Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "Return to war?," May 5, 2012

Blood money

Government leaders in the villages outside of Dharmapuri, India, have a deal for would-be vampire slayers: Catch and kill a Dracula, and village governments will pay you a bounty worth a shade under $2,000. Rumors perpetuated by frightened villagers are swirling in the area near the central Indian town that vampires roaming the countryside are killing livestock. At first, regional officials tried to convince townspeople that vampires don't exist. When that failed, they dared locals to prove the rumor and offered the bounty. So far, no one has stepped forward to collect.

Call waiting

No one uses them, and it costs K&M Telephone Company nearly $1,500 to maintain. But to get rid of the last two payphones in Chambers and Inman, Neb., the phone company will have to get special permission from the state's Public Services Commission. State rules require phone companies to maintain at least one public payphone per Nebraska town. But with cell phone coverage nearly everywhere, the two public payphones together brought in a grand total of $19.58 in revenue in 2011-at an operating cost of $1,469. K&M's general manager Larry Woods told the Lincoln Journal Star that the company hopes the PSC will grant their waiver to pull the plug on the two phones in May: "It's just kind of a thing of the past."

Rare ducks

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The birth of 18 rare ducklings has thrilled animal lovers and naturalists alike. Once thought to be extinct, the Madagascar Pochard may be developing a new lease on life. Conservationists in Antsohihy, Madagascar, have hatched a mess of the ultra rare ducklings in a captive breeding program bringing the known global population of the species to 60. The April hatchings were the first time conservationists had successfully bred the ducks in captivity. Scientists considered the birds extinct until 22 Madagascar Pochards were spotted in a Madagascar lake in the late 1990s. Since then, scientists had tried unsuccessfully to coerce the birds to mate and breed.

Liquid sandwich

In a market where consumers purchase sweet-tea-flavored vodka and even bacon-flavored vodka, one distillery is testing the limits on how far vodka drinkers will go. In an online trade magazine, Van Gogh Vodka announced its new creation: peanut butter and jelly vodka. Bottles of the new Van Gogh Vodka creation went on sale at the end of March. "It is challenging to transform a famous food flavor into a drink flavor, however I think this transition is beautiful and the flavor is intriguing," master distiller Tim Vos told Bar Business Magazine. "I am certain that everyone will want to enjoy more than one glass."

Past and present

It may look more at home in a house of horrors, but a museum in Frederick, Md., is studying what may be the severed but preserved forearm of a Civil War soldier. A farmer near Sharpsburg, Md., reportedly found the arm while plowing his field two weeks after the 1862 Battle of Antietam. He gave it to a local doctor who preserved it, skin and all, with embalming fluid, and the arm ended up in a now defunct private museum. An anonymous donor this year gave the forearm to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Officials there are testing the forearm to determine the nationality of the person who lost it and whether a bullet or artillery round ripped it from his body. The museum hopes to exhibit the forearm during the September anniversary of the battle.

Treasure finder

Where countless treasure seekers scouring thrift stores and garage sales failed, Zach Bodish inadvertently succeeded. The 46-year-old Ohio man walked into a Volunteers of America thrift store in Clintonville, Ohio, in March and walked out with an original signed print of famed artist Pablo Picasso. Bodish spent $14.14 on what he thought was a common poster copy of a Picasso print. But once home, he noticed red scribbling in a corner of the work and commenced researching on the internet. That's when Bodish discovered the poster advertising a 1958 exposition of Picasso's work was actually an original linocut print from the Spanish master himself. Todd Weyman, vice president of Swann Auction Galleries in New York City, told the Columbus Dispatch the print could sell for $6,000 or more at auction.

Baring arms

The police didn't catch him red-handed, but ink-armed. Police in Twin Falls, Idaho, stopped a 19-year-old local on March 31 and arrested him after he gave them a fake name. How did they know? Dylan Contreras had his real name tattooed on his arm. Police took him into custody on outstanding warrants, including one for providing false information.

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