Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "Inside Election 2012," Oct. 20, 2012

Bitten but unbeaten

Rather than memorize a description or take a picture, a hiker in Western Massachusetts tracked down and captured the snake that had just bitten him in a state park on Sept. 15. The unidentified hiker was walking through Mt. Tom State Reservation when a venomous copperhead snake struck him. Refusing to panic, the hiker managed to capture the snake alive and marched down the mountain to find help. A police spokesman said that by bringing the snake in for identification, the hiker helped hospital staff—and therefore himself—by allowing them to administer the correct antivenom quickly.

Gator bait

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At least in the Tampa Bay area, it’s not a pool party until the alligators are invited. “You’ve had the Chuck E Cheese party, the clown party, the jump-a-roo bounce house,” Bob Barrett, owner of Alligator Attractions, told Bay News 9, and he’s hoping the alligator party is the next fad. For a price, Barrett will bring Burger the alligator over to your house to swim in your pool. The Pinellas County businessman says that once he tapes the alligator’s mouth shut, the animal is virtually harmless and safe for kids to swim with. The chlorine, Barrett added, doesn’t harm the gator. “People were very leery at the beginning,” he said, “but it has taken off and people just enjoy it.”

Cramped quarters

In a few months, the affordable housing crisis in San Francisco could be mitigated. That is, provided you consider a space slightly larger than two parking spaces to be housing and more than $1,200 per month to be affordable. City supervisors are set to vote on a proposal on Nov. 13 that would permit apartments as small as 220 square feet to be constructed inside the city. Proponents of the idea say the tiny apartments, which are expected to rent for between $1,200 and $1,700 per month, are just what the city needs to combat runaway housing costs. The average apartment in San Francisco rented for $2,734 in June, according to the research firm RealFacts. Opponents counter that the tiny apartments wouldn’t help families and would promote overcrowding in the bustling city.

Hot water

If you purchase vodka from Master of Malt, you might want to check the warning label on your next bottle. The company’s newest offering, dubbed Naga Chili Vodka, promises 250,000 Scovilles of heat—which is 50 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper. The distillery explains that it allows the vodka to ferment in containers filled with Naga Jolokia peppers—sometimes called ghost peppers—native to northeastern India.

Samaritan sequel

Christopher Manacci always seems to be in the right place at the right time. And that’s fine by Gerald Gronowski. Earlier this year when Gronowski suffered a flat tire east of Cleveland, Manacci, who happened to pass by, decided to stop and lend a hand. The incident got the pair of Ohio residents talking: It reminded Gronowski of a time some eight years ago when he got a fishing hook stuck in his hand and a Good Samaritan stopped to help him out. Oddly, the story seemed just as familiar to Manacci. That’s because Manacci had been that Good Samaritan eight years earlier. Now, after being helped twice by the same man, Gronowski says it’s his turn to start helping others—provided Manacci doesn’t get there first.

Fighting back

A Muslim cleric in northern Iran has complained that a woman attacked him after he chastised her for dressing too immodestly. According to a report filed with a state-run news agency, cleric Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti demanded a local woman from the town of Shahmirzad cover herself up as the two passed each other on the street. The report claims the woman replied, “You, cover your eyes,” before she shoved him down and began kicking the cleric.

Taxpayer tithe

Struggling to fill up empty coffers, Germany’s Catholic Church has instituted a new rule. A decree issued by German bishops states that unless local Catholics pay the customary Church tax, they will be denied Communion and a Catholic burial. The Church tax, common in parts of Europe, is a tax self-professed believers pay to their church. State officials collect the tax, which amounts to 8 percent of the national income tax paid by the congregant, and distribute it to ecclesiastical authorities. Catholic officials in Germany say the move is to discourage people from officially declaring themselves non-religious on government documents to avoid the tax and yet still seek to be part of the Catholic community. “This decree makes clear that one cannot partly leave the Church,” said a statement issued by the bishops. The Catholic Church in Germany plans to continue administering last rites regardless of the taxpayer’s status.

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