Dispatches > Quick Takes
Hakan Hort

Quick Takes


Issue: "2013 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 14, 2013

Icy hot 

Every winter, artists and entrepreneurs come together in Sweden’s frigid north to build a unique hotel from blocks of ice hewn from the frozen Torne River in Jukkasjärvi. And every spring, the Icehotel melts away when temperatures finally rise. But this year, builders of the structure will have to include one more thing on their punch list: fire alarms. According to local government officials, the Icehotel must comply with building codes. And despite being constructed entirely of frozen river water, the hotel’s owners must include a series of fire alarms.

Slow going

It wasn’t so much what he stole, it’s how he stole it. Police say 33-year-old Michael Pusey stole a backhoe from a Chester County, Pa., construction site on Nov. 10. But instead of loading the $125,000 construction vehicle onto a trailer, Pusey fired the backhoe up, navigated it onto Interstate 76, and drove it into Philadelphia. Police believe the 30-mile trek took Pusey about 2.5 hours. Thankfully, the construction company had equipped the backhoe with a GPS tracker, making it easy for police to recover the vehicle and catch Pusey.

Monied migrants

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For wealthy foreigners looking to immigrate through the back door, some Maltese politicians have a proposal: citizenship for sale. Politicians on the Mediterranean island of Malta proposed selling citizenship to the EU member nation for $872,000 per person. Maltese citizens gain access to all 28 EU member states. The Maltese parliament passed the legislation in November, and it garnered a presidential signature. But in the wake of mass protests ginned up by the nation’s nationalist party, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat put the proposal on hold on Nov. 19. Critics declared the citizenship-for-sale scheme as improper while supporters in parliament said the plan could bring in more than $40 million in revenue to the cash-strapped country.

Pricey in pink

If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then the Nov. 13 Sotheby’s auction in Geneva, Switzerland, would have been the place to be. The auction house set a world record for priciest jewelry auction, summing nearly $200 million in sales—including more than $80 million for one stone. Collector Isaac Wolf of New York topped rivals by bidding $83 million for the plum-sized Pink Star diamond, a 59.6-carat pink stone. “There is no stone of that size and color known, no other stone,” auctioneer David Bennett told reporters after the sale. That night, Wolf announced he would change the name of the gem to the Pink Dream.

Aid first

When a clumsy break-in attempt awoke one Salt Lake City, Utah, man, he dialed 9-1-1. But resident Pablo Solorio wasn’t phoning for police—not initially. On Nov. 14, an unidentified intruder broke through Solorio’s glass window ostensibly to pilfer some of the resident’s electronic gadgets. But during the break-in, the suspected thief severely cut his arm. Instead of attacking the intruder, Solorio phoned for paramedics and rendered first aid. Police say the 20-year-old suspect will be tried for burglary after recovering.

Small problem

They’re slippery. They’re slimy. They’re tiny. But they’re invading—albeit slowly. Dane County, Wis., officials say they’re worried about the discovery of New Zealand mud snails in local waterways. With no natural predators—and a tendency to reproduce quickly—the discovery of the snails in Black Earth Creek in October could portend ecological disaster for many Wisconsin waterways. Dozens of the snails can fit on the head of a dime, biologists say. That means the snails could potentially hitch rides to other waterways by attaching to fishermen and animals alike. “Once you have them,” University of Wisconsin researcher Tim Campbell told theJournal-Times, “it’s impossible to get rid of them.”

Council of the absurd

What are China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia all well-known for? According to the United Nations, it’s their record on human rights. The four nations—described by watchdogs as restrictive or repressive—all won three-year seats on the UN Human Rights Council in a November election at the UN’s General Assembly. Governments in Iran and Syria had also considered running for a spot on the council, but pulled back after international criticism. Highlighting the quartet’s own human rights problems, Cuba announced earlier this year it may allow the Red Cross to access its prisons for the first time in a quarter century along with international officials to investigate allegations of torture.

No more knobs

If you like your knob, you can keep it. But beginning in March 2014, the city of Vancouver, Canada, will begin its phased-in ban on all doorknobs in the city. Homes and buildings with doorknobs won’t have to change a thing, say city officials. Instead, builders of new homes and buildings in the city will be forced to equip doors—and faucets—with lever-action handles. The move comes as city officials attempt to make the town more accessible to handicapped residents. Levers are easier to operate than knobs for people missing thumbs and with other disabilities.


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