Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "Babies are back," Jan. 29, 2011

This was only a test

Police in Spain have arrested a woman for kidnapping herself in order to test her husband's devotion to her. Police say the woman took a picture of herself bound and gagged and sent it to her husband's cell phone with a ransom demand of nearly $27,000 and instructions not to contact police. Ignoring the message, her husband contacted police anyway. Authorities quickly found the woman at a shopping mall on the Mediterranean coast. When confronted, she eventually confessed to authorities she wanted "to find out what her husband would be willing to do for her."

Union of the snakes

For 20 years, the Cambodian village of Svay Rolum has had a massive female python as a town pet, but villagers didn't know what to make of a younger, smaller male python that arrived in early December. So they went to fortunetellers: "We were told that the two pythons are husband and wife and they need to live together, and if we don't marry them we will meet bad luck," one villager told reporters. The villagers quickly organized a serpentine wedding ceremony to bind in wedlock the 16-foot, 200-pound female and her new male mate. Replete with wedding music and flowers, two Buddhist monks blessed the snakes before they slithered away happily ever after.

In the tank

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Once would be a minor mistake. Ten to 15 times would be a bit of a concern. Ninety-two? A scandal. That's the case in the English town of Devon, where police filled up their squad cars with the wrong fuel 92 times over 2½ years, costing taxpayers almost $15,000 in repairs to damaged engines. Most cases involved putting diesel fuel in non-diesel cars, or vice-versa. A Taxpayers' Alliance spokesman told the Mid Devon Star police misfueling nationwide has cost Brits $1.6 million: "Too much taxpayers' money is still being wasted due to sheer carelessness."

No dancing shoes

If you have spent years trolling eBay or Craigslist fruitlessly looking for a life-size wax sculpture of Patrick Swayze, you'll probably be kicking yourself: A wax likeness of the deceased actor was auctioned on Liveauctioneers.com with a starting bid of $500 before an anonymous internet bidder finally purchased it for $750. But the winner isn't through spending: The wax Swayze comes with a black polo and khakis, but without shoes.

Home invasion

Away from home during a mid-December weekend, Steve and Betty Ehlers of Newell, Iowa, had family member Jim Ehlers check on their house. What he found was so unusual that he took pictures to document it: The house was filled with snow. A snowstorm with winds up to 50 miles per hour had apparently blown open a side door on the house and sent snow blowing and drifting deep into the home-even into closets and cupboards. The Ehlerses say Jim and his wife shoveled most of the snow out of the house before they returned to it.

Burden of proof

Attorney Howard Lotven recently won a case in a Kansas City, Mo., court. Lotven's response: "We are disappointed." Lotven's client had been ticketed after a traffic camera spotted him running a red light, and the judge in the case bought Lotven's argument that the city's red light cameras violated defendants' rights to due process. But Lotven says he needed the judge to rule against his client so he could take his battle up the judicial food chain and eventually get to argue his claim in front of the Missouri Supreme Court, if not the United States Supreme Court. Lotven had argued that since the red light camera cannot identify who is actually driving the car, simply ticketing the car's owner violates citizens' constitutional right to due process. Now, although his client's ticket has been dismissed, Lotven says Kansas City is free to continue issuing tickets and foisting the burden of proof onto the defendant.

Not-so-rapid response

A recent memo sent from Alberta Health Services in Canada to its ambulance drivers has a lot of drivers seeing red. AHS has directed its drivers to refrain from exceeding a road's posted speed limit-even when the ambulance has lights on and sirens blaring. "So, what, I'm called to a call where a child is choking, and because I can't go past 50 kilometers an hour, I make way for the fire engine who is going to get there before the trained paramedics?" said Elisabeth Ballermann, president of a union representing emergency medical services workers. But AHS insists that non-speeding ambulances will be safer for other motorists and for drivers as well.

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