Dispatches > Quick Takes
Jean with her brothers

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Mission: Impossible?," Oct. 13, 2007

Life sentence

Finally, the truth has set Jean Gambell free. Problem: It took the truth 70 years to catch up with an error that put the British citizen in the custody of English authorities for practically all her life. At age 15 (in 1937), Gambell was accused of stealing what amounts today to a nickel. The money was later found, but Gambell already had been institutionalized by a doctor and had become a ward of the state. Over seven decades, Gambell faded from her family's consciousness. Her younger brothers-who had not been born when Gambell was taken away-believed she was long dead until a notice from a nursing home arrived at one brother's house in August.

Brothers Alan and David rushed to the facility in Cheshire, UK, to reunite with their sister, now 85. Workers at the facility told the brothers that doctors over the years dismissed her talk of a family as nonsense. After reuniting with her brothers, Gambell suffered a stroke-something her family attributes to the shock of reunion. "It's been emotional," brother David told the BBC. "Nowadays there are reviews and appeals but back then, a doctor could sign away a life with the stroke of a pen-it's a terrible waste." Authorities are now investigating how such a horrific error could have gone unnoticed.

The need for speed

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Lance Armstrong has nothing on Austrian Markus Stoeckl. The 33-year-old thrill-seeker managed to take his mountain bike up to 130.7 mph, breaking the world speed record by 14 mph. For the stunt, Stoeckl, dressed in ultra-sleek aerodynamic gear, took his bike up a Chilean mountain and launched himself down a snowy, 45-degree slope. To prevent his helmet from fogging up, Stoeckl held his breath for the 40-second run.

Jaw breakers

Firefighters are supposed to use the Jaws of Life to bust open crashed cars to rescue injured people inside. Police in Berlin, Vt., accused a group of volunteer firefighters of heisting a Jaws of Life apparatus for more nefarious purposes. Police say four volunteers recently started on a vandalism spree at the local hospital where they ripped hubcaps and windshield wipers off cars. Later, the quartet of firemen headed to a nearby park to test the Jaws of Life on pay phones and street signs, police say, noting that they believe the volunteer firemen were operating on a dare.

Aftertaste test

If Jones Soda can sell its new quartet of flavors, then the company can truly sell anything. To celebrate a new licensing deal with the Seattle Seahawks, Jones Soda plans to release five NFL-themed flavors: Dirt, Sports Cream, Perspiration, Natural Field Turf, and a berry-inspired Sweet Victory. A spokesman for the Seattle-based beverage company says the flavors are fairly lifelike. "Perspiration Soda is kind of salty tasting," the spokeswoman told Business Week, noting the soda had a high sodium content to simulate sweat and bears a "stinky football sock" aftertaste.

Out to sea

Down to less than 1,000 prison cells available in the United Kingdom, Justice Minister Jack Straw said he is considering every possible solution to ease overcrowding in the nation's prison system: even a prison barge. From 1997 to 2005, Britain employed the prison hulk HMP Weare in a dockyard near Portland, Dorset, to ease overcrowding.

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