Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Home again," July 12, 2008

Dead to rights

Better dead than Dobrescu? That's what villagers in a remote Romanian town have said. Small-time Romanian politician Georghe Dobrescu knew unseating popular Voinesti Mayor Neculai Ivascu would be a difficult task. Under Ivascu's rule for more than two decades, townspeople in the northeastern Romanian town had grown accustomed to the incumbent. How entrenched was Ivascu? Even as the sitting mayor died of liver failure just as voting began, Ivascu's corpse still garnered 23 more votes than Dobrescu. "I know he died, but I don't want change," one townsperson told Romanian television. The local elections board declared Dobrescu the winner by default, though Ivascu supporters are contesting the decision.

Skilled sailor

Most folks wouldn't pay attention to one woman's plan of sailing solo around the British Isles. But something about Hilary Lister is different. The 36-year-old Canterbury woman is a quadriplegic and can only move her head, eyes, and mouth. Using just puffs and sips into a straw, Lister can navigate her 20-foot vessel specially adapted to her disability. "It is the ultimate freedom for me," she told the Telegraph. "I get out on to the water and suddenly my physical inabilities no longer matter."

Down and out in Devon

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As some Americans cross the border into Mexico to fill up their cars with gasoline subsidized by the Mexican government, United Kingdom residents can only wish they had an oil-producing neighbor to drive to for relief. One station many Britons will surely avoid: the Foxhayes station in Devon, which has placed its regular unleaded on sale at $3.96 per liter, or about $15 per gallon. Price spikes at the Devon station, like many others around the United Kingdom, have been caused by waning supply in the wake of a strike by Shell's oil tanker captains. Gas regularly sells for over $8.75 per gallon in Great Britain.

Victor's orders

Thankfully for police in Bridgeport, Conn., Victor Rodriguez's pet snakes aren't exactly trainable like an attack dog. After responding to a domestic violence call, police say Rodriguez, 21, ordered his 9-foot pet albino python to attack, yelling, "Get them!" when a building superintendent opened the door for officers. The python did nothing, but was taken to the city's animal control shelter as officers took Rodriguez downtown.

Cattle call

Nepalese officials have some unusual housekeeping to attend to following the fall of the nation's monarchy at the end of May. Among them: What to do with the former king's herd of cattle that grazed on the grounds of the lavish Narayanhiti Palace in Kathmandu. Authorities say the 60 cattle used by King Gyanendra for fresh milk must leave but, considering the Hindu view of cows, exactly where they should go remains uncertain. Hindus regard cows as holy. One bureaucrat in charge of taking inventory of the palace has suggested donating them to the ministry of agriculture for research. The Nepalese parliament voted in late 2007 to abolish its constitutional monarchy ending the 240-year reign of the Shah dynasty.

Weed out

Big hopes for citizens of Fairhope, Calif., turned to paranoia as city officials finally cracked open a city safe that had been sealed since 1971. City fathers advertised the safe's opening at the new Fairhope Museum of History, hoping to find old city records or other interesting Fairhope artifacts. Instead, when the locksmith finally cracked the case, onlookers were perplexed to find the safe filled with decades-old marijuana. What officials later learned: The safe had last been used by police to store evidence for drug cases.

Floating home

If home is where the heart is, Tim and Jennifer O'Farrell needed a barge to make it come true. When the Canadian couple purchased a 3,300 square-foot house near Seattle, there was a catch: The house was on property that its U.S. owners wished to redevelop. So to transport the Tudor-style mansion to their vacation property in Fanny Bay, British Columbia, the O'Farrells contracted with a barge company to haul the entire 140-ton structure 240 miles up Lake Washington, and into Canadian waters via the Straight of Georgia. Added difficulty: The cargo's extreme weight meant it could only move through shallow areas at high tide lest the hull of the barge sink into sediment like an anchor.

Heavy load

Newborns Sean William Maynard (10 pounds, 14 ounces) and Abigail Rose Maynard (12 lbs, 3 oz.) of Winston-Salem, N.C., may not break the record, but don't tell their mother that. Born June 20 to Joey and Erin Maynard, the twins tipped the scales at a combined 23 pounds and 1 ounce-4 pounds, 11 ounces shy of the record-setting hefty twins born in Arkansas in 1927.


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