News of the Weird

Stories from Around the World that Didn't Make the Headlines, Compiled by Christopher Hawtree
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The Independent Culture
Mexico: Not since those models of the Eiffel Tower made Alec Guinness gasp in The Lavender Hill Mob has there been such a scene. Children greedy for the chips sold outside the gates of the Luis Potosi school became even more so after sprinkling them with the salt in sachets from the stall. Pure cocaine, it led them to demand seconds.

Paris: The recent decision by Disneyland in Florida to allow staff to wear their costumes on the way home exposes them to danger, judging by the French experience. In Disneyland itself, children are so violent that security guards now patrol, even escorting Mickey and Minnie to safety. "One hour, you can take, but six hours means trouble. We are covered in bruises. Children keep trying to pull off our masks and our clothes," said one employee in a rest area, where "it's weird at first to see Winnie the Pooh arrive, remove his head, utter a few oaths and stick his feet up to enjoy a cigarette".

Scotland: Douglas McTavish's invention of a crying dummy means that there is no need to disturb the baby by turning on the light. A small music generator, controlled by a sound-sensitive switch, plays a tune while the baby cries and the parent seeks out the errant device in the dark. Hopes of speeding the hunt by including Des O'Connor's version of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" fall foul of copyright.

London: The toy and games manufacturer Hasbro is launching Sound Bites, an interactive confectionery product which consists of a battery-operated plastic holder for any standard lollipop. When somebody sucks on it, sound vibrations are sent through the teeth to the inner ear and heard as normal sounds, which can be altered by four buttons. The manufacturer is confident of an adult, impulse market at pounds 7.99 a throw.

Vatican City: The Pope has launched a line of designer sunglasses which, at pounds 22 each, substantially undercuts Ralph Lauren. Moreover, "these are not ordinary sunglasses", for each pair - made in the impoverished south - bears the signature "Joannes Paulus II" and the expression "exist for someone". Leather clothing, jumpers and T-shirts will follow.

Sao Paulo: Prisoners themselves have decreed that none among them shall cry in front of the others. Any unable to hold back their tears will now have to pour out their feelings in the chief warder's office.

Chicago: A judge, Fe Fernandez, met with protests from the Italian-US Association when he acquitted a Sicilian immigrant, charged with paedophilia, and said "what we Americans find unacceptable is probably not over there".

Quebec: Eric Lefebreve, held in a correction centre at Sherbroke, swallowed a dozen razor-blades - and promptly escaped, chained at the feet, when urgently transferred to hospital.

Colorado: Neil Murdoch was highly regarded in Crested Butte since arriving 25 years ago and pioneering a trade in mountain-bikes made from wrecks. Civic-spirited, he dressed in nappies for charity one freezing New Year's Eve, scattered rocks to prevent speeding and underwrote the local theatre. Acting was certainly his forte: under his real name, he had jumped bail in Albuquerque in 1973 after smuggling 26 pounds of cocaine. Thousands of "Free Murdoch" stickers have been sold and Council members have paraded in Murdoch masks: "in a small town like Crested Butte, we take people for what they are. We don't hold their past against them".

Iowa: A man who has made several hold-ups in Davenport learnt his lesson after the first one, when a convenience-store owner said that his written demand was illegible. Subsequent victims have made no such complaint.

New York: Quinzelle Hope, an emergency operator in the Police Department, took a call about a rape in progress on the Upper East Side. Asked what floor he was on, the caller said the third but the operator's machine said that it was the sixth. When the caller swore and said what did the floor matter when somebody was being raped, she said if he took that tone she would hang up - and did so.

Mongolia: Every year, at around this time, there is a great mouse-hunt, and once again, bubonic plague has broken out among those humans who have reached out for the pestilential skin of the fleeing rodents.

Oklahoma: Forget Tony Blair and New Labour, how about casting your vote instead for Clement Attlee and James Kier Hardie?

A surreal precedent has been set by Jacquelyn Ledgerwood, a former resident of the town of Norman, Oklahoma. Although she actually passed away in July, some bizarre rules meant that she remained on the ballot form - and ended up gathering enough votes in the Democratic primary for a run- off ballot.

A spokesman for her potential Republican opponent said, "we're putting our trust in the Oklahoma voters".

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