Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "The GOP and Hispanics," May 19, 2012

Mayor manners

One Spanish mayor would like the citizens of his community to mind their manners. And to prove he's serious, he and the city council passed a code of conduct prohibiting a host of behaviors such as slurping soup and passing gas in public. Mayor Julian Atienza Garcia of La Toba, Spain, published the new rules-65 in all-in the village's newsletter. But violators will not face penalty. "It is a compendium of basic rules of politeness that are being lost and should not be forgotten," the United Left party mayor said.

Photo finished

A 20-year-old from eastern Kentucky admitted to siphoning gasoline out of a police cruiser on April 13. He had little choice after police discovered that his girlfriend had posted a picture on Facebook of him in the act of siphoning. The photo went viral across the social networking platform, tipping off police in Letcher County. Once arrested, Michael Baker admitted to the act, but told WYMT that it had been a joke. "I got a little bit of gas. I ain't gonna lie, but not much. I couldn't get much. I tried but there wasn't much in it," Baker told the TV station. But police didn't see the humor: They charged Baker with theft and held him overnight in jail.

Game changer

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Republicans may have a secret weapon this fall: Microsoft has planned the much-ballyhooed release of Halo 4 for Nov. 6-the same day as the U.S. presidential election. The first-person shooter saga is among the best-selling video games of all time, especially with young people. And the GOP nominee can hope that some young voters-who overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama in 2008-will be too intertwined with their controllers to cast a ballot on Election Day.

Drew's stand

There are lemonade stands, and then there's Drew Cox's lemonade stand. The 6-year-old Gladewater, Texas, boy didn't just turn a profit on April 14, he raised over $10,000 in that one day. The youngster set up the stand with hopes of raising money to help his sick father, Randy Cox, pay for medical bills that have stacked up after being diagnosed with testicular cancer earlier this year. Drew charged the customary 25 cents per cup, but as word spread throughout the East Texas town and surrounding communities of the boy selling lemonade for his father's medical care, local residents flocked to the stand. Some bought cups of lemonade, while others simply wrote donation checks-including one for $5,000.

Ship idea sinks

What could have been a truly awesome spectacle now is cancelled-all because the idea proved too popular. Greece's government had offered to send a replica of a 2,500-year-old warship to London to commemorate the 2012 Summer Games in July. But in April, officials with London 2012 decided that having rowers propel the trireme up the River Thames with the Olympic Flame would prove so popular as to create a security hassle. Olympic officials subsequently dropped the idea. The ornate replica of a warship that participated in the Battle of Salamis had been a centerpiece of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Leaving a mark

Those who simply cannot abide a machine-sharpened pencil can now look to David Rees' example as a paragon of the sharpened point. Rees, whose new book How to Sharpen Pencils hit bookstores on April 16, says he hopes to start a trend of hand-sharpening normal No. 2 pencils. And for those who lack the proper tools-or who would rather an expert sharpen pencils for them-Rees has a mail-order sharpening business. In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, the comic writer says he's blade-sharpened over 500 pencils for customers at $15 per pencil. "This is not a joke. I have an artisanal pencil sharpening business; it turns a profit," he told the paper while on a book tour. "One of the goals of my book is to remind folks that, in this age of iPads and digital styluses, the humdrum pencil is still a remarkably efficient and elegant mark-making device."

Self informant

Somewhere in eastern Afghanistan, a man is wondering whether he'll ever collect on his reward. The man is Mohammad Ashan, and the answer is no. Ashan, described as a mid-level Taliban commander, wandered into a police checkpoint in Paktika Province in April holding a wanted poster and demanding the advertised $100 reward. Problem: The man depicted in the wanted poster was Ashan himself. Police officials and U.S. military officials were perplexed at Ashan's audacity of turning himself in. But nevertheless, they confirmed his identity and arrested him. "This guy is the Taliban equivalent of the Home Alone burglars," one U.S. official told The Washington Post.

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