a former Soviet intelligence officer more than 60 years after the collection's dulcet tones entertained the German leader during World War II. In the Fuhrer's collection: Russian and Jewish artists whose works had long been banned from German concert halls and opera houses under the Third Reich. While he considered Russians "subhuman," Hitler's gramophone recordings of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov were scratched due to heavy use. Afraid of looting accusations, Soviet officer Lev Besymenski never publicized how he scooped up the records during the Soviet occupation of Berlin and only revealed his bounty in a note read after his death this summer.

Croc drop

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Perhaps attempting an escape from the upcoming Russian winter, a crocodile took a swan dive out the 12th-floor window of an apartment building in Sarov, a Russian nuclear research town. Bystanders on the street below may have been astonished to see a 3.3-foot reptile plummeting toward Russian pavement. But authorities apparently saw nothing wrong with the picture-the exotic pet, which survived the fall with nothing more than an injured tooth, was eventually returned to its owner's apartment.

Need a vacation?

Credit France with a victory at sea. While vacationing in New Hampshire, newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy lost his temper when a pair of Associated Press photographers followed his boat toward open water on Lake Winnipesaukee. The AP photographers snapped pictures through long lenses as Sarkozy could be seen angrily gesturing in their direction. Soon after, the French president's boat set course to intercept the photographers' boat. Upon arrival, Sarkozy stormed the deck, picked up one camera, then put it down, all the while "speaking French at a loud volume very rapidly," according to one of the photographers. The ploy worked. After the photographers promised to stop taking pictures, Sarkozy returned to his vessel.

Teen idle

Alton Tillman had enough. The 85-year-old Clovis, N.M., man was burglarized three times in a week and he decided to take action. Tillman left his home on Aug. 7 like he always has, but doubled back quickly to find his home in disarray and a pair of feet sticking out from under his bed. After Tillman phoned police, officers arrived to find Tillman pointing a handgun at his nemesis-a 16-year-old boy-who stood rigid against the wall. The boy has been charged with felony burglary.

Negative vibe

It's not the chicken blood, candles, and incense that got Maritza Tamayo fired from her job as principal of New York City's Unity Center for Urban Technologies-it was that Tamayo forced teachers to participate in a voodoo-like ritual to cleanse the school from negative energy during the 2006 winter break. An investigator with the city schools made his judgment Aug. 8, several months after Tamayo hired a Santeria priestess to perform a chicken blood ceremony in the school and coaxed teachers to help pay for it.

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