Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Tiananmen massacre," June 6, 2009

High and mighty

Some books in a world famous Oxford University library are now out of reach without moving an inch. That's because safety officials at the university have decided that using stepladders to reach rare books and manuscripts on the top shelf in Duke Humphrey's reading room at the Bodleian Library presents a serious safety hazard. Library administrator Laurence Benson said he's perplexed by the action. And he says the library isn't about to move the collection: "The library would prefer to keep the books in their original historic location-where they have been safely consulted for 400 years prior to the instructions from the health and safety office."

Shoe laced

Betrayed by bird droppings on his shoes and socks, a Vietnamese man failed to make it through customs at Los Angeles International Airport with more than $5,000 worth of tiny exotic birds strapped to his socks. Customs officers arrested Sony Dong in March when they grew suspicious of his excrement-laced socks and odd leggings. When authorities began undressing the man, they discovered more than a dozen ­red-whiskered bulbuls, magpie robins, shama thrushes, and others specimens-each with a street value exceeding $400 in the United States.

That dog gone wind

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How many guesses would Dorothy Utley need before discovering the cause of her pet Chihuahua's disappearance? The answer is blowing in the wind. Literally. Strong winds swept Utley's 5-pound pet Chihuahua Tinker Bell away on April 25 while she browsed through a flea market in Waterford, Mich., outside of Detroit. "The wind took her," a mournful Utley told the Detroit Free Press after a day of searching around Waterford proved unfruitful. "The wind was about 70 miles an hour. . . . It was wicked." Two days later Utley found the windswept pup after seeking advice from a local pet psychic who instructed her to search the hills about a mile away from the outdoor market.

For the birds

With Australia following the rest of the world into what could become a steep recession, one might expect the government not to stand in the way of industry. At least not for a parrot. But that's exactly the ruling that came out of Canberra on April 29 when national environmental officials ordered New South Wales to halt a logging operation near the southern city of Deniliquin over concerns it is disrupting the habitat of the green leak parrot. The parrot is listed as a vulnerable species-but so too will be the 860 jobs that are likely to be lost if the ­prohibition sticks.

Drunk riding

About the hardest decision a police officer had to make after pulling over a drunk driver in Arvada, Colo., was what to do with the mode of transportation. After all, you can't tow a horse. Police gave Brian Drone a $25 citation for taking his horse Cricket out for a drunken joyride through the parking lot of a local strip mall. Eventually a nearby stable owner came and provided Drone and Cricket a safe ride home.

False witnesses

When French composer Maurice Jarre died on March 28, Shane Fitzgerald decided to try an experiment. The Dublin university student, reports the Associated Press, made up an eloquent quote that he attributed to the composer and added it to the Wikipedia page on Jarre. Blogs and newspaper websites throughout the world quickly published the quote from the user-edited Wikipedia, in which Jarre supposedly spoke of his life as "one long soundtrack" and of the "final waltz" that would be in his head at his death. After weeks passed without anyone reporting the fabrication, Fitzgerald finally told the news outlets that they had been had. One source did pass Fitzgerald's test: Wikipedia itself. The site reportedly twice removed the quote for lack of attribution.

Air patrol

A bird? A plane? Palm Bay, Fla.'s newest weapon in its arsenal against crime is something in between. Rather than fork over a huge sum for a police plane or helicopter for the sprawling city of 100,000, the police department has invested $10,000 for paragliding equipment and training for some of the city's 150-person police force. Police Chief Bill Berger said the city's police paragliders will give officers a chance to take shortcuts in the Brevard County town. The new police tool basically comes down to a seat above a lawnmower-sized engine and propeller all attached to a parachute. "It's a lot more fun to patrol in that than in a patrol car," police Lt. Mark Renkens told ABC News.

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