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
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."
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."
Produce the body
Cynthia Lacy of Treasure Island, Fla., had a simple request for the telecom giant Verizon after her father died in June: Please shut off his telephone service. Lacy even sent the company a copy of her father's death certificate, but Lacy said customer service agents told her that she needed her father's secret PIN number to shut off service. Even after Lacy explained to agents that she couldn't exactly ask her deceased father for his PIN number, Verizon refused to help. "Well, there's nothing else I can do for you," Lacy said a representative told her before laughing and hanging up. Higher-ups at Verizon eventually sided with Lacy, but only after she took her complaint to the local newspaper. The company said it has disciplined and placed in coaching the offending customer service representative.
After a dozen years and nearly $300,000, officials in the United Kingdom are still not able to declare victory over the island's last remaining colony of termites. British authorities discovered the colony in two infested homes in North Devon in 1998. Scientists tasked with eradicating the island's only termite infestation said the wood-devouring creatures probably arrived in Great Britain aboard a potted plant shipped from the Canary Islands. The scientists spent 12 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to finish off the North Devon termites, treating the colony with growth-inhibiting chemicals that would prevent them from reproducing. But despite years of silence from the wood-eating bugs, a new colony has sprung up in the same location. The scientists say the new termites are probably from a subterranean splinter colony that avoided the original chemical attack.
Most high-end watches feature precious metals or elaborate designs. The Swiss watchmaker Artya went in the opposite direction: The company's Coprolite watch boasts a face made of fossilized dinosaur feces. "A relic of the Jurassic period," says an Artya press release, "it has taken millions of years for this organic substance to embrace its present warm and matchless tints." The price tag for the "dinosaur dung watch": $11,290.