Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Return of the Lion," May 17, 2008

Picking up the tab

Mike Hammond had no trouble finding respondents to a poster advertisement he pinned up in his village post office in southern England. In the ad, Hammond sought a drinking buddy for his 88-year-old retired father who resides in a nursing home. Bonus: Hammond offered not only to pay for the pub beer, but also $14 an hour for the companion's time. After being inundated with responses, Hammond chose a retired doctor and a former military man to be his father's paid drinking pal.

Out of sight

Though legally blind, Allan Kieta said he knew something was up when his poodle went crazy during his day off from work on April 21. That's when he discovered 25-year-old Alvaro Castro in his house in what police describe as an attempted burglary. "I just kind of panicked and just kind of went crazy after that," Kieta told the Indianapolis Star. Kieta used skills he learned from his Marine father and from wrestling in high school to subdue the intruder until police arrived. According to police, Kieta surprised the young Castro, tackling him and then dragging him to the kitchen where he fumbled for a knife that he held to the intruder's neck while he attempted to dial police. "Being visually impaired, I couldn't get the buttons because I was using my left hand," he explained. "It took me about 20 tries." It may take Castro more tries than that explaining to his cellmate how he was caught.

Cruel and unusual diet?

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An Arkansas inmate might want to delay his lawsuit against Benton County until there is more discernable proof-or at least less evidence for the defense. Broderick Lloyd Laswell filed a lawsuit against the county saying its jailhouse menu was leading him to starvation. Despite his claim, the man jailed for a fatal stabbing and beating currently weighs over 300 pounds. But Laswell says the jail's 3,000-calorie-a-day meals aren't enough, claiming he weighed over 400 pounds when he got into the jail eight months ago. "On several occasions I have started to do some exercising and my vision went blurry and I felt like I was going to pass out," Laswell wrote in his lawsuit. "About an hour after each meal my stomach starts to hurt and growl. I feel hungry again."

One toke over the line

It may be called the Church of the Universe, but there's apparently no room in Canada for the practices of founders Walter Tucker and Michael Baldasaro of Hamilton, Ontario. After securing convictions on several counts of trafficking marijuana, Canada's Department of Justice is now seeking two years of jail time each for the pair whose 1960s-inspired religion calls for the use of marijuana as a sacrament. The church, which claims both nominally Christian and pagan roots, promotes nudity as well.

One tough cookie

The big falling out between celebrated actor James Caan and director David O. Russell of the upcoming political comedy Nailed: Just how does the cookie crumble? When shooting on the satire began, Caan, who had been slated to play the speaker of the House, objected to Russell's direction that he cough while choking on a cookie. According to the Reuters news service, Caan claimed one couldn't cough on cookie crumbs while choking to death, perplexing the director. Caan soon thereafter left the project, leaving Russell to recast the role.

Price check

One could perhaps almost admire Reginald Newman's moxie if not his motive. The Kirksville, Mo., resident allegedly attempted to bilk Wal-Mart of a brand-new flat-panel LCD television by switching the price tag on the more than $500 television set with a UPC tag from a $3.17 water bottle. But Newman's attempted scam was easily foiled by a cashier who grew suspicious of the low, low price on the 27-inch television. A grand jury indicted Newman on April 21 with attempted stealing by deceit-a charge that carries up to seven years of prison time with a fine up to $5,000.

Adding to Scripture

When talking about the environment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., likes to add in a spiritual twist: "The Bible tells us in the Old Testament, 'To minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.'" It's a nice sounding line, but it's not in the Bible. Nor does it really paraphrase any other passage, says Claude Mariottini, professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. "It is not in the Bible. There is nothing that even approximates that."

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