Dispatches > Quick Takes
Krieg Barrie/WORLD

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "The waiting game," March 22, 2008

Low-speed chase

Despite the low rate of speed, a man holding up traffic by drunkenly leading police on a 3 mph chase on his riding lawnmower may face prosecution for drunk driving. That is, if the local prosecutors decide that operating a riding lawnmower constitutes driving. Officers in Vancouver, Wash., quickly ascertained that the 53-year-old man, whom they did not identify, was inebriated and followed him as he drove through a fence on his mower. Police report that they caught the drunk when he aimed his lawnmower at an officer, who easily dodged the mower and pulled its "driver" off the tractor.

High-quality H2O

Forget the Evian status symbol. Hollywood stars and starlets should check out the tap water in their fair burg. According to judges at an international tap water tasting competition, Angelinos boast the best tasting tap water in the world-a distinction shared now with Clearbrook, British Columbia, which tied the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for top honors. The City of Angels' tap is no stranger to the winners' circle at the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting in West Virginia. Los Angeles won top prize in 1998.

Crossing paths

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According to an Oregon high school, cracking down on gang paraphernalia trumps religious liberty: Even if-perhaps especially if-the purported gang paraphernalia is a crucifix. School officials at South Albany High School in Albany, Ore., suspended two Latino boys who refused to remove a pair of crucifixes and rosary beads when the school became suspicious that such symbols are used to identify gang members. Both 14-year-old Jaime Salazar and 16-year-old Marco Castro denied any gang involvement. Castro says he got the beads and necklace from his mother. Local authorities have heard scattered reports from elsewhere in Oregon that the symbols have become tied to gang identity.

Bug off

Even if the scientific findings are true, the United Nations will need good luck convincing Westerners to add creepy, crawly insects to their daily food regimen. Scientists with a UN panel met in Thailand at the end of February to talk up the possibilities of insect eating going global. One Dutch scientist, known as "Mr. Edible Insect," blasted Westerners for being averse to putting bugs in their mouths. "They are completely biased," Arnold van Huis said. "They really have to change. I would urge other donor organizations to take a different attitude toward this. . . . It's excellent food. It can be sustainable with precautions." Like chewing thoroughly?

Horsing around

For a while there on Feb. 26, the Virginia Department of Transportation had an acute need for a posse of real-life wranglers. Motorists on Interstate 64 in the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia got stuck in a tunnel when a stable of horses wandering down the road jammed up the tunnel exit for eastbound traffic. A half hour after officials called animal control, state workers were able to clear the road. Traffic had backed up five miles, but there were no equine injuries.

Anonymous alcohol

Trace amounts of alcohol used in the production of potato chips has Muslims in England outraged. British chips distributor Walkers admits tiny amounts of alcohol are used to bring out specific flavors in the chip line, but denies charges that the chip maker is out to get Muslims to break religious custom. According to Walkers, three chip products could be boycotted, including a Doritos United Kingdom line, Chilli Heat Wave.

Take the train

Did planners of the Washington Nationals' new baseball stadium in the nation's capital forget something-parking spots? Two parking garages with 1,200 total spaces are it for the ballpark's public parking. Officials say the lack of parking spaces was no oversight-it was a ploy to force Nationals fans to use the public transportation system.

Stealing from a baby

Not anyone appears safe from an IRS audit. Not even a 7-year-old boy. Tax agents notified a suburban Chicago boy that he owed the government back taxes on $60,000 earned years ago-when the boy was in diapers. But local authorities in Carpentersville, Ill., stepped in to discover that the second-grader's identity had been stolen and used criminally as early as 2001. Police then quickly filed felony identity theft charges against 29-year-old illegal alien Cirilo Centeno, accusing him of, among other things, using the boy's ID to collect unemployment.

Party spoiler

For $3,000, Clayburn Reed's parents threw him the party of a lifetime-a lifetime getting started. Already nicknamed "Prince," Clayburn Reed may or may not actually remember his extravagant 1-year-old birthday party. Parents Ray Reed and Sheila Chapman arranged for 60 party-goers and even hired a publicist for Baby Clayburn's big, big day. So what does a $3,000 party get you? Space at a country club near the family's Tampa Palms, Fla., home, pony rides, a magician, and lots of free media. "These are the memories I want him to have," said the mom, noting she doesn't remember her own first birthday party. "I want him to know how important and special I think he is."

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