Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "2012 Roe v. Wade Issue: Young and restless," Jan. 28, 2012

Hundred grand

Grandparents who struggle for gift ideas for perhaps a dozen grandchildren should consider Viktor and Aneta Urich of Grand Prairie, Alberta. The Canadian couple just witnessed the birth of their 100th grandchild in December. Viktor and Aneta, both in their early 60s, had 16 children of their own. Now their adult children are carrying on the family tradition-big families. The Canadian grandparents struggle to get the entire family together, but manage family parties twice a year on each of their own birthdays.

Eating crow

A late-Fall invasion of crows is nothing new for Iowa City, Iowa, residents. But this year, the normal November and December swarm of black birds was too much for city officials to take. Annoyed by loud squawks and the danger posed to pedestrians walking under trees downtown, Iowa City workers in January hung reflective streamers around downtown as well as yellow balloons with red circles. The goal: to "simulate an owl's eye or a predator's eye," said Michael Moran, Iowa City parks and recreation director. If the cheap and harmless strategy fails, city officials will consider more aggressive approaches.

Aiming high

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Police in Lexington, N.C., arrested a man who failed to trick a Walmart cashier when he attempted to buy a few hundred dollars worth of items using a counterfeit $1 million bill. Perhaps tipped off when he asked for more than $999,000 in change, the cashier didn't need much time to determine that 53-year-old Michael Fuller was peddling funny money. Currently the largest bill in general circulation is for $100, though in the past $10,000 bills existed. Now Fuller faces criminal charges and a very real $17,500 bond.

Government pushers

The government health organization in Vancouver, Canada, that distributes needles to heroin addicts last month began handing out free crack pipe kits to users of hard drugs. Officials with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority predict the $60,000 project to put high quality crack pipes in the hands of crack users will lower the ancillary risks associated with drug use. "It's about preventing more communicable diseases" like HIV and hepatitis, a spokesman told British Columbia newspaper The Province. But David Brener of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada says, "Programs like this ignore the problems of addiction. All this does is aid and abet."

Sensor deprivation

A new Illinois law that took effect on Jan. 1 makes it legal for motorcyclists and bicyclists to run red lights-but only after they've waited at the light for 120 seconds. Passed in 2011, the state law solves the problem two-wheel riders faced late at night at intersections with magnetic sensors that controlled light changes. Cars that approached intersections with the sensors triggered a green light, but motorcycles and bicycles were too small to affect the sensor-driven intersections.

Garden variety

More than 16 years ago, Lena Paahlsson lost her wedding ring. Last October, as she was pulling up the last of the fall carrots in her garden, she finally found the ring looped around the top of a vegetable. Paahlsson, who lives in Northern Sweden, said she turned her house upside down looking for the lost ring in 1995-even ripping up floorboards in the process. She now believes the white gold wedding band must have somehow slipped into kitchen scraps headed for her garden's composting pile.

Slow burn

Angered by her county council's decision to limit speeds to 20 miles per hour on all residential streets, one British woman says she plans on filing a lawsuit. Her reason? Diane Greenwood says her nearly $40,000 BMW can't drive that slowly without harming its engine and causing more pollution. Greenwood, who lives in Cleveleys, Lancashire, says she will damage her car's engine by keeping her BMW 320d in third gear. "If anything happens to my car, I'm going to sue the council and force them to cover the costs," Greenwood told the Daily Mail. A spokesman for the county council noted that many areas of Germany-where BMWs are produced-have similarly slow speed limits.

Shipping out

Unable to find enough volunteers domestically to fulfill recruiting quotas, the Australian Navy is turning to an unlikely source for sailors: Great Britain and the United States. The Australian government is offering fast-track citizenship to experts from overseas who would be willing to join the Australian Navy to fill job offerings for engineers, fighter pilots, and submarine crews.

Tiger attack

Now that the Asian tiger prawn has begun its invasion of the Gulf of Mexico, it may be a while before the word "shrimp" is synonymous with small: At more than a foot long, the tiger prawn is anything but shrimpy. Worse yet, "It has the potential to be real ugly," Texas Parks and Wildlife Department official Leslie Hartman told the Houston Chronicle. That's because scientists are warning that the half-pound crustaceans native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans are becoming an unwelcome invasive species in the northern Gulf of Mexico-home to important fisheries. They warn that tiger prawns not only eat voraciously but also carry diseases that could easily disrupt the fragile aquaculture off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

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