Dispatches > Quick Takes
Bobby Yip /Reuters /Landov

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "O Jerusalem," April 10, 2010

Hotel of cards

It may not be a model of structural integrity, but American architect Bryan Berg's latest building is managing to turn heads. That's because it is a replica of China's Venetian Macau hotel-built with 218,792 playing cards. The card building, which set a Guinness World Record, is on display at the actual hotel. "This has been my most ambitious project yet," said Berg. "It's been like a real construction."

Drawing a line

Voters in Switzerland have finally pushed back against some of the most stringent animal-rights initiatives in the world. On March 7, voters in the European nation overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have extended rights of legal representation to the animal kingdom. That sort of legal representation for dogs, fish, birds, and chickens already exists in the Zurich region, where animal-rights attorney Antoine Goetschel regularly sues citizens on behalf of abused dogs or, in a recent case, a dead pike Goetschel says a local angler tortured when it took him 10 minutes to reel in the fish. Goetschel, who tried to rally the Swiss to vote for the initiative, admitted his highly publicized fish case may have poisoned the well: "Many voters might have been a bit fed up with the topic."

Money to burn

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Who is the newest Dubai real-estate titan? A 12-year-old boy who suspiciously has the same name and birthday as the president of Azerbaijan's son. Officials with the Azerbaijani government won't confirm it, but Heydar Aliyev, the son of President Ilham Aliyev, appears to have bought $44 million worth of real estate in the Arab emirate during a two-week buying spree last year, according to Dubai property records. Reporters are struggling to figure out just how the son of Azerbaijan's president, who makes $228,000 a year, could afford the lavish purchases in glitzy Dubai. But a report by the U.S. State Department says the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation suffers from "pervasive corruption" and an increasingly authoritarian government.

Four cents none the richer

Aaron Zeff says that when he realized the dark-suited men approaching his Sacramento, Calif., car-wash business were IRS agents, he had a sinking feeling. And when he discovered they were there to collect delinquent taxes, he felt even worse. "They were deadly serious, very aggressive, very condescending," Zeff told the Sacramento Bee. But the feeling went away as soon as he opened the agents' envelope. It turns out the government tax agency had sent two operatives to shake down Zeff for a four-cent bill. "It's hilarious," he says, "that two people hopped in a car and came down here for just four cents. I think [the IRS] may have a problem with priorities."

MySpaced out

A 17-year-old boy who broke into a store in Kennewick, Wash., on March 13 left a trail for police-an electronic trail. Police say the boy not only spent several hours inside Bella's Office Furniture, but that he spent much of the time using the store's office computer to access his MySpace page. He even used the website-while he was still in the store-to try to sell items he planned to steal from the store. Officer Shirrell Veitenheimer told the local NBC affiliate that the boy's identity was not much of a mystery to authorities: "It was pretty obvious who it was."

Playing dress up

A civilian dressed in police clothes had the misfortune of "pulling over" a cop dressed in civilian clothes. Authorities in Maricopa County, Ariz., say 62-year-old David Word-with a siren and lights for his black Ford Crown Victoria-had a habit of impersonating a police officer. Last May, he pulled over Matt Lydic, told him to slow down, and drove away. Lydic, an off-duty police officer suspicious of the cop pulling him over, wrote down the car's license plate number, which led authorities to Word. A jury on March 16 convicted Word of impersonating a police officer.

A real blast

A British ship in early March stumbled-safely-upon something meant for British ships of long ago: a .75-ton German mine from World War II. The vessel was reportedly conducting a routine survey in Portland Harbour in Dorset when sonar equipment spotted a "huge" object. As the crew lifted the object, crew members realized what it was and slowly put it back in place. It took an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team seven hours to tow the mine to a remote location and detonate it. "At the end, though, it is a good result," Chief Petty Officer Diver Kas Kasapi told the BBC. "There has been no damage and everybody is safe."

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