Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "De-coding Morsi," July 28, 2012

Taco tsunami

When residents of Bethel, Alaska, realized the fliers announcing the opening of a Taco Bell in their remote town of about 6,000 were a hoax, their elation quickly turned to despair. Residents in the tiny and difficult-to-reach town know fast food from cable television ads, but because of the town's place in the far West of the already-remote state, they've never had a fast food restaurant. But executives at Taco Bell who heard about the hoax decided to arrange for a one-time feast for town residents. On July 1, Taco Bell executives arranged for 10,000 tacos to be flown from Anchorage, Alaska, (the nearest Taco Bell location) 400 miles west to Bethel. Even better: The fast food chain picked up the bill.

Grapes of cash

The first problem in acquiring a bottle of 2004 Penfolds Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon is the price tag. With an asking price of $168,000 for each of the 12 existing bottles, the Australian Cabernet Sauvignon is among the priciest wines ever to be offered for sale. According to vintners at the Australian Penfolds winery, the wine's value comes from the pedigree of its grapes. The Australian wine was made with the oldest producing cabernet sauvignon vines, transplanted from France to Australia in the 1830s. The grapes the Penfolds vines produce aren't great in quantity, but wine experts laud them as exceptionally flavorful. Which brings the second problem into sharper focus: Exactly what do you pair with a $168,000 bottle of wine?

British benefits

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One British woman learned the hard way that if you want to defraud government benefit programs, you might stay on the safe side and not go to work for the government. For 16 years, Rose Jones collected public benefits from the government of the United Kingdom, claiming that a spinal condition left her bed-ridden and incapacitated. But the truth, which was revealed at a trial that ended on June 26, was that Jones had been collecting disability benefits of nearly $210,000 while holding down two full-time jobs-including one for the government's own Ministry of Defense. Jones was ultimately convicted of seven counts of fraud.

Off the rails

If you're wondering what happens when you turn a 4-year-old loose on the internet, one New Zealand mother has the answer: He attempts to buy a $25,000 train. In June, one Kiwi mother identified only by her online name accidentally left her account on a New Zealand auction site up. That's when her 4-year-old son got on the computer and began clicking around. Eventually, the child landed on a listing selling an old dilapidated electric passenger train. And, somehow the youngster managed to place a winning bid on the relic for $25,000. After a frantic email by the mother, the boy's bid was removed and on July 2 a real buyer was found for the train.

Shields down

During a trip through airport security on June 28, actor William Shatner boldly went where no man ought to go. He was wearing unusually baggy clothing in preparation for his flight, and the Star Trek actor's pants fell down during the security check, exposing his underwear to dozens of onlookers. "It was awful to have people looking at me with my pants down, probably the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to me," Shatner admitted. Shatner blamed the faux pas on his baggy clothing and lack of a belt to avoid setting off metal detectors.

Cheddar mountain

Some artists use canvas, others marble. Wisconsin's Troy Landwehr specializes in cheese. Called by some the nation's foremost (and only?) cheese artist, Landwehr crafted a 640-pound block of mild cheddar cheese into a likeness of Mt. Rushmore for the lobby of the West Palm Beach, Fla., City Hall for the Fourth of July. The title of the work: My Country 'Tis of Cheese. Landwehr also decided to donate all the chipped-off chunks of his sculpture to The Lord's Place, a local charity that feeds the homeless. "We're expecting," said The Lord's Place's Robert Coleman, "to be getting about 150 to 200 pounds of cheese in various chunks."

San Diego charge

Residents of San Diego who showed up for the well-known Big Bay Boom July 4 fireworks show certainly got a big show, but it lasted only 15 seconds instead of the scheduled 18 minutes. A technical malfunction meant the show began and ended simultaneously with the entire fireworks program being set off at the same time. The result was a spectacular-and spectacularly short-display.

Ticket taker

Perhaps if Hooksett, N.H., town administrator Dean Shankle understood why someone has been systematically littering on Route 3A for months now, he could accept it more easily. As it is, Shankle knows neither who is responsible, nor why a stretch of road in his community can't stay clean. According to local authorities, every Sunday morning, someone dumps hundreds of blank lottery slips (ones where players select their own numbers) along the roadside on Route 3A. And according to Shankle, the weekly litterings have been going on for more than three months. "I have no idea why someone would be doing it," Shankle told the Union Leader. "If someone does have any notion who it is, it would be good to know."

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