NEWS OF THE WEIRD

Stories From Around The World That Failed To Make The Headlines, Selected by William Hartston
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London: According to the DTI's Home Accident Surveillance System Report, the number of in-line roller-skating injuries requiring medical treatment rose from just over 2,000 in 1995 to more than 7,000 in 1996.

Finland: Fewer babies were born in Finland in the first half of 1998 than at any time in the past century. The likely explanation is a drop in the number of women of child-bearing age caused by the previous low point in birth numbers in the 1970s.

Colombia: The city authorities in Bogota have hired 15 poets as part of a campaign to cut traffic jams. Next month, new regulations will force commuters to leave their cars at home for at least part of the day and rely on public transport or car pools instead. This is expected to lead to high stress levels and the poets, who will wear fluorescent green uniforms, will board buses and recite poetry to calm people down. "This is really going to entertain people on long bus rides," project spokesman Adriana Padilla said. "Some people don't like poetry - they think it's boring - but this should make it amenable again."

Iran: Police in Tehran arrested around 200 men on charges of harassing women after they were caught propositioning them from cars. According to a Reuters report, whistling at women and propositioning them from cars has become common in certain areas of the city, and is usually done by young males. The arrests were part of a campaign to fight "moral crimes", but the crackdown has been criticised by one moderate newspaper on the grounds that the arrests have caused heavy traffic jams and annoyed residents.

Uganda: Local militias in eastern Uganda have been told to stop beheading any cattle rustlers they catch. According to a local newspaper report, they had been in the habit of taking the severed heads to the district commissioner's office as proof of the excellent job they were doing defending the herds.

Pennsylvania: Nancy Dingfelder has won the first prize in the American Dairy Association's "Say Cheese ... as Edible Art" competition with an exhibit called "Pi-Cow-So" depicting a cow jumping over the moon. It is made of cheddar, provolone, cottage cheese, blue cheese, Swiss cheese and wine cheese. Miss Dingfelder's winning entry was described as "really, really creative" by Gloria Pope, director of cheese products publicity for the Association. "It was like a Picasso too," she said. "She took his style and she made it relevant to cheese."

Spain: Two lions became agitated while being taken for a walk in the southern Spanish town of Ceuta and mauled four women passers-by, one critically. According to a government statement, the lions, a one-year-old male and a two-year-old female, were being kept illegally in dog kennels without proper documentation. It did not say whether charges had been laid against the unidentified man who was walking them.

France: Miss Tahiti, who was chosen to represent France in this year's Miss World competition, has been refused permission to do so by the organisers. They say that Tahiti, which is part of French Polynesia, should have its own entrant. In a fax sent to Reuters, Eric Morley, head of the Miss World office in London, said: "France has just hosted the World Cup. They would not have accepted Scotland or Wales in the English team."

Denver: A film developer has sued her employers for allegedly refusing to let her do her work in a well-lit area. She says that their insistence that she works in a darkroom constitutes a refusal to accommodate her impairment, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which may be triggered by her not spending enough time in the light. Their action would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

North Carolina: Bill Rogerson, who is already the holder of the record for the world's biggest cantaloupe with a 63.5 lb (28.8 kilos) monster last year, has now grown one of these melon-like fruits weighing 72.3 lb. Mr Rogerson, 61, a cattle rancher from Robersonville, North Carolina, has not divulged the full secrets of his method, but he has hinted that it includes Miracle Grow plant food and cow manure. His other achievements include a 4ft green bean and a 279 lb (127 kilos) watermelon.

Germany: A state court in North Rhine-Westphalia has ordered a 45-year- old manager at a clothing store to address his colleagues with the familiar second-person pronoun du, rather than the formal Sie. When the company had insisted on informal language, Richard Weniger, 45, had complained that using du among colleagues was a habit of the younger generation, and it made him uncomfortable and affected his work. He went to court to seek an exemption but lost his case.

Atlantic City: Mortimer Hetsberger, 22, of New York, has filed a civil suit for defamation against a bank cashier. Mr Hetsberger is currently in prison awaiting trial on charges of robbing a bank in Atlantic City in June 1997. He claims that cashier Laura Gonzalez defamed and slandered him when she told police that he had threatened to shoot her if she did not hand over the money. He maintains, however, that he only presented her with a note saying: "I want the money now."

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