Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Not over till it's over," Nov. 1, 2008

Crime and punishment

A tire-slashing granny caught in Germany has been ordered by her judge to do a penance that might actually benefit her community. Fed up with the number of vehicles in her neighborhood in western Germany, 89-year-old Heidi Kohl embarked on a tire-slashing spree, slicing open perhaps 50 car tires, according to prosecutors. When Kohl claimed she couldn't pay the fine, a judge ordered her to knit a sweater for each of her victims.

Coming through

Each year, elephants in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park trudge down a migratory path to feast on the ripened fruit of some especially productive mango trees. Not even a new hotel built over the path has stopped them. Unfazed by the construction of Mfuwe Lodge in 1998, a small herd of 10 elephants has taken to walking directly through the open-air lobby of the Mfuwe Lodge in late November to reach their favorite spot for fresh mango. In recent years, hotel director Andy Hogg says the pachyderms have become more sociable with the hotel staff and guests-though humans typically give the wild beasts a wide berth. "This is the only place in the world where elephants freely get so close to humans," Hogg told the Daily Mail.

Playing dress-up

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If James Ticker wanted to play military for his wedding, he at least should have dressed for the role. For his April nuptials in Slidell, La., the 42-year-old man dressed in a Navy captain's dress uniform replete with medals signifying a Navy Cross, Silver Star, and a Purple Heart. Problem: Ticker has never been in the military. And someone in attendance spotted something fishy. Ticker mistakenly wore the Navy lieutenant commander's hat he used in a previous wedding instead of securing a more accurate captain's hat with the appropriate golf leafing. A tipster at the wedding notified authorities who charged Ticker with violating the Stolen Valor Act, a 2006 federal law making it illegal for imposters to wear military medals or commendations. Ticker pleaded guilty and on Sept. 30 was sentenced to one year of home confinement and a $500 fine.

Bad bulbs

Compact fluorescent bulbs: great for the environment? Not so fast. Once a hot item to soothe the enviro-conscience, a new study by Yale University scientists reveals the energy-saving bulbs probably do more harm to the Earth's environment than good. Yale researchers found that while compact fluorescent bulbs do save a lot of energy compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, the benefits to the environment are outweighed by the harm in disposing all of the toxic mercury contained in the long-lasting bulbs if dumped into landfills.

Domino effect

Just when banks worldwide were falling like dominoes either to government equity stakes or to financial collapse, one United Kingdom town council has set in place its own dominoes. Despite teetering on the brink of economic crisis, council leaders in Bournemouth Borough dropped nearly $120,000 on a sculpture of two giant domino-looking blocks of granite. Months ago the same council voted down a new elementary school over fiscal concerns. "I'm sure a lot of residents will be annoyed as they nervously wait to see how much their next council tax rise will be," one local opponent told the Daily Express.

Tricks are for kids

After treating citizens to a holiday swap moving Halloween to Nov. 1, many residents of Oxford, Mass., feel tricked. The city's Board of Selectmen voted to move trick-or-treat one day later than the traditional Oct. 31 celebration in an attempt to avoid Friday evening traffic that, according to the board, could endanger children out soliciting candy. In an email to selectmen obtained by a local newspaper, Kimberly A. Shaw asked, "Is this some socialist country that I don't recognize? I think we parents are mature and responsible enough to keep our children safe on Friday evening." Many other letter-writers panned the move. And despite backing the date change, Police Chief Michael Boss said he would not move to enforce the measure.

Substance abuse

Every once in a while, a cockamamie excuse turns out to be valid. Too bad for Cornelius F. Salonis of Shakopee, Minn., authorities didn't realize he was telling the truth until after he had spent two months in jail. On Aug. 3, police in Shakopee arrested Salonis for drunken driving and also found a white powdery substance in the car believed to be cocaine. Salonis claimed the powder was simply deodorant, but authorities rang up felony drug charges anyway. Two months later, precise tests by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension confirmed Salonis' story. After a plea deal on the drunk driving, Salonis was released with time served.

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