Weird news from around the world
A summary examination
by Chris Hibbard
March 13, 2008
Weird news from around the world
With information and quotations gleaned from Reuters, Associated Press (AP), and Agence-France-Presse (AFP)
At least once a year, I search out those bits of news that, while seeming to be of little substance to many, provide us with some unique glimpses into luck, life, and the human condition. Ladies and gentlemen, Meliorist readers, the next time that you think you’ve had a bad day – remember these examples and cheer yourself up.
1. A Cleveland company received their expected shipment of spooled steel coil from Singapore last week, complete with a stowaway inside one of the crates. A ‘scrawny’ black and white female kitten was apparently sealed inside the crate in Singapore on February 4th, and set sail across the Pacific three days later. Approximately twelve weeks old, the surviving kitten has been checked out by a veterinarian, has responded well to food, and will be kept in quarantine for the next few weeks to be sure it doesn’t pass any infectious Singapore-diseases to other animals or humans. While the crate sadly also contained the kitten’s mother and three siblings, all of which were dead on arrival, the good news is that the ‘scrawny’ survivor is expected to be adopted by one of the company employees.
Editor’s Note: I suggest the kitten’s new owner choose to name it Gulliver.
2. A 30-year-old Aussie convinced a Melbourne car dealer to let him take a brand new Honda Accord on a test drive last week, then drove off the lot only to take the vehicle 3,200 kilometres deep into the countryside. His six-day test drive ended with his arrest in Australia’s Northern Territory. He was arrested without incident at a road block on his way north to Darwin after he “failed to pay for fuel at a hamlet. His test-drive-turn-joyride was the longest known to Australian police, and was the European equivalent of driving from London to Istanbul. The car dealer who ‘rented’ the car to him was quoted as saying, “He seemed a legitimate gentleman. He stood at the desk right in front of a camera. He wasn’t afraid of being photographed or videoed.” The driver has been charged with aggravated unlawful use of a motor vehicle and unlawful possession of property and appeared in court last Thursday.
Editor’s Note: I wonder if the story would have ended differently had he test-driven a Subaru Outback.
3. Facing an overcrowding crisis in the village graveyard, the mayor of Sarpourenx, France, has threatened his citizens with severe punishment if they die, since there is no room left in the cemetery to bury them. Forced to take drastic action after an administrative court in a nearby town ruled in January that the acquisition of adjoining private land to extend the cemetery would not be justified, Mayor Gerard Lalanne, 70 years old, is running for a seventh term in office in this month’s local elections. Lalanne posted an ordinance in the council offices which read: “all persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish”, complete with a warning that any “offenders will be severely punished”.
Editor’s Note: In essence, the mayor warns: you better not die, or you will be punished severely. What does that mean? Dismemberment? Necrophila? Yuck!
4. Do you think that dogs have souls? If so, do you consider your dog to be Catholic? It would seem that in the town of Asaya, Nicaragua, hundreds of dogs are dressed up as babies or clowns on one Sunday of every year, and then paraded to a tiny church to celebrate mass. These devout pet owners line up for miles to pass by an image of a saint in the tiny church, wherein the faithful “thank the saint for curing their pets or ask for the dogs to be protected from illness”. This tradition, which locals claim goes back to the colonial period after the Spanish conquest, includes the town’s priest conducting a special canine mass.
Editor’s Note: The Spanish must wonder sometimes why they landed there in the first place.
5. As if we needed yet another reason to appreciate fortune cookies, they can now officially be crucial evidence in criminal investigations. After a pair of break-ins at Chinese restaurants in Tulsa, Oklahoma, police responded to a burglar alarm at a third to find Terrence Middleton, 30, near the scene “with more than $20 in coins and the cookies in his pockets,” one first-response officer said. The officer claims that police were able to “link Middleton to the Asian Express that was robbed because he had possession of the same type of fortune cookies” that were at one of the previously robbed restaurants. Middleton is being held on a $15,000 bond after being booked on charges of second-degree burglary and attempted second-degree burglary. He has previously been an inmate in correctional facilities.
Editor’s Note: I don’t know as much about world religions as I’d like to, but there must be some Chinese version of the notion of Karma that would have predicted this.
6. A little closer to home, last week in Prince George, B.C., a young romantic named Aaron Tkachuk thought he had devised the perfect way to propose to his high school sweetheart. Planning on “popping the question on a moonlit Caribbean beach”, he ended up popping the question to his fiancée Jennifer Rubadeau at an airport security screening station instead. An alert and curious luggage screener at the Prince George airport insisted on having a closer look at the X-rayed contents of a small box in the toe of a sock. When it turned out that inside the box was a white-gold, diamond and ruby ring, “Tkachuk decided to propose on the spot, and other travelers and security personnel cheered as Rubadeau said yes.”
Editor’s Note: After being through a number of airports in the last few years, I honestly can’t think of a less romantic place to propose. However, since neither a Taser nor Anthrax was involved, Tkachuck may have gotten off lucky either way.
