News of the Weird

Stories From Around The World That Failed To Make The Headlines, Selected By Christopher Hawtree
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The Independent Culture
Hong Kong: A gigolo, To Kwok-hung, conned a 46-year-old woman into having sex with him three times - charging her $474 for the privilege - after impersonating her estranged boyfriend on the telephone and saying that Kwok-hung's magical carnal services would lift the bad luck which had plagued their relationship.

New York: Although a cafe near Kensington Palace is able to trade on its association with Princess Diana (she took the princes there), even more forward is Rahman Abdelnaser, who, three months ago, opened the Diana- Dodi Deli on Second Avenue at East 13th Street. He's simply touched by their story - "to cash in, you need T-shirts and things like that. This is just a little store. Is anyone going to come here just because of the name?"

Taipei: No more wet-floor misery! No more umbrellas in the bath! Yoan Tang has patented an umbrella which can be forced inside-out by means of a sliding hub, which - hey presto! - forms a reservoir in which the water collects, to be tipped away.

Tokyo: Toto is the Armitage Shanks of Japan, the major player in lavatory manufacture. Not content to sit on its laurels, it offers something far more comfortable. The "Washlet" comes with a built-in bidet and dryer - not to mention a heated seat - while the de luxe version (a mere pounds 2,000) has a remote control to lift the seat; it then massages the bottom and kills any resultant smells and germs, and even heats the room. British Rail is even less likely to order the next model, which will analyse urine and display a sugar-count. Next stop tests for protein, blood and cancer. Kenneth Williams would have killed for one.

California: Manhattan Beach is the latest neighbourhood to fall victim to noise regulations which mean that citizens will no longer be able to use gas or electric leaf-blowers on their lawns. Hardware stores expect a boom in the sale of rakes and brooms.

Bonn: The German Federal Court has decreed that every husband must give his wife, should she stay at home with no earnings of her own, 5 to 7 per cent of his income for personal use, not for household expenses.

Ottawa: Although Presidents Clinton and Blair reneged on their election promises over gays in the military, things are different in Canada. A recent ruling means that soldiers cannot only share barracks with the opposite sex but go the whole hog of a sex change, at government expense, in the sure knowledge that they will simply be assigned to the appropriate ranks.

North Carolina: Wilson, a city once noted only for tobacco and vinegar barbecues, has been going upscale of late, and a tradition is at risk: an ordinance has banned the well-known habit of putting an old, bursting sofa on the porch to loll in the sun and drink bourbon at sundown. Neighbours are asked to report anybody who displays anything less seemly than a pine futon, and class war has broken out between elegant mansions and nearby social housing, many of whose tenants are black. Advocates of reform claim that it is simply a matter of health: rats enjoy nothing more than to burrow in foam rubber.

Ohio: A judge in Columbus has said that the state can display its motto. This is no subversive slogan but the assertion that "with God all things are possible". However, the source cannot be named. To publicise it (Matthew 19:26) would be to favour one religion over another. "We thought that we had presented some pretty persuasive arguments that a quote from Jesus Christ from the New Testament was not an appropriate motto for the state of Ohio," said Mark Cohn, lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union.