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Dispatches Quick Takes

Name dropper II

James Paul Egan went to great lengths to conceal his identity when he allegedly robbed a Bakersfield, Calif., convenience store-at least at first. Police say he wore a bandanna over his face, a knit hat, and gloves. But as he fled he threw into a nearby yard those items plus a jacket that had his county jail identification card in the pocket. Police used the card to track Mr. Egan to his home, where they found him hiding in the attic.

Shamed straight

Ohio officials are hoping public humiliation will work where other penalties for drunk driving have not. The state's new "scarlet letter" law requires special, eye-catching license plates for offenders who are still allowed limited driving privileges. The plates have red numbers on a yellow background. Judges have been able to use the plates as an optional form of punishment since 1967, and some have liked the idea. Centerville Municipal Court judge John Adkins told the Toledo Blade that drivers know the plates are "a magnet" for police attention: "The highway patrol tells me these people with the plates drive right down the center of the lane going 55 mph."

Hungry lady

Sonya Thomas is a little lady with a hefty appetite. The 105-pound Virginian again out-ate a 400-pound male runner-up in an International Federation of Competitive Eating contest (see WORLD, Dec. 13). This time Ms. Thomas won the title Fruitcake Champion by downing almost five pounds of fruitcake in 10 minutes. Ms. Thomas holds the female world record for eating 24 hot dogs in 12 minutes and 68 hard-boiled eggs in eight minutes.

'I knew he'd come back one day'

A Moroccan soldier named Abderrahim and his bride Bahia may be the reluctant holders of the record for the longest engagement: 24 years. The Reuters news service reports that the couple was married late last year after not seeing each other since Abderrahim's 1979 capture by separatist guerrillas. The rebels held the soldier captive until November of last year, when they released him along with 300 other prisoners. The groom said he had "blind confidence" in his intended and "was convinced" that she would wait for him. Bahia knew that he had been captured but hadn't heard news of him for six years. "I never thought I had lost my husband," she said. "I knew he'd come back one day."

Mid-flight rescue

Of all the places to have a heart attack, a plane heading to Florida turned out to be the best one for Dorothy Fletcher of Liverpool, England. The Daily Telegraph reports that when a flight attendant called for a doctor after Ms. Fletcher collapsed, 15 cardiologists came forward within seconds to offer help. The physicians were en route to a conference on heart disease. Ms. Fletcher has since recovered and attended her daughter's wedding.

Name dropper III

Brittany Ann McDermott was even less cagey than Mr. Egan was when she allegedly robbed a Salt Lake City bank with accomplice Russell John Bloss. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Ms. McDermott wrote her holdup note on the back of a personal check. The pair got away with $1,300, but they didn't get far. Police tracked the pair to the address on the check and charged them with aggravated robbery.

Name dropper

Saddam Hussein is not a mass murderer, his father insists, and he wants his son's name cleared. Or, more precisely, changed. That's because Mohsen al-Harithy's son is not the former Iraqi dictator turned spider-hole dweller but a 14-year-old Saudi boy who is constantly teased by classmates for sharing the name of the captured strongman. The Arab News reports that Mr. al-Harithy first tried to have the boy's name changed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, but an Iraqi missile attack on a Saudi government building in Riyadh destroyed the boy's file. Recent events, and fights between his son and classmates, have prompted Mr. al-Harithy to try again: "The Saddam name now symbolizes pessimism, evil, mockery, and disappointment all at once."