You can’t make it up: offbeat stories in 2009

1st January 2010, Comments 0 comments

We offer a selection of weird, wild and wonderful stories from 2009.

- Anti-corruption officials in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu found a way to literally stop airport workers from pocketing bribes. They issued them with pocketless trousers.

- A Norwegian man landed himself in hot water when police caught him having sex with his girlfriend as he raced at over 130 kilometres (80 miles) an hour through a 100km/h zone on a highway near Oslo.

- Old technology came to the aid of the new in a Brazilian prison, when guards found that inmates were getting mobile phones flown in to them strapped to carrier pigeons.

- Life imitated fiction when paid-for copies of George Orwell's book "1984" were mysteriously deleted from the Amazon company's new electronic reading device. Apologising, the firm said it had not been emulating Orwell's sinister "Big Brother", but had simply realised that it didn't have the rights to sell the title.

- An 11-month-old boy accidentally dialled an emergency number while playing with a house telephone in the Canadian province of British Columbia. When police arrived, they arrested his father, who was growing marijuana plants in his home.

- Farmers who pay individual attention to their cows, notably by giving them names, are rewarded with higher milk production, a team at Newcastle University in England said, quoting the results of a poll.

- Tired of seeing his parishioners give weird and wonderful names to their offspring, a Catholic priest in Croatia offered monetary rewards worth around 135 euros (195 dollars) to anyone who chose good old-fashioned monikers such as Lana, Petra, Luka or Karlo.

- "There's probably no God - now stop worrying and enjoy your life," proclaimed an ad campaign backed by atheists and aimed at London commuters. Religious groups were not amused, but the advertising standards body ruled that the posters were acceptable.

- For several hours a publicity stunt mesmerized US networks as they scrambled to broadcast live footage of the flying-saucer shaped balloon feared to be carrying a six-year-old boy. The parents later admitted that it was a hoax perpetrated in a bid to land their own reality television show.

- A group of Greek anarchists organised a collection to rebuild the newspaper kiosk of a 74-year-old woman that had burned down during a riot they were involved in. "We should support a fellow human being victimised by violence," said the group, which collected 13,000 euros (19,000 dollars) for the woman.

- A British academic who spent seven years collecting the dung of rare lizards in the Philippines was devastated when a clean-up team threw it out of his laboratory with the trash. "To some people it might have been just lizard shit... but to me it represented years of painstaking work," he said.

- Fans of a baseball team in the Japanese city of Osaka scoured a river to pull out a statue of the US fast-food icon Colonel Sanders that they had thrown into it 25 years before. They had hurled the object into the water in the honour of a successful player who they said looked like the good colonel -- but ever since they did so their team's fortunes had plummeted. Recovered from the mud, the figure was duly blessed in a Shinto ceremony.

- Irish police were scratching their heads to find out how a single Polish driver whose name had been recorded as "Prawo Jazdy" could have chalked up so many traffic offences -- until they realised that the phrase simply meant "Driving Licence" in Polish.

- Hoping to symbolise a new era in US-Russian relations, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed what was billed as a "reset" button to her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. But the Americans were red-faced when they realised that the Russian word printed on the large red device actually meant "overload".

- A Hong-Kong financial journalist was so overcome with emotion when the shares of the HSBC bank plunged 24 percent at the close of trading that she burst into tears while on the air. She later explained that she was upset at the consequences for small investors, and did not hold shares herself.

- The local council of a village in southeast England decided not to repair the many potholes in their roads because they forced drivers to go more slowly. The safety-conscious councillors were overruled by a regional body.

- A 34-year-old Briton beat off over 30,000 competitors to win what Australian officials touted as the "best job in the world" -- spending six months as a caretaker on a tropical island of the Great Barrier Reef.

- A British woman won a famous victory -- and lots of publicity -- in forcing a supermarket chain to stop charging more for large sizes of bras than for smaller ones. The group she founded on the Facebook internet site was called "Busts 4 Justice".

- One of dozens of British members of parliament caught up in a scandal over illegal claims for expenses had to admit that he had been reimbursed by taxpayers for installing an ornamental duck house on his private estate. Announcing his resignation, he had to admit that the ducks had not even liked the thing.

- Australian officials in charge of handing out cash as part of an economic stimulus plan accidentally credited the accounts of 16,000 people who were no long living. Local media dubbed the beneficiaries "the grateful dead."

- Roman Catholics in two Swiss mountain villages said they wanted to give up a century-old prayer that asked for the local glacier to retreat. Due to global warming, the request was being answered more than they had ever wanted, they said.

- Fans of the recently deceased US pop singer Michael Jackson started taking great interest in a 3,000-year-old Egyptian artefact at a Chicago museum. The limestone bust, of an unidentified woman, looked uncannily like their hero.

- A regional official in France had to settle a fight between two adjoining Parisian suburbs, which had redirected traffic down a shared one-way street in opposite directions, meeting head-on at their boundary.

- An intrepid museum guard saved a national treasure when floods hit the Philippine capital Manila. He managed to move most of the 200 pairs of shoes once owned by the country's big-spending former first lady, Imelda Marcos, onto an upper floor.

- Another museum, in the US state of Ohio, was upset when what it had thought was a lock of hair from the aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart turned out to be only a piece of thread. The International Women's Air and Space Museum had sent it for DNA testing, hoping to find a clue to why Earhart disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

- A six-year-old girl became an instant media celebrity in China when a TV interviewer asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. "A corrupt official, because corrupt officials have lots of things," she replied.


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