meanwhile . . .Some neglected news stories of the past week:

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Delegates at the "First World Conference of People in Contact with Extraterrestrials", at Miranmar, Costa Rica, were disappointed that no aliens dropped in. They chanted "Aum" for 10 minutes and linked hands to form five concentric circles around three wood fires, but after 40 minutes it started to pour with rain. One organiser said it was a "sign from heaven"; another confirmed that four spaceships had been seen near Miranmar.

Happy families

Cambridge, Massachusetts, has declared itself the world's first "domestic violence-free zone."

Dangerous sport

The third World Championship of Mosquito Killing has opened in the arctic town of Pelkosenniemi in Finland. Contestants must kill as many mosquitoes as they can in five minutes without any artificial aids. The task is made more difficult by the fact that mosquitoes are attracted out of the swatting arena by the warmth of the spectators.

Shaggy dog story

Two ambulances and a fire engine sped to a Tokyo apartment after a dog had dialled the emergency services. Hearing no voice, but sounds of a dog barking, they assumed that the caller was too sick to speak. "We've never had such a case before," an official explained.

In seventh heaven

At seven minutes past seven on the seventh day of the seventh month in the seventh year of the reign of the Japanese emperor Akihito, 17 runners, after paying a 77 yen entry fee, ran 7,777 metres round the imperial palace in Tokyo. They hoped it would bring good luck.

Fat felon foiled

Would-be escapee, Leire Pereira Melo, 19, became wedged in a hole that he and a fellow prisoner had dug through a wall of the state prison in Goiania, Brazil. His cellmate escaped, but Pereira had to shout for help from prison guards. "He got stuck because he was a little on the chubby side," said the prison governor, "well, pretty fat in fact."

Moose trap

Police in Sweden investigating the suspected theft of a child's swing from a back garden followed a trail of large hoof-prints to discover that a moose had become tangled in the swing while looking for food in the garden. It wrenched the structure from its bearings and dragged it 800 metres before freeing itself.

Silence of the lambs

The disappearance of a sheep - the third in three years - from a remote spot in Bulgaria has convinced villagers that a century-old vampire has reappeared. The sheep disappear at the same time each year at a spot near the ruins of the grave of a local recluse who allegedly became a vampire after committing suicide.