Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "Border bandits," Dec. 3, 2011

Moving violations

Three men charged with theft in the Poltava region of Ukraine would have a hard time returning to the scenes of their crimes. That's because the scenes of their crimes were on the move. Ukrainian police say the three men stole items from trucks as they drove down highways at night. "A car with a specially reinforced hood would drive up behind a truck moving at 40-50 kilometers per hour," a police statement said. "Standing on the hood, one of the thieves would then open the locks with wire-cutters, get in and pass the loot over to his accomplice." Police, who did not identify the suspects, believe the men were involved in 30 cases of theft.

Stress test

Emma French really wanted to take her driving test on Aug. 30. How badly? The 20-year-old Briton, who hails from outside Edinburgh, Scotland, and was pregnant at the time, braved labor contractions to retake the test that she had failed in March. Her water broke the morning of the test. "Everyone was telling me to go to the hospital but I had waited so long for my driving test, I was determined to do it," she told the Mirror. French passed the test-and then drove to the hospital and gave birth to daughter Eva later that day.

Not better than one

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Staff at Sunshine Serpents in central Florida were incubating eight milk snake eggs. So it was a bit surprising when nine heads popped out as the snakes hatched in late October. But it wasn't a mistake. Workers at the conservation group had just hatched an ultra-rare two-headed albino Honduran milk snake. "I did a double take. I couldn't believe what I was looking at," said University of Central Florida biologist Daniel Parker, who runs the conservation group. According to Parker, his newly hatched milk snake has two brains, which command a single body. In the wild, Parker says the snake would have a difficult time surviving, so, he says, he'll keep it with the conservation group.

Thousands found

Jerry Laliberte admits that he thought about it. "I was scared. It scared me. My hands were shaking," said Laliberte. "I wasn't sure what to do, to tell the truth." The Florida plumber had just found $20,000 wrapped in aluminum foil inside an airduct he was cleaning. Thinking briefly about applying "finders-keepers" rules, the 62-year-old thought better of it and alerted the homeowner. As it happens, the foil pack of cash had belonged to the previous owner, an older woman who liked stashing money around the house in odd places.

Drinking game

A new offering made by a Florida company named Scottish Spirits Ltd eventually may be popular with Muslims, but apparently not with Scots. The company is making a new beverage, ArKay, which copies the flavor of whiskey, but without the alcohol. ArKay has managed to gain Halal certification, which means it could eventually become a big seller in the Muslim world. But that won't keep Scottish whiskey connoisseurs from mocking it: "It is not possible to make alcohol-free whisky," a spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association complained. "This company is trying to exploit whisky's reputation with highly irresponsible marketing."

Light saver?

Laser technology isn't just for weapons systems or optics. One scientist, who recently received a large grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says laser lights can help prevent malaria. A few years ago, Columbia University professor Szabolcs Marka-an astrophysicist at Columbia by day-wondered how fruit flies and mosquitoes would react to a thin wall of light created by laser beams. "They do walk or fly into it. Then they turn back. They don't want to cross it," Marka discovered. The Gates Foundation had initially invested $100,000 into Marka's research. But now that Marka's light wall system shows promise, the foundation is granting it another $1 million.

Killing fields

Customers who buy beef from mycow.de, a meat supplier based in northeastern Germany, can now decide how they want their cow to die. Customers who don't mind their beef deriving from cows killed in a slaughterhouse can choose that method. But, for those who either believe that slaughterhouses are inhumane, or believe that the stress induced by the slaughterhouse produces tougher meat, mycow.de has another choice: The cows are killed in the field as they graze. But customers will have to spend more: Field-killed beef goes for over $9 per pound.

Pox parcels

Anti-vaccination parents have found the next-best-thing to pox parties: pox deliveries. A Nashville television station on Nov. 3 reported that parents, who philosophically disagree with vaccinating their child against chicken pox, have increasingly been turning to Facebook to find ways to infect their children with chicken pox in order to build an immunity to it. One Facebook page, titled "Find a Pox Party in your Area," purported to help parents ship contaminated items like licked lollipops and blankets to parents who wanted to infect their children with the virus. Small problem: Knowingly sending infected items through the United States Mail is a federal offense. Since the story broke, moderators of the pox party group have amended their description, warning parents who want to receive the virus by mail to conduct their business through private channels.


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