Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "The battle," March 24, 2012

Vive la différence?

Ever on the alert for things that might offend the sensibilities of the French bourgeoisie, French government officials announced they would be dropping the word mademoiselle from the official lexicon. The word-which is the equivalent of "Miss" in English-will be banned from all government documents. According to French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, the term is "sexist," requiring women to reveal their marital status on official documents. The French government will also replace its term for "maiden name" with one that translates to "family name" or "name of usage."

New sergeant

For Sandra Coast, it wasn't that she graduated from the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training school-it's the age at which she did it. The 51-year-old completed basic training on Feb. 17 with some of the highest physical fitness marks in her company. "Everybody in the world thinks I am a total nutcase," she told the Armed Forces Press Service. "I just want to support our troops. I love all of them." Since she served in the U.S. Navy from 1982 to 1993, she was able to bypass rules that would have prevented other citizens from enlisting in the Army. And unlike other enlistees, Coast's previous service meant she graduated as a sergeant.

Gun nuts

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Some little girls draw flowers and rainbows. Jesse Sansone's 4-year-old daughter drew a gun-which resulted in Sansone being arrested on Feb. 22 and strip searched by authorities who thought the girl's picture was evidence that her father had violated one of Canada's gun laws. School officials reported the picture to police in Kitchener, Ontario, who subsequently arrested Sansone and informed him he would be charged with illegal possession of a firearm. But a search of Sansone's person, as well as a search of his house, found no illegal firearms. In most cases, ownership of a handgun is illegal in Canada.

A city no more

Islandia, Fla., never really existed in the first place, but now Miami-Dade County is making it official. County commissioners are expected to meet in March to abolish the tiny city officially-more than 50 years after it was incorporated. Today, most of the city, which falls on several keys south of Miami in Biscayne Bay, is vacant. Only five residents remain, and the city has no city hall, no post office, and no road. In the 1960s, real estate developers had hoped to turn a profit by incorporating the land and selling parcels. But soon after, most of the land was turned into what's now known as Biscayne National Park.

Monster lobster

The enormous lobster Robert Malone pulled out of the ocean was so large, he didn't even consider eating it. Malone was fishing for shrimp in Rockland, Maine, on Feb. 17 when he pulled in a 40-inch-long, 27-pound Maine lobster with pincers the size of his forearm. Fishermen are prohibited by state law in Maine from keeping any lobsters that measure longer than five inches from eyes to tail, and Malone turned the beast over to the Maine State Aquarium. Officials there kept the 27-pound lobster for a few days before returning it to sea. Which is just as well, since seafood experts say the lobster dubbed "Rocky" probably wouldn't have tasted very good. "The generally accepted wisdom on lobsters is that any time you get above, say, 3 pounds, bigger is certainly not better," Los Angeles Times food editor Russ Parsons wrote. "These are old beasts and they tend to be tough. An aquarium is almost certainly its highest and best use. Preferably a very large aquarium."

Have a seat

New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority has a deal for memorabilia collectors with $650 to spare-as well as buckets of bleach. Officials are hoping that mass transit enthusiasts will open up their wallets to buy the iconic wooden benches that ubiquitously seated passengers of the city's subway system for decades. The MTA has decided to replace the grime-riddled wooden benches gradually with easier-to-clean stainless steel models. Those removed from subway platforms will go on sale through the agency's asset recovery department.

Star power

Though votes will be taken through April, if early results hold true, citizens in Bratislava, Slovakia, will soon be enjoying the new Chuck Norris Bridge. Government officials in the capital region of the Balkan nation said they would take suggestions for naming a new pedestrian and cycling bridge near the nation's capital in an online poll that began in February. And so far, it seems Slovaks by an overwhelming margin are eager to grace the bridge with the name of the American action star. Days after the online poll opened, the star of Walker, Texas Ranger led with 74 percent of the vote. Eighteenth-century Austro-Hungarian princess Maria Theresa is in second place with 8 percent. Regional Governor Pavel Freso has said he will honor the will of the people in the vote.

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