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Dispatches Quick Takes

Gator bait

Gator bait

A Bonita Springs, Fla., woman had quite a shock when she went to answer her front door. It wasn't a door-to-door salesman that had invaded her gated neighborhood. It was an 8-foot bull alligator. "He was pretty big, pretty aggressive," Lori Pachelli said. Instead of confronting the loitering gator, Mrs. Pachelli slammed the door on it and called her husband, who called animal control. But before the trapper could get there, the gator slipped back into a nearby lake where it was later trapped.

Paid attendance

Only grace can get Chicago atheist Hemant Mehta into heaven, but Jim Henderson is at least getting him into church. The 22-year-old Mr. Mehta put his Sunday mornings up for auction on eBay in January, agreeing to attend a church worship service "with an open mind" one time for every $10 bid. Mr. Henderson, president of the Christian organization Off the Map, placed the winning bid last month at $504. Mr. Mehta agreed to visit area churches and then write about them in his atheistic newspaper. Chicago churches can e-mail to apply for a visit. "If they want the truth on how they're seen by non-Christians," said Mr. Henderson, "this guy will give it to them."


Everyone knows French President Jacques Chirac didn't like the war in Iraq, but what the politician really hates is English-particularly when it comes from the mouth of a Frenchman. Mr. Chirac stormed out of a European Union summit meeting when the French-born head of the European business lobby switched from French to English in the middle of a speech to EU leaders. "I have to say I was profoundly shocked to see a Frenchman express himself in English at the [EU] Council table," Mr. Chirac told reporters in French. "It is not just national interest; it is in the interest of culture and the dialogue of cultures. You cannot build the world of the future on just one language and, hence, one culture."

Left behind

A forgetful dad could face a 30-day jail term for forgetting his daughter. Jonathan Sander of Maryland apparently took his keys and cell phone onto a train bound for Washington, D.C., but left his 7-month-old daughter in the back seat of his car. When he got to Washington, about 12 miles from the train station, he remembered, and jumped a northbound train back to his daughter. But other commuters noticed the baby girl and firefighters had already picked the locks and freed her. The baby was given back to the mother, but Mr. Sander could face a $500 fine and jail time.

Scene of the crime

When authorities in Texas want to find people to arrest for public intoxication, they know just where to look: a bar. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission launched a new sting operation in the Lone Star State in March: Instead of waiting for drunks to walk out of bars, officers went in and arrested folks bellying up to the bar. A spokeswoman for the commission said the state's public intoxication laws are just as valid inside of a tavern as outside.

Bunny ban

Government officials in St. Paul, Minn., took the precaution of removing an Easter Bunny display inside the lobby of city hall, saying it wasn't the city's place to promote religion. No word yet from St. Paul officials on exactly what religion the candy-bearing Easter Bunny promotes. In any event, council member Dave Thune said he was sad to see the clichéd icon go. "This has just gone too far," he said. "We can't celebrate spring with bunnies and fake grass?"