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Dispatches Quick Takes

Quick Takes

(Illustration by Krieg Barrie)

Rescue bill

Now, the pre-hurricane warning of "stay at your own risk" could imply more than just a risk of bodily injury: It could imply economic risk too. The Texas state Senate passed a provision on April 24 declaring that people rescued by emergency workers after ignoring an emergency evacuation order would be forced to foot the bill. Despite an evacuation order preceding Hurricane Ike, more than 20,000 residents remained on Galveston Island in Texas when the storm made landfall on Sept. 13 last year. More than 3,000 were rescued. "They have that right to remain if they choose to," said Sen. John Carona, who authored the bill. "But they stay at their own peril, and they stay with the possibility that if recovery is necessary to preserve their lives, they'd pay the related cost." How much? A single hour of a helicopter rescue costs approximately $4,400.

'Altar' called

Sometimes catering to people with disabilities brings everyone down. That's the attitude of motorists seeking to park in a lot in Sheringham, Norfolk, in the United Kingdom. Local authorities installed a wheelchair-friendly pay station in one car park to make life a bit easier for disabled motorists. But at just three feet tall, the machine forces some patrons to kneel in order to pay for their parking space. Gerry Bedford, a retired chemist, told the Daily Mail, "I am 6-foot, 5-inches tall and I had to get down on my knees to use it. I saw a lady kneeling down to get her ticket as well and I remarked to her, 'It's a ticket machine, not an altar.'" Advocates for the disabled are also complaining: The short machine, they say, poses a real safety hazard to wheelchair-bound patrons who could fall out of their chairs reaching for a ticket at the bottom of the device.

Tough justice

Mr. T pities the fools who didn't show up to the Cook County Criminal Court building on April 27 for jury duty. That's because they missed out on spending their civic duty time with the colorful actor who starred in the hit television series The A-Team and in Rocky III. Chicago resident Mr. T signed autographs and posed for pictures with fellow potential jurors, court officials, and even the family of the defendant before jury selection. But the 1980s icon failed to make the final jury despite promising justice, T style. "If you're innocent, I'm your best man," he said. "But if you're guilty, I pity that fool."

Art games

For the sake of political peace, officials in the Czech Republic might hope life doesn't imitate art. That's because two Czech artists have created an exhibit that allows museum-goers the chance to fill a portrait of their least favorite local politician with pellets. The exhibit, titled "Kill Your Politician," invites patrons to aim a mounted air rifle at one of 200 portraits of members of the nation's lower house of parliament and blast away. "It's mostly youths that come, but we have also had managers in suits and pensioners," museum curator Milan Mikulastik told the AFP news service, adding that even an elderly woman with crutches took a turn. Mikulastik said he hopes the display would trigger a debate about the efficacy of the Czech Republic's political system.

Pole position

Rather than poison teachers with marijuana muffins or release scads of bees in the cafeteria, two Colorado high-school students hatched a senior prank at the nexus of hilarity and responsibility. Alex Almy and Jesse Poe welded an old Eagle hatchback around the flagpole of Fruita Monument High School near Grand Junction, Colo., where they are seniors. Adding to the level of difficulty: The seniors took care not to damage the flagpole. They premeasured the hole, slid the car into place, and welded the car back together. No harm, no foul says school principal Jody Mimmack: "We traditionally have a senior prank," Mimmack told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. "This one entailed a lot of planning and execution. It shows a lot of Wildcat pride."

Criminal enterprise

Jim Andrews has a way with words. And you can't blame him for that, unless you're Chicago city Alderman Robert Fioretti. The 2nd Ward alderman says he takes issue not so much with the business Andrews wants to run-a hot dog stand employing ex-convicts on Chicago's West Side. Rather, it's what Andrews plans to call the business that upsets Fioretti. In a send-up of West Side neighborhood's crime problems, Andrews wants to call his stand "Felony Franks." Andrews has a few slogan ideas too: "Home of the Misdemeanor Weiner" and "Food so good, it's criminal" are a few ideas. Fioretti isn't laughing: "This, no matter what anybody says, is not that cute of an idea. It's a great concept for ex-offenders, but it's a poor theme for a restaurant," he told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Siren song

The mystery noise that awoke many in the neighborhood surrounding the University of the District Columbia on April 29 turned out to be remnants of a long-forgotten civil defense system installed on campus in the 1970s. Worse than a blaring siren at 5:30 in the morning? No one knew how to turn it off. That's because until the alarm atop a UDC building went off, few university officials even knew it existed. And, for more than two hours, no one could stop it. After two hours, electricians were able to disconnect the upstart siren.

Vision quest

In real estate, it's location, location, location. Vision care in the United Kingdom apparently works the same way. Lesley Fletcher says the NHS, the government's socialized health-care service, is refusing to pay for medicine that will prevent her from going blind-just because of where she lives. Most local trusts will provide British citizens with Lucentis with a prescription, but Fletcher's local NHS trust west of Leeds is an exception. At $1,200 per treatment, her local NHS trust has deemed the treatment too expensive to be cost effective. And unless Fletcher can convince higher-ups in the bureaucracy to change their policy, her myopic macular degeneration will likely lead to sight loss.