Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "2010 The Year Ahead," Jan. 16, 2010

A mountain of work

Give Ramchandra Das of rural East India some time, and he can move mountains. Or at least through one. Troubled by having to park his truck miles away from home, Das carved a tunnel through a mountain near his home to give him and his neighbors a quick passageway through a mountain to the village. And while the tunnel saves his neighbors from a 4.3-mile hike around the mountain, it didn't come without a cost. Das said it took him 14 years to dig the 33-foot-long, 13-foot-wide tunnel with only a hammer and chisel. But now it's finished, and the 53-year-old Das said his work was worth it. Das told the Reuters news service that he no longer worries about bandits stealing his truck. "I had to leave my truck miles away," he said, "so I decided to do something about it myself."

Pearl of great price

The "Palawan Princess" weighs five pounds, looks something like a brain, and is worth six figures. Discovered off the coast of the Philippines, the Princess is the second­largest documented pearl and was scheduled to go on auction in Los Angeles last month. Its estimated value: between $300,000 and $400,000.

Suspended judgment

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A Montville, Conn., father and son duo's efforts to get out of trouble have only added to their problems. State police arrested 23-year-old Jeffrey Socha for driving with a suspended license when he arrived at Troop E barracks to bail out his father, Joseph Socha. The reason his father was in jail: He bounced a check to cover the court fees for his son's suspended license.

Giving gold

It may have sounded like any other coin when it entered the kettle, but some Salvation Army bell ringers in central Pennsylvania discovered that one coin they received in December was anything but typical. York, Pa., Salvation Army Maj. Lurlene Mudge said someone wrapped a Krugerrand in a dollar bill and dropped it into a red Salvation Army kettle at a Kmart outside of York. The one ounce South African gold coin is worth more than $1,150.

Bureaucratic medicine

The story of one elderly Canadian couple could very well become an instructive parable in Washington, D.C. Patrick Smale said his aged father drove himself to a hospital in Middleton, Nova Scotia, experiencing chest pains. Once parked 30 feet from the emergency room entrance, Smale said his 83-year-old mother, who does not drive, scurried in seeking help. But Mrs. Smale was told that government hospital policy prevented doctors or nurses from going outside to see the 81-year-old man in the car. The most nurses could offer was to call an ambulance to transport the heart-attack sufferer 10 yards inside the building. Fortunately for the Smales, the ambulance arrived in time to save the elderly man's life.

Rocky Mountain welcome

If Jeff Peckman has his way, the city of Denver will soon be set up to handle even the most far-fetched contingency: extra-terrestrial invasion. Peckman has gathered enough signatures to place before Denver voters in 2010 a referendum to create an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. Peckman says the commission's job would be to work diplomatically with aliens for a "harmonious, peaceful, mutually respectful and beneficial coexistence." But according to city councilman Charlie Brown, the fact that Peckman needed only 3,794 signatures to get the petition onto the ballot proves merely that Denver's signature requirement is too low.

A mother knows

Jason Zacchi of Dearborn Heights, Mich., made an odd choice of restaurants to rob. Police say the 27-year-old Zacchi walked up to the drive-thru window at a local Wendy's, brandished a sawed-off shotgun, and demanded money. Hearing the commotion, the restaurant's manager approached the drive-thru register and immediately recognized the robber despite a blue bandanna covering his face. That's because the manager was Zacchi's mother. Police arrested Zacchi and his getaway car-driving girlfriend and charged him with armed robbery after his mother turned him in.

No day away

Somehow, it apparently seemed like a good idea at the time. But corrections officials at a British prison say they've withdrawn the promise of raffling off a Get Out of Jail Free card to inmates. Prisoners at Kirkham in Lancashire were told they could enter a freedom raffle by giving 1 pound ($1.62) and promising to volunteer to make dinner for a local retirement center. The winner of the drawing would have received a day pass away from the prison. Public outcry in England, however, forced prison management to rethink its plan on public safety grounds.


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