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Dispatches Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Fire sale

The deals were red hot. And so was the building. Not even a fire could keep holiday shoppers away from a shopping mall in Mentor, Ohio. As black smoke from an electrical fire billowed throughout a Dillard's store in the Great Lakes Mall, firefighters had to convince shoppers to put down merchandise and flee the burning building. Some firefighters even had to bar the store's entrance.

Map quest

Georgia residents checking out the new state road map might notice their state thinning out. And it's by design. Georgia's Department of Transportation erased 515 small communities from the agency's official 2006 road map. Some Georgians aren't thrilled about being excluded from the state's maps: "We're still here," Dennis Holt of the Hickory Level Community Association told a local television station. "We've been here since 1828."

A bunch of saps

For some Indians, their wooden idols happen to be actual trees. Disturbed by an outbreak of robberies, murders, and other crimes, natives of Malda, India, decided to conduct a wedding ceremony for a pair of conjoined trees in order to ward off evil spirits. "Worshipping the trees will bring peace on earth," one man told the Reuters news service, while a woman believed "the trees only can save us." Spectators brought wedding gifts, including some saris for the newlywed trees.

Fraud alert

Finding that too many people simply delete emails promising lucrative business deals, Nigerian email scammers have a new target: American churches. Using the same model of previous scams, some Nigerian criminals have been contacting small American congregations saying the death of an important Nigerian official could mean a huge windfall for ministry in Africa or for improvements to the American church-if only the church can help the Nigerian scam artist with paying taxes on the estate or the legal fee. According to ABC News, congregants from Hickory Ridge Community Church in Delaware were taken for $350,000 when they believed the fake testimony of a number of Nigerians posing as Christians.

A ewe for you

A drought-struck Australian sheep farmer has a novel way of raising money to feed sheep as the pasture slowly grows back. He's letting environmentalists and animal lovers adopt his rams, ewes, or lambs. For $35 dollars a head, farmer Michael Kiely says he'll be able to feed one of his wooly animals through the drought. What does the adopter get? A chance to name the animal and, says Kiely on his website, karma. The sheep's reaction? In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Kiely admitted they had little reaction: "Sheep are very blasé, they tend to look straight through you at the piece of grass over there."

Owning the road

Just in time for Christmas: the gift that, quarter by quarter, keeps on giving. Until Dec. 22, anyone interested will be able to place bids on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania says it may sell in a privatization deal if the price is right. The famous toll road generated $571.5 million in revenue last year and was used by 188 million vehicles. Gov. Ed Rendell says he hopes to raise somewhere between $2 billion and $30 billion on the deal-money he says Pennsylvania would use to fund transportation infrastructure.