Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes


Issue: "The one and the many," Sept. 20, 2014

Burned out

Too soon? British diplomats based in the United States were left asking that question on Aug. 24 after the United Kingdom’s American embassy tweeted out a joke picture on Twitter on the 200th anniversary of the British burning of the White House during the War of 1812. The tweeted picture featured a White House themed cake adorned with ignited sparklers. The caption read, “Commemorating the 200th anniversary of the burning of the White House. Only with sparklers this time!” More than 4,000 retweets later, when it became clear that many Americans found the British embassy’s joke about the destruction of a national icon to be off-putting, officials at the embassy tweeted an apology to their official feed.

Floating display

Dockworkers in Los Angeles were left scratching their heads on Aug. 20 as the world’s largest inflatable bathtub toy dropped anchor at the Port of Los Angeles. The 60-foot-tall giant inflatable rubber duck that sailed into Los Angeles is the brainchild of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. The artist took the oversized yellow oddity to California for the commencement of the Tall Ships Festival LA. The inflatable sculpture, named Rubber Duck, is one of several such installations that Hofman has placed on display around the world. The Los Angeles showing is just the third appearance of the gag in the United States, having previously been on display in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Norfolk, Va.

Clean break

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Fresh out of jail, a New Mexico man got himself in trouble trying to freshen up. Police say 43-year-old Rudy Chavez broke into an elderly Albuquerque man’s home in the early morning hours of Aug. 13 and demanded a shower. According to a police report, Chavez showered and shaved—all while holding 94-year-old Glen Miller at gunpoint. Miller told police the burglar said he had just been released from prison and needed to tidy up before hunting for a job. Police say Chavez cleaned up, then helped himself to a set of Miller’s clothes, his television, and his car before fleeing. Authorities say Chavez did leave something at Miller’s home: his fingerprints on the razor. Those fingerprints allowed police to arrest Chavez and charge him with several felonies.

Caught cold

It’s an unwritten rule. Some people have no business doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: The very young, the very old, and fugitives. A 20-year-old Omaha, Neb., man gave local police the lead they needed when he posted a video of himself participating in the wildly popular charity meme on social media. Jesean Morris posted a video of himself pouring ice water over his head on his Facebook account. But another Facebook user, who knew Morris had an outstanding warrant for violating his parole, saw the video and was able to identify the location of Morris’ safe house from the background. One phone call later to the police, officers were able to stake out the building and put handcuffs on Morris on Aug. 22.

Queens bees

A Queens, N.Y., woman has discovered that where there are a few honeybees, there are likely to be thousands more. For weeks, Frieda Turkmenilli has seen bees in her apartment, especially near her bedroom ceiling. “I didn’t really pay that much attention. I just let them fly around,” she told CBS New York. But after her bee-allergic neighbors complained, Turkmenilli arranged in August for beekeepers to take care of what she thought was a small problem. Instead, the beekeepers found a hive containing 17 honeycombs and some 50,000 bees. Rather than destroy the insects, the beekeepers arranged transportation for the honeycombs and bees to an upstate New York farm.

Time release

Nearly 70 years following the conclusion of World War II, Allied bombs are still exploding in Germany. Or, at least one is. Emergency crews working near Offenbach in central Germany detonated an unexploded British bomb on Aug. 19 after a local construction crew discovered the ordnance embedded along the edge of the Autobahn 3. Unable to diffuse the 1,100-pound bomb, the ordnance crew had to shut down the busy German highway. The explosion left a 65-foot-wide crater in the Autobahn, closing that portion of the highway indefinitely.

Dead letter

An 80-year-old British widow was horrified after an official letter she received in July showed that her pension company considered her deceased. The woman, who lives in Lincolnshire, U.K., but has only been identified to the press as Mrs. Fulton, opened the letter and read a condolence note addressed to the executor of her estate from an employee at Standard Life, the administrator of her pension. Most concerning, the letter made it clear Standard Life intended to stop her pension payments. “You can imagine how shocked I was to receive the letter,” Fulton told The Telegraph. “Fortunately I still have my wits about me.” The elderly woman was quickly able to dispel the news of her death with a phone call to Standard Life, which hastened to send her a pension payment, an $80 cash gift, and a bouquet of apology flowers.


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