Dispatches > Quick Takes
Congressional Quarterly/Photo by Scott J. Ferrell

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "The other campaign," Feb. 9, 2008

Mistaken identity

They're both bald and white. They both were appointed to government posts by President George W. Bush. But the similarities largely end there, except, possibly, in the eyes of Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) when she mistook Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (pictured), a bearded former academic, for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former Wall Street CEO. "Seeing as how you were the former CEO of Goldman Sachs," Kaptur launched into Bernanke, about to ask him about the subprime lending mess during a House Budget Committee meeting. "No, no, no, you're confusing me with the Treasury Secretary," Bernanke replied. Apparently still not recognizing the Fed chairman, Kaptur asked Bernanke what firm he was with before coming to Washington. Bernanke's half-joking reply: "I was the CEO of the Princeton economics department."

Keep the change

The one thing harder than getting money from the government: returning it. That's the case for Plymouth, England, resident June Clarke, who sought to return $7,000 in disability payments after she says she was miraculously healed. The 56-year-old pastor's wife spent six years bound to a wheelchair after suffering spine and hip injuries in a bad fall at work. At the time she applied for government aid but says she was miraculously healed in 2007. After getting a clean bill of health from a government doctor, Clarke tried unsuccessfully to return $7,000 in disability aid to the British government. "I felt uncomfortable taking benefits when I didn't need them," Clarke said. But the government refused to take the cash back, saying its computer system had no "miracle button" to acknowledge the astounding recovery. Instead, Clarke worked out a program to stop the payments and pay back the thousands by volunteering.

Beer money

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Begging for another quarter got 42-year-old James Dillon in trouble, but what Houston police found in the homeless man's pockets may hurt all panhandlers. An undercover cop near a light-rail train station in the Texas city stopped Dillon, who was persistently begging a transit customer for some change, and issued him a panhandling ticket. When Dillon produced no identification, the officer searched him, discovering $3,426.78 worth of bills and coins stuffed into his pockets as well as another citation. "They sometimes will have a fair sum of money but not that large a sum of money," a police spokesman told KHOU. "That's more than some of us have in our savings account." At least he'll be able to pay the fine.

Coming home

For 24-year-old Cambodian father Oum Souv, coming home may have been the most shocking part of a harrowing ordeal. According to reports in the Koh Santepheap newspaper, Souv had been drugged, robbed, and left to die in a jungle near his remote village in January. He survived it all only to return to his village two days later, where he walked in on his family preparing to cremate an unknown body at Souv's premature funeral. The newspaper reported that the family thought it had seen a ghost.

A good idea, on paper

In scientific terms, the paper airplane designed by a major university could soon be out of this world. According to Japanese press reports, researchers at the University of Tokyo are testing a paper airplane they hope to launch from the International Space Station to see if the origami glider can survive the rigors of reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. If the plan succeeds, the paper airplane should hit speeds upwards of Mach 7 as it hurtles toward Earth, shattering any and every paper airplane record.

Room without a view

A friend's house? Too small. A hotel? Too expensive. Living inside an Ikea store while his cockroach-infested apartment was being fumigated? Just right for Mark Malkoff. The 31-year-old comedian and filmmaker unpacked suitcases at a suburban New Jersey Ikea store on Jan. 7 to live inside one of the furniture wholesaler's bedroom displays. Ikea consented to Malkoff's request, betting on free publicity in return for free rent: Malkoff plans to make a short film on the experience. His wife, however, wasn't as thrilled: She stayed with friends in upstate New York.

Bad taste

A Lincolnshire, U.K., man looking for cash but settling for herbs will get jail time for a bizarre holdup late last year. Anthony Mark Allen, a 28-year-old father of two, drunkenly entered two students' home and demanded $30,000 or he said he would beat the pair. After the students couldn't come up with the cash, Allen settled for some chives he found in the kitchen and some books and DVDs and then left. In January, a judge sentenced him to three years in jail.

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