Dispatches > Quick Takes
Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes


Issue: "Into thin air," Aug. 23, 2014

Breakfast bandit

Most break-ins are horrific, but some aren’t so bad. A Colorado Springs, Colo., man awoke July 23 to the smell of food cooking. Making his way to the kitchen, the man discovered intruder Josefina Gonsalez-Nieves toiling away at the frying pan. Apparently Gonsalez-Nieves, 27, got into the apartment through an unlocked door. And though she left before police arrived, officers later arrested the woman trying to break into another home.

Dietary concerns

Vladimir Putin apparently is paranoid. In the wake of his aggressive moves in Ukraine, the Russian president is taking greater than normal precaution against assassination attempts. Putin has even added a full-time food taster to his entourage. In a world where his next vodka could be laced with arsenic or his rice doused in ricin, Putin is following in the tradition of Roman emperors, two-bit dictators, and even American presidents in having a food taster on staff.

Crazy driver

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A joyrider in Myrtle Creek, Ore., was nearly naked and driving erratically when he crashed a jeep into a neighbor’s house. But don’t expect any jail time for the suspect: He’s a 3-year-old boy whose babysitter had fallen asleep. A witness dialed police on July 22 reporting that the unidentified toddler, clad only in a diaper, was behind the wheel of an SUV when it careened into the house. When police arrived, officers found the child quietly watching cartoons—and refusing to confess. Authorities, who say a relative babysitting the toddler was asleep, charged the child’s mother with failure to supervise.

Dry humor

Bottoms up, residents of Hanover, Manitoba. The people of Hanover had long thought the small Canadian enclave was dry, but that belief turned out to be an urban (or rural) legend. A recent legal review by local experts concluded that, though Hanover’s residents assumed the sale of alcohol was prohibited because of local laws dating back to the 19th century, the local prohibition was actually a fiction. Assuming Hanover to be a dry community, a group of residents pushed a referendum in 2006 to allow alcohol sales. The vote failed, but it turns out Hanover had never banned alcohol sales to begin with.

Sharp turns

A Chinese construction firm didn’t do its job well, but nobody can accuse it of cutting corners. Tasked with building a standard, Olympic-sized track in Tonghe County in Northern China, the construction crew eschewed the traditional gentle curves and instead built the track to have four right-angle turns. A local television reporter dispatched to the rectangular track reported the surface was of quality construction, but that running through a right-angled corner would likely hamper his 400-meter time.

Blade runner

Most dog owners wouldn’t want to publicize the fact their dog was injured while playing in blades of grass. But British dog owner Rebecca Richardson is not like most dog owners. The 48-year-old Brighton, U.K., resident said her 3-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel took off after a cat after a recent walk. The pursuit of the feline led the dog onto city land that hadn’t been mowed for quite a while. There, while chasing the cat, Richardson said her spaniel named Scooby tripped on grass and slipped a disc in his back. According to Richardson, residents had complained about the tall grass for weeks. The British woman says now she plans to sue the city in order to cover the $8,500 surgery for her pet.

Our classy Congress

Interns or summer recess boredom? Administrators with the online, open-source encyclopedia Wikipedia have temporarily blocked a number of computers at the U.S. House of Representatives from making changes to the site’s articles. Wikipedia allows users to write and edit entries. The 10-day ban, imposed on July 24, stems from an episode where users in the House made false and misleading edits to the article on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In edits made from Capitol Hill computers, the former Bush administration official was described as an “alien lizard who eats Mexican babies.” Wikipedia editors found other tampered articles from congressional offices.

Crime and payment

Nigel Sykes would have never found $260,000 in the cash box of a Newport, Del., pizzeria. So now the Delaware man is trying to win it in a lawsuit. Sykes admitted to forcing his way into Seasons Pizza through the back door, brandishing a gun, and demanding money in November 2010. But during the robbery, Sykes was disarmed by a restaurant employee. What followed, according to charges made by Sykes in a federal civil lawsuit, was an assault in which store employees used excessive force. “All of the Season’s Pizza employees participated in punching, kicking and pouring hot soup over my body. I was unarmed and defenseless and had to suffer a brutal beating,” Sykes, who is now serving a 15-year sentence for the robbery attempt, wrote in his lawsuit. Judges had dismissed the lawsuit in 2011 and 2013. But the convicted felon persisted, filing again this year and asking for $260,000 in damages. In April, a federal judge allowed the suit to move forward.


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