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Dispatches Quick Takes

(Don't) go fly a kite

Kite flying isn't just child's play in Pakistan-it's illegal. The nation's supreme court decided in December to extend an October ban on selling or flying kites in the Asian nation. Government officials say kite flying has become dangerous, even deadly. Kite enthusiasts say it's religious persecution. Kite flying is a big deal at Basant, a Hindu festival in Lahore that attracts tens of thousands of kite fliers. Hardline Muslims in the government consider the event a waste of time and money. Nearly 20 people died last February at the Basant festival-some in kite-related accidents (including falling from rooftops and slices from metal kite strings). To protest the court's action, about 500 kite-loving activists tried to attend the hearings. Police used tear gas and batons to repel the crowd.

False start

His eye was on the sparrow when the exterminator pulled the trigger. A domino enthusiast ordered a recalcitrant house sparrow shot after it infiltrated an Amsterdam museum before a world-record domino attempt. By accident, the sparrow tipped a tile, setting off a chain reaction early that knocked over 23,000 dominos. Organizers demanded an exterminator assassinate the bird with an air rifle before it could set any of the other 4 million-plus dominos in motion. Animal-rights groups, who decried the shooting as an overreaction, condemned the killing, launched a memorial website for the bird, held a brief memorial, and urged prosecutors to open a criminal investigation. The exterminator who took out the bird was fined $235.

Pub flub

Location, location, location. Apparently one Akron, Ohio, tavern owner forgot to check. Mike Bolognue thought he had a good thing when he opened Legends Sports Pub & Grille in nearby Plain Township. That is, until he discovered the district in which he built his bar was dry. Though that was a definite crimp in his plans (Mr. Bolognue's other sports bar makes 60 percent of its revenue off alcohol sales), the businessman says he plans to keep the dry pub open at least until next May when voters can vote on whether Plain Township remains a dry community. "We're the only sports bar in the world, we think, that doesn't sell alcohol," Mr. Bolognue said.

Worst buy

Instead of naming the hot Christmas gifts for 2005, an Australian magazine, Choice, created a list of most useless holiday gifts. It included

  • Electric ice shaver
  • Ice cream maker
  • Foot spa
  • Aroma therapy diffusers
  • Hair removal products.

Caffeine jolt

One former Hamtramck, Mich., police officer would apparently do anything for soda-even Taser his partner. The Hamtramck Police Department fired Ronald Dupuis after he went to extraordinary measures to try to get his partner, Prema Graham, to pull over the squad car so he could pick up a soft drink. At first, he simply pleaded. Then he tried to grab the wheel of the cruiser. When she resisted, he pulled his Taser out and shot her in the leg. He could face up to three months in jail for the stunt.

Scavenger hunt

Folks in Baghdad's Green Zone with nothing better to do have begun visiting a former Saddam Hussein bunker that Americans targeted with a pair of one-ton bombs during the 2003 invasion. So what does a bunker look like after taking that sort of punishment? Actually, Saddam's former hideout made it through pretty well. Built by Germans in the mid-1980s, the bunker below the Believers Palace remains structurally sound, if shaken. And like tourists going to Arkansas for diamond hunting, visitors scour the floors of the bunker trying to find crystals from the expensive chandeliers that hung overhead until bunker-busting bombs shook, but didn't break, the structure.