Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "Tour d'America," June 18, 2011

Dubious driver

Venezuelan bus driver Ramon Parra will take to his grave a dubious distinction: Government officials have suspended his license, marking the first time the nation has ever penalized a driver by taking away roadway privileges. "It is important to emphasize that this is a totally new act; for the first time in Venezuela we are suspending a driving license, for 12 consecutive months," National Police Chief Luis Fernandez said. Authorities stopped Parra for driving an overstuffed passenger bus at unsafe speeds with only five of the vehicle's six wheels attached. The final wheel was occupying a passenger row in the cabin.

Secret shark

Staff at a British aquarium noticed something strange on the floor of the shark tank: shark eggs. That was unusual because, as far as aquarium staff knew, all the sharks in the ocean exhibit at England's Sea Life Center gave live birth to their young rather than laying eggs. That's when divers began searching for an interloper. Weeks later, staff discovered a carpet shark that had, unknown to everyone, been living in the half-million liter salt-water tank for years out of sight from scientists, divers, and staff. Senior aquarist Martin Sutcliffe said the carpet shark, so named for its propensity to lie camouflaged on the ocean floor, would have remained unseen out of fear. "A small carpet shark would possibly feel threatened by the larger sharks in the tank, which is the only explanation we can come up with for it keeping out of sight for so long."

Pool time

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A judge in Northeast Ohio got creative when sentencing a couple who had caused big trouble for local rescue authorities during an April flood. Couple Bruce Crawford, 22, and Grace Nash, 20, cost local authorities a fortune on a search-and-rescue operation when they went missing after having gone for a swim in the flood-swollen Grand River without life preservers. In a deal to avoid jail time, the imprudent couple agreed to don life jackets and stand in a miniature swimming pool handing out water safety brochures during a festival in Painesville, Ohio.

Tax dollar at work

Tired of preparing for hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has something else to get ready for: a zombie apocalypse. In an official posting credited to the agency's Public Health Matters blog on May 16, government blogger Ali S. Khan warned citizens that they need to be prepared for uprisings of the undead. "In such a scenario zombies would take over entire countries, roaming city streets eating anything living that got in their way," Khan wrote. That's when, according to Khan, a standard emergency kit with food and water would come in handy.

Hoodless bandit

Willing to violate a bank's implicit "no robbery" policy, one might wonder why an unknown thief in Columbus, Ohio, was willing to comply with the bank's dress code. FBI officials say a man in his 20s entered a PNC Bank on May 18 and was making his way to the teller when bank officials informed him of the establishment's "no hats, no hoods" policy. The unidentified man complied, lowering his hood and then calmly walking to the counter, announcing he had a gun, and demanding the bank teller hand over the cash. The teller complied, but because the man lowered his hood, the bank was able to turn over clear film footage of the thief to authorities, who are still hunting him down.

Hat trick

The hat that Princess Beatrice was roundly scorned for wearing to the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton in May has turned out to be quite the hit. The hat was mocked as looking like a toilet seat, and Princess Beatrice said she was caught off guard by the amount of criticism her head gear received. But affirming that all publicity is good publicity, the daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson parlayed the attention into a large donation to two charities. The princess arranged for the hat to be sold on eBay and donated the $131,000 it raised to UNICEF and Children in Crisis.

A lot of bologna

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Santa Teresa, N.M., made an epic, if unusual, bust at a checkpoint on the U.S.-Mexico border on May 13. But it wasn't cocaine or marijuana that federal agents confiscated. Border officials seized 385 pounds of contraband bologna. Agents say someone tried to drive the bologna, in 35 large rolls, across the border. Agents stopped the deli trafficker because bologna is made from pork, which is regulated at points of entry along the nation's border with Mexico.

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