News of the Weird

STORIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE HEADLINES
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listening bank

Pakistan: Having trouble raising money for a new wine bar or software company? Then punch in Islamabad 920881 and ask the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, for advice. He will be manning the telephone between 9am and 9.45am once a week and will give all comers 60 seconds of his time to discuss any difficulties with business loans.

rebel, rebel

US: "We make no comments on students," says Rex Camp, chairman of Georgian County Day School in Carrollton, which expelled 15-year-old cross-dressing "Alex" McLendon. Camp and the staff and pupils had no idea that Alex was a boy when admitted as a girl (with his/her father's knowledge). Pupils, however, have taken a more relaxed attitude, one asking: "What's so weird about that?" Camp, however, cited the technicality of a banned tongue- stud, and Alex had to go. Pupils have worn bows in their hair as a protest. "I just look like a girl and dress like a girl," says Alex, "it wasn't anything flamboyant, not sequins or anything. It's going to be a real shock for some of these parents when their kids get out into the real world."

without words

Turkey: Jeremy Paxman is unlikely to succumb to any wooing by headhunters from the Kanal D television station in Ankara. After it broadcast comments about the cabinet minister Ms Isilay Saygin's self-proclaimed celibacy - indeed, virginity - the station was taken off the air, which has provoked a hunger strike by a comedian, Levent Kirca. Meanwhile, Ms Saygin insists that she is simply too busy to bother with sex.

criminal chronicle

Indonesia: In Jakarta, 12 people accused of black magic had to recite Islamic prayers at their trial. If they were indeed sorcerers, they would fall dead on the spot. They survived, but still require police protection.

Massachusetts: A comatose woman has given birth after being raped in a nursing home. This has also happened recently to a comatose woman in Rochester; and to another in Lawrence, where nobody had any idea that the woman was pregnant until a few hours before she went into labour. Scott Parkin, of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, says that moves are afoot to increase security, but adds: "It's even scarier for people on their own."

Utah: The FBI in Layton arrested Anthony Passorelli and his brother Jim for dealing in cocaine. Unlike his brother, Jim pleads not guilty - and now claims that while he was in jail, the FBI not only searched his house but alleviated this legwork with a spot of leg-over: the agents used his Direct TV to order Fetish, When Boyz Meet Girls and Fashion Plate at $7.99 or $5.99 a throw. His lawyer, Aric Cramer, is suing Davis County for theft and burglary. "There was no purpose in watching the movies on his TV, even if it was not pay-per-view and it was Mary Poppins."

California: A thief in Long Beach was given 50,000 volts from a stun baton after speaking out of turn in court. He faces a retrial next month.

New York: William Amaroy, former chairman of the charity United Way, was jailed for seven years after using its funds to bankroll several mistresses. He has now sued the charity for $4.3m after it reneged on his pension. The federal judge, Shira Scheindlin, saw his point, and said: "A felon, no matter how despised, does not lose his right to enforce a contract." Aramoy will, however, have to be content with $2.3m - the difference being the charity's costs in the case.

hallowe'en tales

China: Two Bulgarian students, dressed in skulls and black outfits, were hauled in by police upon suspicion of being Cuban terrorists.

New Jersey: Hallowe'en is over but a special law remains in force in Camden: anybody who wishes to buy eggs can be asked for evidence to prove that they are over 21.

Texas: A 16-year-old boy faces a maximum of 20 years in jail after being charged with shooting a 13-year-old playmate in the back of the head and paralysing him. The cause of his upset? Having pumpkin pie poured on his head.

mysterious ways

Thailand: Five Buddhist worshippers were killed near Bangkok when three 88ft-high ceremonial joss-sticks were saturated with rain and collapsed. These contravened regulations, but, as a police chief asserted: "They were built for religious purposes, and no one wanted to obstruct a good thing done in the name of religion."

Oregon: In Portland, a washing-machine or dishwasher is the appliance of religion. The city's General Electric Company is refusing to pay compensation after a power surge destroyed customers' equipment. It says that this was an "act of God" but refuses to say why the deity took against domestic appliances in such a cavalier fashion.

Cyprus: Two priests were photographed leaving a brothel in Paphos. One of them, Father Papayiannas, was also having an affair with a stripper, but the other one denies any wrongdoing. He says that he thought he was collecting his friend from "a small hotel".

bin laden

Chile: Christian Latbe, the mayor of Providencia, has forbidden the collection of garbage from the Spanish ambassador's house until General Pinochet is set free.

California: Professor Elena Zagustina, a civil engineering expert, has taken an idiosyncratic approach to her own house in Glendale. It contravenes at least 90 regulations. For a decade neighbours have complained about her accumulating garbage, storing human waste in buckets rather than installing running water, and providing a refuge for rodents and insects. Jurors were visibly shocked by photographs.

New York: 300 panic-stricken residents of Greenburgh were recently called in the middle of the night. They ran to their telephones, but instead of news of sudden death, there was only a recorded voice telling that that the times of garbage collection had been altered.

bad score

Vermont: the Caldor chain apologises for sending out 11 million copies of an advertising brochure, distributed in 85 newspapers across north- east America: overlooked was the fact that in one photograph, two smiling boys were playing Scrabble, the word "rape" visible on the board.

metamorphoses

Taiwan: Get your snouts out of the trough and listen. Hsu-I-shang, of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, has apologised "to all the pigs of the world." Neither democratic nor progressive was his tossing of live piglets at aides to the Taiwan governor James Soong, as a protest against his profligate policies.

a little learning

Missouri: At the University of Missouri in Columbia, there will be less reason for high jinks. Officials have decreed that any fraternity house with freshmen in it must be alcohol-free.

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pet theories

India: at Saikopwwa, in Uttar Pradesh, the cobra is now sacred. No sooner had one entered a house, making the occupants flee, then the building collapsed. Another sat by a baby to protect it from wolves while, unawares, his mother worked in the rice fields.

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