Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes


Issue: "50 years after the bomb," Sept. 21, 2013

Mixed signal

Time Warner Cable is serving up technology from the past to some 3 million customers: a free set of bunny-ear antennas for their televisions. The cable giant, which blacked out CBS programming beginning on Aug. 2 during negotiations with the network, sent the message with the antenna offer in a late-night email to customers dated Aug. 23. The dispute with CBS rises from the cable provider’s unwillingness to pay a $2-per-customer carriage fee. Under the old contract, Time Warner paid a dollar or less per customer to carry CBS programming. According to the company email, affected users in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Milwaukee, and Green Bay, Wis., may pick up a free indoor antenna at customer service centers in those cities or receive a $20 voucher to purchase a set of bunny ears at Best Buy.

Supreme test

Legal analysts widely dissected a recent talk given by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, but one throwaway line really stunned the crowd. Speaking before an audience at the Chase Theater in Providence, R.I., on Aug. 20, Kagan said she and other justices on the nine-member panel had played violent video games on the job. According to Kagan, some of the justices rolled up their sleeves and tried a few violent video games while deliberating on a 2011 case in which the court was considering a ban on violent video games marketed to children. In a 7-2 decision, the court threw out the ban on First Amendment grounds—but only after picking up a set of controllers for themselves.

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Threatened by an armed assailant, the owner of a Linden, N.J., deli went medieval on the perpetrator. On Aug. 19, a man wearing a blue winter coat entered Cos’s Corner Deli, brandished a gun, and demanded money from the owner. But while the would-be thief was trying to jimmy open the register, the quick-thinking owner went for a vat of scalding hot oil placed next to the deep fat fryer and flung the liquid at the perp’s face. And when the scalding oil connected, the robber staggered, then lurched back through the front door in pain. Police notified local hospitals to be on the lookout for a man with severe face burns.

Blazing Gunn

He may not have the sense of sight, but Stuart Gunn of Edinburgh, Scotland, has a keen sense of speed. Gunn, 39, both blind and partially paralyzed, set a new world record on Aug. 17 by becoming the fastest blind and disabled biker. With his father riding nearby giving directions through an intercom system, Gunn opened the throttle on his motorcycle to a speed of 167.1 mph, beating the previous record for blind and disabled bikers by more than 3 mph. Gunn not only overcame disabilities to set the record, but bad memories. In 2002, he crashed his motorcycle, resulting in a broken back, shattered ribs, and paralysis on the right side of his body.

Evidence in hand

Usually, “caught red-handed” is figurative. Not in this case. Police in Ypsilanti, Mich., had no trouble identifying the person responsible for the fresh graffiti on the side of a local business. The 13-year-old suspect apprehended by police on Aug. 26 had the evidence on him: hands covered in red paint that matched the paint on the side of the building.

All ears 

In all the years Ben Klunk, 81, has farmed he’s never seen anything like the ear of sweet corn he snagged on Aug. 7. The farmer from Hanover, Pa., plucked a four-headed ear, telling the Hanover Evening Sun, “I’ve never been too lucky. … This is a once in a lifetime ear of corn.” Klunk said he has no plans to eat the unique ear. Instead he showed it to his wife, then placed it in the refrigerator.

Extra special delivery

Some postal workers brave snow, sleet, and rain to deliver the mail, but one Canadian postal worker braves something worse. After a three-week suspension of the route because of safety concerns, Calgary postal carrier Rick Tobin began delivering mail again on Aug. 19, all the while fending off angry hawks flying overhead. Residents in the Lake Bonavista neighborhood are getting used to Tobin making his appointed rounds holding letters in one arm and brandishing a tennis racquet with the other. According to Tobin, one territorial raptor has targeted him specifically, circling overhead before dive-bombing him or his colleague who acts as a spotter. Residents say the birds leave locals alone, but target men in uniform.

Trek talk

There’s no French. No Arabic. And no German. But if you speak Klingon, the Illinois Department of Employment Security has a translation for you. The department website where unemployed Illinois residents file for welfare benefits features translations of the site’s contents into five languages: Spanish, Polish, Maltese, Russian, and Klingon, the pseudo-language created for the Star Trek television and film franchise. According to department officials, the translations are a free service of Microsoft translation services and cost taxpayers nothing. “We kept it up because every now and then, people notice it, and whenever people are drawn to our website to see the benefits that we offer, that’s a good thing,” spokesman Greg Rivera told the Chicago Tribune.


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