Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "The rise of localism," March 12, 2011

Pork product

Editors at an Australian newspaper may have to have that uncomfortable conversation with reporters about double-checking their sources-and hearing. In the midst of recent floods in the state of Queensland, The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin reported in its Jan. 6 edition that floodwaters were so great that 30,000 pigs were seen floating down the Dawson River. But apparently the Morning Bulletin reporter misheard the source, who actually said that "30 sows and pigs" were seen floating down the river.

Buyer's remorse

While scrolling through eBay, one London boy found a deal that could really take off. When the 7-year-old navigated to a listing for a British Harrier jump jet, he could not resist clicking the buy-it-now button. But faced with a bill for about $112,000 for the non-working but intact jet fighter, the boy's father was not so enthusiastic. A spokesman for the seller said the father called quickly and asked to have the bid invalidated. But it's not as if the seller were terribly distraught: The media attention generated by the hasty bid directed massive traffic to the airplane's relisting.

Phoning it in

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Forgive me Apple, for I have sinned. Tech-savvy Roman Catholics have a new way of practicing the sacrament of penance now that a Catholic bishop has sanctioned an app available for iPhones and iPads called Confession: A Roman Catholic App. By using the application, penitents are able to type sins into a confessional box and receive instructions on how to make penance. With many U.S. Catholics never participating in confession, according to a Georgetown University study, the app's developer said he hopes the virtual confession will drive more Catholics back to the real-life confessional.

RoboCop call

Just when Detroit could presumably use RoboCop, the city has rejected a petition to bring the cyborg movie hero back to the Motor City. It all started when an anonymous Twitterer posted on the mayor's Twitter feed that the crime-ridden city could use a statue depicting the hero of the 1987 movie RoboCop. According to FBI statistics, Detroit had the highest rate of violent crime for any large American city. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing politely tweeted back that the city has no plans for erecting a RoboCop statue, but that hasn't stopped some Detroit citizens from trying. According to the Detroit News, a group has raised more than $18,000 for a statue celebrating the Reagan-era crime-fighting cyborg.

Snowplow scare

While doing his rounds as a private snowplow operator in Alliance, Ohio, John Shuman says he saw a robber in a supermarket parking lot snatch a purse from a woman and then flee in a Honda Civic. Not wanting the thief to get away, Shuman gave chase in his pickup-truck-turned-snowplow. For 21 miles, Shuman chased 18-year-old suspect Cody Bragg-long enough to call 911 and give dispatchers plate numbers and a description of the suspect's Civic. And the prolonged sight of Shuman's snowplow in his rearview mirror so worried Bragg that the suspect actually called 911 on himself, choosing to surrender to police rather than find out what would happen should Shuman's snowplow catch up with him.

Florida fake

Floridians won't be cheering their new No. 1 ranking. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the Sunshine State leads the nation in staged accidents created by fraudsters to bilk insurance companies out of thousands of dollars. Insurance experts say some Floridians have become quite adept at using peculiarities in the state's no-fault auto insurance system to collect as much as $10,000 from insurers to cover medical bills for every passenger in an accident without proving which party was negligent. And if criminal records in Florida are any indication, the fraudulent accident claims could be as hard to prove as they are easy to commit. In 2009, the state's Division of Insurance Fraud opened 1,388 investigations into supposedly staged accidents but closed fewer than 40.

Uncommon laws

Saying that they could be liable for injuries to would-be criminals, police in Southeast England have warned residents not to put up chicken wire to reinforce windows of garden sheds to prevent burglars from stealing outdoor appliances. Police in several villages have cited a number of cases where burglars have been injured while breaking into a shed protected by reinforced wiring, sued the property owners, and won damages in British courts.

Spear thrower

Liberal critics say Montana state Sen. Greg Hinkle's hunting bill is a bid to take the Big Sky Country back to the Stone Age. But Hinkle, a Republican, says his bill to add spears to the list of approved big-game hunting weapons is just an attempt to revive interest in the primitive weapon. Hinkle's bill passed Montana's Senate, but the state's governor, Democrat Brian Schweitzer, hinted he would likely veto the bill should it ever arrive at his desk. A spokesman for the governor told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that the state legislature should not be "wasting time on frivolous legislation."

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