7. A house was severely damaged on Friday in a small village in Russia’s Ural Mountains when a Russian military army tank crashed into the corner. After the tank crew stopped to buy more vodka at a nearby shop, footage from a mobile phone camera showed the tank “hitting a corner of the house and a laughing, and apparently drunk, driver awkwardly trying to clamber aboard with two bottles of vodka.” The army promised shortly after the incident to pay compensation and said the tank must have been broken and fallen behind a column heading to a test site for exercises. Earlier, it said the vehicle slid on melting ice. “Of course, there were violations, but the crew acted in good faith to catch up with its unit,” said a spokesman for Russia’s Volga-Urals Military District. All the homeowner could say was “thank God, they didn’t shoot.”
Editor’s Note: Gotta love military jargon. Our soldiers weren’t drunk on our national liquor, no; they were driving a broken tank on slippery ice, and just happened to stop to get some booze for the rest of the way.
8. A controversial scientific thesis claiming that the biblical Israelites may have been high on a hallucinogenic plant when Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai was put forward last Tuesday. In a new study, Benny Shanon, an Israeli psychology professor at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, claims that two plants in the Sinai desert contain the same psychoactive molecules as those “found in plants from which the powerful Amazonian hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca is prepared.” He said that a psychoactive plant called harmal, which is found in the Sinai and elsewhere in the Middle East, has long been regarded by Jews in the region as having magical and curative powers. Shanon hypothesizes in his study that “the thunder, lightning and blaring of a trumpet which the Book of Exodus says emanated from Mount Sinai could just have been the imaginings of a people in an ‘altered state of awareness.’” Shanon claims that in advanced forms of ayahuasca inebriation, the seeing of light is often “accompanied by profound religious and spiritual feelings…on such occasions, one often feels that in seeing the light, one is encountering the ground of all Being…many identify this power as God.” Some biblical scholars were unimpressed. Orthodox rabbi Yuval Sherlow told Israel Radio: “The Bible is trying to convey a very profound event. We have to fear not for the fate of the biblical Moses, but for the fate of science.” In a double-edged part of his essay, which nearly undermines the hypothesis itself, Shanon also wrote that he was very familiar with the affects of the ayahuasca plant, having “partaken of the…brew about 160 times in various locales and contexts.”
Editor’s Note: I used psychoactive substances during a lightning storm once, and it was rather frightening and awe-inspiring at the same time. Group hallucinations, however, were not a result of the stuff I found in Calgary.
9. The Vietnamese government has initiated a new war, one which it is said will be over quickly.
This war is not with America, or even humans at all, but on hamsters! A wildly popular pet in Vietnam during this current lunar Year of the Rat, the government fears that these dangerous foreign-bred fur balls could spread disease and destroy crops. Starting last Monday, “anyone possessing or trading hamsters faces stiff fines of up to 30 million dong ($1,875),” the state-run Vietnam News reported. The communist government aims to end a youth craze for the fast-breeding animals, previously only imported for scientific research, but now popular enough to have inspired online hamster forums and real-life hamster clubs. Authorities worry that rampant sales of the fluffy pets will spike before International Women’s Day on Saturday, a major annual gift-giving event that Vietnamese husbands and boyfriends ignore at their peril.
After the stern warning was issued, the street price of hamsters (which have become a common illegal import) dropped from over $20 per hamster to less than $10. “Destroying them all is really a big problem,” said one agriculture ministry official. “I think the Vietnam animal health department should take some samples, conduct tests and see how dangerous the hamsters in Vietnam really are.”
Editor’s Note: Ever been bitten by a hamster? I was when I was very young and it felt like a freakin’ cougar at the time. Aren’t there some countries where hamsters are a nice delicious snack? Vietnam could get a whole new economic export going if they play this right.
10. A report last Thursday details how an eight-year-old Brazilian boy passed an entrance exam to study at Paulista University law school, but was nevertheless prevented from enrolling. Joao Victor Portelinha de Oliveira successfully won entry into the law school after completing exams and a writing test last week, but the university said he does not qualify because he has not studied at a high school level. De Oliveira’s mother claims that her son is not a child genius, but that he was brought up in an intellectually stimulating environment at home, and “he participated in our discussions and he took interest in current affairs and interacted a lot with adults.” Brazil’s association of lawyers has complained that a boy so young should never have been allowed to sit a university entrance exam, and has called on the education ministry to ensure that no other primary-schoolers are given the chance to sit such tests. Meanwhile, de Oliveira’s father told the local newspaper he was going to take the matter to court.
Editor’s Note: Talk about a target for vicious TLF action – if the eight-year-old kid in front of me in Corporate Ethics were to get better grades than me (or more dates than me for that matter) I would be a little upset.
11. In a terribly sad story, a letter of love written by a 13-year-old girl to her recently deceased mother was returned to her by the post office, who could not deliver said letter to its address: “Paradise Street, Heaven”.
The young girl from central France wanted to send a “message of love, like a bottle in the ocean”, on the second anniversary of her mother’s death. But two days after she slipped it into a local post-box, marked with her mother’s name but no stamp, her letter was returned to her – along with €1,35 ($2) fine for unpaid postage. Asked to explain the heartbreaking mishap, the French post office said there really was a town in the area called Heaven – “Ciel” in French – but that Paradise Street was unknown, so the letter could not be delivered.
Editor’s Note: Santa Claus seems to receive all our letters somehow, so why can’t people in heaven?