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Associated Press/Photo by IRS

Quick Takes


Issue: "Unstoppable?," April 20, 2013

A Bridge too far

After three years of deliberation, officials at the Internal Revenue Service are finally ready to admit the $60,000 Star Trek–themed training video they commissioned may have been a bit much. In anticipation of a 2010 training conference, the IRS spent the money for tax-themed spoofs of former TV hits Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island starring IRS employees. The six-minute Star Trek video features IRS employees in Star Trek–style uniforms performing on a costly set. In a statement released March 22, the agency confessed, “There is no mistaking that this video did not reflect the best stewardship of resources.”

Cheese head

One problem with stealing 42,000 pounds of cheese: What do you do with it? Police say Veniamin Balika, an Illinois truck driver, used fake documents to steal 21 tons of Muenster cheese from K&K Cheese of Cashton, Wis. Balika apparently didn’t have a specific buyer in mind for the massive load. New Jersey State Police Sergeant Adam Grossman said police caught him trying to sell the cheese from his truck at a Ridgefield, N.J., rest stop: “He was attempting to sell a load to the first available buyer.”

High card

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Forget looking for criminals. One United Kingdom anti-crime charity is asking Britons to sniff them out. Crimestoppers, in conjunction with UK police forces, is mailing out 200,000 scratch-and-sniff postcards to residences in order to educate people about the smell of marijuana. Authorities are asking that recipients of the cards learn the smell of the cannabis plant, then take a step outside and smell around for home-growing operations. If the novelty of the marijuana card is not enough, Crimestoppers is throwing in a $1,500 incentive for information leading to an arrest.

Leaving their mark

Decision-makers on the Mid Devon council say they wanted to make the roads safer. Instead they insulted the intelligence of their constituents and raised the ire of punctuation advocates. The council voted in March to remove apostrophes from signs around the town after receiving a risk assessment that claimed apostrophes on signs confused readers. But locals and punctuation advocates cried foul. “It is appalling, disgusting and pointless,” Apostrophe Preservation Society chairman and founder John Richards told The Scotsman. “They have no regard for the English language.” The outcry appears to have worked. On March 28, Councillor Peter Hare-Scott recommended all apostrophes be returned to town signs.

Stabbing pain

For the past three years, Billy McNeely of Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories has been living with a three-inch piece of knife blade lodged in his back. The 32-year-old’s problems began in 2010 when a disagreement over a bout of arm wrestling turned into a brawl. McNeely was stabbed in the back during the fight. Unbeknownst to him, a three-inch piece of the blade snapped off and became lodged in his flesh during the fight. At the time, doctors stitched him up but did not perform an X-ray. “I always had back pains. There was always a burning feeling with it.” On March 25, the pain became too much for McNeely to bear. “I sat up, I tried to rub it and scratch it the way I always did, and then the tip of my nail caught a piece of something solid, something sharp.” With the help of his girlfriend, McNeely managed to discover the blade in his back. Doctors later cut the blade out. McNeely said he’s considering a lawsuit against the hospital that originally patched him up.

Traffic sham

Russians with a bit of cash and a serious lack of shame can now beat the snarling Moscow traffic. It’s not exactly legal, but that’s not stopping some entrepreneurial Russians from converting ambulances into luxury taxi cabs. For about $200 per hour, Russian VIPs can book rides in ambulances as the drivers use the emergency vehicle façade—and sirens—to carve a path quickly through Moscow’s famous traffic jams. Some ambulance cabs are even decked out with a luxury suite in place of the passenger bay. After learning of the service in March, Moscow police promised to begin spot-checking ambulances for the doppelgangers.

Flame grower

Authorities in Bowie County, Texas, are blaming a woman’s panic after encountering a snake in her front yard for a blaze that burned down her home. According to a sheriff’s department spokesman, the woman saw a snake in the grass outside her house on March 21. The spokesman said the woman then poured gasoline on the snake and set it on fire. “The snake went into the brush pile and the brush pile caught the home on fire,” spokesman Randall Baggett added. Several local fire departments responded to the fire, but the home was eventually lost in the flames.


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