Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "GOP idea man," May 22, 2010

Hapless ninja

For a ninja, he sure was clumsy. A would-be bank thief-dressed in black and wielding a curved sword-bashed his way into a Saskatchewan, Canada, bank on April 13 but left empty-handed, bank security cameras show. The footage shows the still-unidentified man poking and prodding an ATM machine outside the bank before smashing through a glass door. Once inside the closed bank, the cameras showed him rummaging behind the counter before exiting the building, smashing his way through yet another glass door. Bank officials note that one of the doors the empty-handed suspect crashed through was unlocked.

Green for thee, not me

A new house in Brentwood, Calif., has a $20 million price tag and will reportedly have 20,000 square feet, a six-car garage, a pool house and lagoon-shaped swimming pool and spa, a recreation room with a 19-foot ceiling, and an elevator. The house is for a family of three, and one member of that family is the UN's goodwill ambassador for the environment, Gisele Bundchen. She and husband/NFL star Tom Brady took flack when photos of their new house surfaced last month. Environmental activists were alarmed at the new digs of the high-profile environmentalist. "The resources that it takes to put it together and the land that it needs," said the Sierra Club's Philip Dowds in the Boston Herald, "this just can't happen anymore."

Losing the keys

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New York City transit officials have quite a quandary to solve: What do you do when low-level thieves get the key to the city? Last year, city police confiscated 33 copies of a master key that unlocks an access gate to the city's subway system at each of New York's 468 subway stations. Sometimes the perps caught by cops were simply using the duplicate master key to skip the $2.25 fare. Others were selling keys to straphangers for $27 each. Metropolitan Transit Authority officials acknowledge the problem but admit it will be all but impossible to round up all the rogue keys.

Bottle bust

Concerned citizens in Anaheim, Calif., called the police after seeing two men place a mysterious small canister inside the base of a light pole and then drive away. A bomb squad, a hazmat team, and nearly a dozen fire trucks arrived and spent five hours analyzing the suspicious object. But the pill-bottle-sized container turned out not to be part of a terrorist plot; it was part of a harmless treasure hunt known as Geocaching, in which online enthusiasts use GPS to find objects hidden by other enthusiasts. Police Sgt. Rick Martinez told the Orange County Register that the witnesses were right to call authorities. "You never know," he said. "The one time somebody does not report something that was suspicious may be the one time that they should have reported it."

The truth is out there

Stephen Hawking says there probably are aliens out there. But in a new documentary series with the Discovery Channel, the acclaimed physicist says we probably shouldn't be beaming radio waves into the universe in hope of making contact. After all, we're just as likely to make contact with a superior alien race that will mine our planet for water and minerals and leave us to die as we are to find an alien race that wants to be friends and learn the Macarena. "Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach," the 68-year-old mused. "If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for materials to build more spaceships so they could move on."

Big claims court

After 250 years, a border dispute between two Vermont towns has finally been settled. But it wasn't modern GPS technology that determined the boundary line between St. George and neighboring Shelburne, and even old maps and a new survey of the area didn't help much. Instead, an arbitrator decided the matter. Shelburne Town Manager Paul Bohne blamed New Hampshire for the confusion. Bohne said it was shoddy paperwork by Benning Wentworth, the colonial New Hampshire governor in 1763 whose jurisdiction included modern-day Vermont, that caused the problem. "When all was said and done," Bohne told the Associated Press, "he had given the same land to different towns."

Wrecked and wronged

A mix-up by a city demolition crew has left Francis Howard of Denton, Texas, with an enormous hole in her house. The crew was tasked with tearing down the house across the street on April 21 because of repeated violations of the city code, but mistakenly began to demolish Howard's home instead. A neighbor stopped the crew, but not until much damage had already been done. "I just want this house put back together," Howard, 69, told the Denton Record Chronicle, adding, "I think I need a lawyer." City records show that Howard's house was also slated for demolition, although she had until July 15 to get the structure up to code. City spokesman John Cabrales told the newspaper that Howard could apply for an extension.

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