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Dispatches Quick Takes

Quick Takes

(Illustration by Krieg Barrie)

Phoning it in

For a trio of car robbers, an accidentally placed 911 call was more than an embarrassment: It was their downfall. The group of thieves was attempting to snag a car in Middletown, N.Y., when one of their cell phones accidentally dialed 911 while resting in a pocket. When a dispatcher picked up the call, he heard everything. "I got some guys on the phone. . . . It's a cell phone but it sounds like they are ripping off a car," said the dispatcher who picked up the call, according to WCBS radio. "Dialed in their pocket by mistake. They are taking the tires off a car." By the time the robbers hung up the phone, the dispatcher had gotten enough GPS information to direct police to the local auto body shop where the thieves were stashing the vehicle.

Smile police

Thailand has a problem that red paint can fix. "For our highway policemen, we have the policy that the police must be friendly and smiling all the time, but the problem is, when we're tired, it's hard to keep smiling," Colonel Somyos Promnim, the Highway Police commander, told the International Herald Tribune. To wit, patrolmen of the Highway Police in Thailand have taken to painting bright red smiley faces on their pollution masks in an attempt to lift the spirits of grumpy Thai motorists. Don't expect all Thai motorists to reciprocate.

Stub flub

Alleged bank robber Thomas Infante made two mistakes: Infante's second mistake was spelling, according to an FBI affidavit: "Be Quick Be Quit [sic] Give your cash fast or I'll shoot," read Infante's note to a teller at a Chicago bank. But it was Infante's first mistake-the paper he chose to use for the note-that ultimately allowed the FBI to catch him so quickly. According to authorities, Infante wrote the heist note on the back of his pay stub from a Jewell grocery store that included information that led agents to quickly catch the suspected robber. Now the Cary, Ill., man could face up to 20 years behind bars.

Making waves

It's possibly the last place voters in Georgia's 4th Congressional district expected former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney to pop up next. Seamen with the Israeli Navy pulled the former representative and 2008 Green Party presidential candidate off a wrecked boat near the coast of Gaza. McKinney said she was leading a humanitarian relief mission ostensibly to deliver food and medical supplies into Gaza when her boat accidentally crashed into a vessel of the Israeli Navy. Aware enough of the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza war zone-but not aware enough to realize that piloting an unmarked vessel through an Israeli naval blockade might be seen as "provocative"-McKinney said she was surprised by Israel's aggression toward her ship. Clearly, Israeli officials saw things a bit differently: "We regret that during this time of crisis, while Israel is battling with the terrorist organization of Hamas and defending its citizens, that we are forced to deal with Ms. McKinney's irresponsible behavior," the Israeli consulate said in a statement.

Young love

The average age of a first marriage for German men is 32. For German women it's 29. But don't tell that to 6-year-old Mika and 7-year-old Anna-Lena of Hanover. The two sweethearts reportedly decided to elope to Africa early on New Year's Day and brought along Anna-Lena's 5-year-old sister as a witness. With their belongings packed and their parents asleep, the three children walked to a local tram stop, took a tram to the central train station, and waited for a train to the airport. Security guards at the station spotted them and heard their story, convinced them they wouldn't get far without money, and contacted their parents. But all is not lost for Mika and Anna-Lena, police spokesman Holger Jureczko told the AFP news service: "They can still put their plan into action at a later date."

Six times nine lives

While responding to a fire at a local residence, firefighters in Buckinghamshire, England, found another purpose for tiny oxygen masks designed for babies. Firefighters were told all the humans had escaped from the burning structure, but seven cats remained. The fire crew was able to locate six of the smoked out felines trapped inside the house, bringing them outside and reviving them with the baby-sized oxygen masks. "A few of them were unconscious or a little woozy but they soon came around," a spokesman for the fire and rescue service told the Daily Mail.

Rock and a hard place

Finders keepers rules do not apply in the case of one of the largest gemstones ever unearthed. A federal judge in California will decide who gets possession of the gigantic, 850-pound Bahia Emerald that was once appraised at $370 million. Three parties claim ownership: a California man, the company he hired to sell it, and a third party claiming to have bought it. A flimflam artist with fake papers stole the rock from a secure vault in suburban Los Angeles and moved it to a Las Vegas warehouse in September. With a court order, deputies repossessed the emerald for safekeeping with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department until the judge can determine ownership.

Run down

Police in Monterrey, Mexico, say a woman well known for spending her days begging for change from her wheelchair fled on foot Jan. 5 after a bungled attempt to rob a furniture store. Authorities say the 30-year-old woman and her husband tried to break a window in a local storefront when they were scared away by a security guard. Police arrested the couple when they returned to the furniture store to recover her wheelchair.

Far from home page

The skyline pictured on a Wisconsin state government website wasn't Madison, the state's capital-or even Milwaukee, the state's largest city. "I'm looking at that thinking, what the heck?" state Sen. Jeff Plale told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Dec. 29. What Plale saw on the state's new website for campaign finance disclosures was a picture of the Wisconsin state capitol building set against a backdrop of the Minneapolis, Minn., skyline. State officials paid $1 million to develop the site, but say they won't be able to cut out the image of a Minnesota city from the site's home page until later in January. "The state doesn't need to outsource their skyline," Steve Filmanowicz, aide to former Milwaukee mayor John O. Norquist, told the Sentinel.