Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Preach it," Oct. 6, 2007

Professional hair care

To whoever is making a habit of shaving a pair of domestic cats in Northern England: Berni Evans would like to have a word with you. According to Evans, an unknown perpetrator keeps capturing the family cats and giving them unwanted shaves. Despite repeated incidents over a period of months, authorities are stumped. But the cat shaver appears to be a professional-or at least to have professional equipment. "They were shaved down to their skin, including the base of the tail," Evans said. "It was carefully done, avoiding their intimate areas, but you don't mess with Bruiser, and it would take a couple of people to do it."

On-the-job training

James Ayers and Frederick Guilliee picked the wrong day to try to steal copper wiring from a vacant building. Police say the two men broke into the 40,000-square-foot building in Antioch, Calif., on Sept. 18 only to find local police were using the warehouse to train K-9 units. Immediately upon an officer announcing that the dogs would be released if the two men did not surrender, Ayers and Guilliee gave up.

Tow trouble

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A New York man tested the line between clever and stupid when he attempted to tow his broken-down 35-foot fishing vessel with an inflatable dinghy he tried to paddle down a Long Island canal. "This is one of the most unsafe things I may have ever seen a boater do," U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Steven Koch said. Coast Guard officials intercepted Louis Pasquale of Seaford, N.Y., and cited him for unsafe operation of his vessels and being a hazard to navigation.

Bootlegged lizards

Jereme James may be missing a leg, but he doesn't lack for imagination. Federal authorities charged the 33-year-old with a single count of smuggling after accusing him of using his prosthetic leg-and his guile-to sneak live iguanas into the United States. Prosecutors accuse James of cramming three endangered iguanas into a compartment in his fake leg before taking a return flight from Fiji. Authorities say James sold the lizards for $32,000.

Special dispensation

A Muslim astronaut bound for the International Space Station won't have to wear out his space suit praying toward Mecca more than six dozen times a day, according to a religious authority in Malaysia. With day and night alternating every 90 minutes, the Quran would seem to require a Muslim in orbit to pray toward Mecca 80 times in 24 hours instead of the customary five times back on Earth. Guidelines handed down by Malaysia's Department of Islamic Development provide that Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor-a Muslim astronaut to be launched into space from Russia in October-must only pray five times, but should make all attempts to take a prayerful posture while in space. "During the prayer ritual, if you can't stand up straight, you can hunch. If you can't stand, you can sit. If you can't sit, you should lie down," the ministry ruled.

Ultimate multitasking

For one South Carolina mom, the War on Terror's frontlines trace right into her dining room. After her son goes to school, Laura Mansfield, the 50-year-old's pseudonym, pops onto the internet and begins her daily romp through message boards and chat rooms popular with jihadists around the world. It's not amateur hour for Mansfield, either. Fluent in Arabic and skilled at surfing the web, the woman recently discovered an Osama bin Laden video even before al-Qaeda released it. She sends all the dirt she finds to federal authorities, whom she says are appreciative. How does she balance a life of fighting terrorism and being a mom? "It gets really challenging when you're trying to do that and cook spaghetti at the same time," she said.

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