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Associated Press/Photo by David Cheskin/PA

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "The ABCs of C Street," Aug. 29, 2009

Whiskey rebellion

Question: What's the fastest way to incite a riot in Scotland? Mess with their whiskey. More than 20,000 Scots took to the streets in Kilmarnock after multinational beverage giant Diageo announced its plans to shut down the plant that produced Johnny Walker whiskey, costing about 700 jobs. That's especially bitter news for residents of Kilmarnock who have made Johnny Walker whiskey since 1820. First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond has hinted he might try to use government funds to persuade Diageo to stay put if the massive protest doesn't work.

Money well spent?

Barbara McKinzie may have a hard time justifying this one. The current Alpha Kappa Alpha international president has been accused of using sorority funds for personal expenses and even commissioned an expensive wax figure of herself, which her opponents say cost $900,000. The lawsuit, filed by several members of the historically black sorority, alleges McKinzie used the group's American Express card to buy designer clothing, lingerie, and jewelry and also secured for herself a $4,000 monthly stipend for her retirement. McKinzie fired back, saying the wax figure cost less than $25,000 and was destined not for her office-which would have been tacky-but rather for the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore alongside wax figures of President Barack Obama, civil rights greats Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., and South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Old familiar place

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John Millison of Drexel Hill, Pa., didn't succeed when he first tried to rob a PNC Bank branch near Ocean City, N.J., six years ago, so he allegedly decided to try again-at the same bank branch. It didn't work out any better this time. Millison was released in November after serving jail time for the 2003 robbery of the bank. Police arrested him after he returned to the scene of the crime for an alleged second try on July 27.

History lessons

If you ask the Des Moines City Council, the federal government should get its mind out of the sewer. City officials just want to replace the city's aging sewer structures, but state and federal regulations will force Des Moines and other local governments in Iowa to spend thousands determining the historical significance of those structures that, in some cases, are more than 150 years old. In order to qualify for federal grant money, states-and thus municipalities-must comply with regulations of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Some cities even could be required to build visitor centers at openings of brick- or wood-lined sewers built in the mid-19th century. But experts note that building visitor centers near old sewers could be dangerous considering the poisonous gases that emanate from the pipes. "That just sends me over the edge," said Des Moines councilwoman Christine Hensley. "So what if you have historic sewers? Who gives a lick?"

Two-thirds life of crime

For her first 33 years, Ella Orko apparently lived a crime-free life. Then, in 1956, she was arrested for petty larceny. That began a string of arrests that continued Aug. 2 when Orko, age 86, was arrested for the 61st time in the last 53 years. Police charged Orko with felony shoplifting after she allegedly tried to hide cosmetics, salmon, and batteries in her pants at a Chicago grocery store.

Unemployed hero

In an action movie, Jim Nicholson might have been a hero. But in the eyes of a bank in Seattle, he was a goat. On July 28, Nicholson found himself confronted with a would-be bank robber who had approached the counter where Nicholson worked as a teller at a Key Bank branch. The thief pushed a backpack across the counter and demanded cash. But rather than follow standard procedure, Nicholson snatched the bag, threw it on the floor, and confronted the robber. After Nicholson demanded to see the thief's weapon and lunged at him, the 29-year-old robber fled. But the 30-year-old Nicholson wasn't done. The teller gave chase and, with the help of a passerby, caught the perpetrator and held him for police. However, officials at Key Bank weren't impressed. Two days later, the bank fired him for not following procedure during a robbery. "They tell us that we're just supposed to comply," said Nicholson, "but my instincts kicked in and I did what's best to stop the guy."

Cheap luxury

Crustacean-loving eaters aren't complaining, but the wholesale price of lobster slipping to $2.25 per pound sure has Maine fishermen worried. "Per pound, it's less expensive than hot dogs right now," one lobster boat captain told Fortune magazine. The reason? Simple economics. Global recession means people's demand for lobster, considered by many diners a luxury good, has sharply declined. Meanwhile, thanks to conservation efforts by the state of Maine, the supply of lobster hasn't been this plentiful for a long while. All that means that the wholesale price of the fancy feast is less than a quarter of what it was as recently as 2006.


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