Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "Beyond the body count," Nov. 5, 2011

Explosive discovery

When Sam Curry, a 22-year-old British professional mover, was clearing out furniture from a garage near Coventry on Oct. 4, he uncovered a mysterious object wrapped in a black bag. The object, it turned out, was a German incendiary bomb from the World War II era. "I didn't actually know what it was so I started shaking it," he explained. "It looked like an incendiary bomb so I Googled it on my phone and it came up with an image exactly like the one I had in my hand. I rang my dad straight away-he was on another job. He said to get out of the house so I ran out the front and called the police." Authorities could not say how the Nazi bomb came to be in the garage, but they were able to remove it safely.

Red scare

French government officials have decided that the American staple ketchup is not fit for French consumption, and they're banning the condiment from the menu of French primary and college students. The ban will allow schools to serve ketchup only for French fries. Agriculture and food minister Bruno Le Maire announced the plan, saying, "France must be an example to the world in the quality of its food, starting with its children."

Silent treatment

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When traffic cops didn't work, authorities in Caracas, Venezuela, opted to send in the mimes. Beginning in early October, police in the Venezuelan capital dispatched nearly 120 mimes dressed in bright colors into the streets to attempt to shame drivers there into obeying traffic laws. Notorious for treating traffic signals as suggestions, Venezuelan drivers and rule-breaking pedestrians have created havoc in the city's streets, authorities say. Alex Ojeda, president of the organization that supplied the mimes, said motorists will pay attention to mimes more readily than traffic police. "Many times, the mimes can achieve what traffic police cannot achieve using warning and sanctions in their efforts to maintain control," he said. "Mimes, on the contrary, often achieve the same objective by employing artistic and peaceful actions."

Disappearing act

Benjamin Arthur Jones and Alexander Williams Jones of New Castle, Pa., may be small-time thieves, but they chose big-time loot. Police say the two brothers used a blowtorch to take apart a rural bridge in western Pennsylvania and in early October tried to sell the resulting 15 1/2 tons of scrap metal for more than $5,000. The bridge, called Covert's Crossing Bridge, had measured 50 feet long and 20 feet wide.

Armored advance

If you see armored pests roaming the highways surrounding Washington, D.C., in the next few years, biologists would like to assure you that you are not hallucinating. According to a report in The Washington Post, scientists say that armadillos-a quintessentially Texas animal-will soon advance northward to the nation's capital and beyond after already roaming into Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, and Missouri.

Buzzed off

Police officers in Turkey were scared away from a contraband bust when alleged smugglers unleashed tens of thousands of bees on the unsuspecting officers in early October. The group of 15 officers were trying to inspect a truck loaded with bee hives in search of a large shipment of contraband cigarettes. Officials in beekeeping gear later returned to confiscate more than 32,000 packs of cigarettes.

Steam driven

Despite already having four owners and showing its age, one special used car fetched $4.2 million at an auction in Hershey, Pa. That's because the car is the De Dio Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-A-Dos Steam Runabout-the oldest drivable car in the world. Known more concisely as La Marquise, the 127-year-old car runs on steam and can reach a top speed of 38 mph. Despite its low speed and required 30 minutes of idling before building up enough steam to run, the unidentified new owner of La Marquise may be pleased to know that the steam engine can operate on not only coal or wood, but also bits of paper.

Systemic injustice

Motorists thinking about paying off a traffic ticket in Hillsborough County, Fla., may want to think twice. According to an internal memo obtained by WTSP-TV in Tampa, the Clerk of Court's computer system has gone haywire, resulting in a wide range of problems that could result in innocent citizens being arrested. According to the memo, "Payments of tickets aren't being recorded and people who paid their tickets will have their license suspended and could be arrested." Also, the memo warned that the clerk's failing computer system is causing the county to charge customers' cards three times for each transaction.

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