Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "Fighting poverty," March 13, 2010

Don't be my Valentine

Rather than risk the emotional scarring that could come from a youngster not receiving enough Valentine's Day cards, Ashcombe Primary School in southwest England banned all of the cutesy cards this year. "Some children and parents encourage a lot of talk about boyfriends and girlfriends," head teacher Peter Turner wrote in a monthly newsletter to parents. "We believe that such ideas should wait until children are mature enough emotionally and socially to understand the commitment involved in having or being a boyfriend and girlfriend." But parents of the children, ages 4-11, balked at the ban. "Whatever is going to be next?" asked parent Rajeev Takyar. "Banning them stops children from having social skills."

Facebook bully

With a ruling from a federal judge in Florida, Facebook may quickly become the next First Amendment battleground. A federal magistrate in February ruled against a high school's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a student who claimed the punishment she received for complaining about a teacher on the popular social networking website violated her First Amendment right to free speech. Officials at Pembroke Pines Charter High School had said the student, Katherine Evans, was "cyberbullying" the teacher. The magistrate ruled that the case against the school's principal should proceed, meaning civil libertarians (and high-schoolers) will now be watching Katherine Evans' case to see just how much they can get away with online.

Barking orders

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Police charged a Gainesville, Fla., man with striking a police animal on Feb. 9, but 21-year-old Mario Duane Porter never laid his hands on the police dog. The violation happened when police stopped Porter for a traffic violation and a K9 unit began sniffing around his car to check for drugs. Porter interrupted the dog's work by commanding it to sit. The dog obeyed the suspect until officers were able to quiet Porter. The dog eventually found a bag that probably once contained marijuana sitting under the driver's seat.

Product placement

KFC officials are advising anyone with a healthy appetite and knowledge about a January theft of a bust of Colonel Sanders from a Kentucky store to contact police. According to a KFC spokesman, the fast-food chain is offering $500 worth of grilled chicken as a reward for information leading to the return of a bronze bust of the chain's founder to a KFC in Berea, Ky. Why not a cash reward? "We think KFC's world-famous chicken is a better motivator than money," the spokesman said. The bust is valued at $1,200.

Snowy states

All snowmageddons are local. The blizzard that buried Washington, D.C., under snow in early February was far from an isolated incident. On Feb. 13, 49 of the 50 U.S. states reported snow on the ground. That includes Dallas, which received over a foot of the white stuff in a record one-day snowfall; Atlanta; and even parts of the Florida panhandle. The lone holdout was Hawaii, which sometimes-but not presently-does have snow atop its highest volcanoes.

Down the hatch

Some people collect stamps. Others plant gardens. Chayne Hultgren's hobby is a bit more dangerous. The 31-year-old Australian man swallows swords. And on Feb. 8, the street performer broke his own record for number of swords swallowed at one time. Hultgren managed to swallow 18 swords at once-each nearly 30 inches in length. "It's amazing," he said. "I've been preparing for this since I was 16."

Rumble seat

A Wayne County, Ind., man may want to reconsider his choice of getaway vehicles after law enforcement caught him driving a backhoe north on U.S. 27 just north of Richmond, Ind. Sheriff's deputies stopped Robert E. Hull driving a stolen backhoe after he allegedly rumbled through a construction fence to steal the heavy machinery from a depot. Deputies charged the 40-year-old with theft and burglary-both felonies. An operating-while-intoxicated charge has been tabled pending toxicology reports.

False beak

One creative Alaskan dentist has given an injured bald eagle a new chance at life. Workers from the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage, Alaska, brought dentist Kirk Johnson a bird with an unusual problem: The bald eagle had a broken beak, probably caused by getting tangled in fishing line. Johnson's solution? Create a temporary crown for the bird's beak, affix it with poster putty, and color it with yellow highlighter to resemble the bird's real beak.

Boxed in

Life really got hard for Aretha Brown when she had to climb under train cars to get out of her house. On Dec. 27, CSX Transportation parked 40 rail cars on tracks that run in front of her house in Callahan, Fla. Problem: The tracks lie so close to her house that they form an impromptu barrier, preventing her from visiting friends, getting in her car, or even getting her mail without first climbing under the rail cars. The 66-year-old woman is managing, but she says that it's been hard to keep her Sunday clothes clean when going to church. CSX reports it's still looking for a spot to relocate the 40 rail cars.

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