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Week of 16 Jun 2003

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Jack's Bizarre News of the World

Published whenever I get around to it....

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Cubans make freedom bid in floating Chevy truck

MIAMI (Reuters) - The 12 Cubans who tried to sail a 1951 Chevy truck from the communist-ruled island to the United States got no marks from U.S. authorities for their creativity. The would-be emigrants were sent back home. Since Fidel Castro (news - web sites)'s 1959 revolution, Cubans have tried to leave the Caribbean island on rudimentary rafts, on giant truck inner tubes, in stolen boats and planes, even by windsurfer. But no one remembers anyone attempting the 90-mile (145-km) crossing of the Florida Straits in a floating flatbed truck with 55-gallon (250-litre) drums strapped to its sides, tires still in place, a propeller attached to its drive shaft and a driver behind the wheel. "We've seen surfboards, pieces of Styrofoam, bathtubs, refrigerators. But never an automobile," Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Doss said on Thursday. A U.S. government plane spotted the bright-green truck chugging through the water at 8 mph (13 kph) on July 16 about 40 miles (64 km) south of Key West, just over halfway from Cuba to Florida. The Cubans had fashioned a makeshift, bright yellow shelter on the truck's bed. "The truck's engine was actually running, propelling it through the water," Doss said. The Coast Guard picked up the 12 Cubans from the vintage vehicle and took them back to the island on Sunday. The truck was deemed a hazard to navigation and was sent to the bottom. Under the U.S. immigration policy known as "wet foot, dry foot," Cubans who manage to set foot on U.S. soil are usually allowed to stay while those stopped at sea are routinely sent back to Cuba.

Butt-reflector avoids elephant fender-benders

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's working elephants are to be fitted with reflective patches on their rears to prevent fender-bending road accidents that sometimes result in more than a damaged trunk. The Wildlife Trust of India introduced the reflectors this week to help drivers spot the working jumbos at night in the Indian capital. "The butt-reflector, roped to the howdah (seat), costs just 100 rupees (1.35 pounds) and is the simplest way to protect them," said trust programme director Aniruddha Mookerjee. Working elephants are often used at weddings, festivals and by the tourist industry and often have to walk long distances along the city's chaotic, congested roads. The trust took the safety initiative after a jumbo was badly hurt by a speeding truck last December. The elephant was put to sleep after veterinarians said it could not recover. "You could see tears streaming from its eyes as it lay in pain. You can't have elephants being hit by cars and trucks," Mookerjee told Reuters, adding the trust planned to introduce the reflectors for elephants in other cities as well.

Legendary Dog-Eating Catfish Dies

BERLIN (Reuters) - A giant catfish that ate a dog and terrorized a German lake for years has washed up dead, but the legend of "Kuno the Killer" lives on. A gardener discovered the carcass of a five-foot-long catfish weighing 77 pounds this week, a spokesman for the western city of Moenchengladbach said on Friday. Kuno became a local celebrity in 2001 when he sprang from the waters of the Volksgarten park lake to swallow a Dachshund puppy whole. He evaded repeated attempts to capture him. "He was our Loch Ness monster," said Uwe Heil, member of "Kuno's Friends," a local rock band named after the fish. Several fishermen identified the carcass as Kuno, but doubts linger. "That's not the Kuno we know," said Leon Cornelius, another member of "Kuno's Friends." He said he had seen several huge catfish in the lake. Low water levels and a summer heat wave probably killed the catfish, among the biggest found in Germany. The northern city of Bremen plans to stuff it and put in a museum.

Prostitutes protest against brothel crackdown

ATHENS (Reuters) - Dozens of Greek prostitutes have demonstrated outside the interior ministry protesting at the closure of brothels in Athens in what they see as a crackdown ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games. The protest on Thursday marked an ironic twist at a time when seven Nordic and Baltic ministers protested at reported Greek plans to license more brothels -- vehemently denied by the Athens mayor -- ahead of the Olympics. Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on Wednesday sent a joint letter to Athens expressing their outrage, brushing aside the host city's denial that it was catering to an expected rise in sex tourism. The Athens municipal council said it will not increase the number of brothels, on the contrary, it will insist on enforcing strict rules required by Greek law. It said an estimated 600 illegal brothels will be limited to 230. "The City of Athens Municipal Council has commenced its campaign to restrict the illegal activities surrounding the sex industry, by ordering the closure of the city's first 15 brothels found to be violating the law," a statement said on Thursday. More will be closed in the coming weeks, it added. "The campaign was decided upon following the growing problem noted in recent years, particularly with regard to human trafficking from Eastern Europe. Under no circumstances is it related solely to the forthcoming Olympic Games," it said. Greek brothels cannot operate near schools, nurseries, churches, hospitals, playgrounds, squares, sports centres or charitable institutions, which prostitutes say leaves little room for licensed ones, forcing them onto the streets. "We are licensed and they won't let us earn a living; they don't do anything about illegal prostitution," said Dimitra Kanellopoulou, who has been in the oldest profession for 20 years and is president of the Movement of Greek Prostitutes. The protesting prostitutes, who all held out health certificates and licenses, said they charge brothel customers from 15 to 30 euros. "We mainly serve foreigners and low income groups," said Olga Apostolopoulou. Kanellopoulou said 1,500 licensed prostitutes working in 220 Athens brothels pay taxes and 280 euros a month for social security (news - web sites). "We don't want our shops closed down," said Vanessa, a German prostitute who has worked in Greece for five years after six years in Berlin. "It's better and safer for us girls to work from a house," she said.

Woman Banned for Criticizing Bush's Legs

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - A Borders Books & Music store has banned a Baltimore singer-songwriter from performing there after she made an unflattering comment about President Bush (news - web sites)'s physique during a concert at the store last week. Julia Rose, who is also a fitness advocate, told the audience, "George Bush has chicken legs. He needs to pump some iron." Rose said she has made the same comment at other Borders stores. "In fact, the audience in Fredericksburg laughed when I said this," she told The Free Lance-Star newspaper. "The reaction was nothing different than typical crowds I've had." Amy Korsun, area marketing manager for the Michigan-based bookstore chain, confirmed Wednesday that Rose has been banned from performing at the Fredericksburg store. She said Rose will be allowed to continue playing at other Borders stores in Virginia. She declined to say why Rose was banned from the Fredericksburg store. Rose said she's mystified by the reaction. "I never said anything about Bush being a bad president or anything," she said. "I was just poking fun at his scrawny frame."

Indonesian maid jailed in Singapore for piddling in bosses' drinks

SINGAPORE (AP) - A 21-year-old Indonesian maid was sentenced to 10 weeks in jail for mixing her urine into the coffee and tea of her Singapore employers, local news media reported Friday. Yuliana Tukiran told investigators the prank was a desperate ploy to make her employers send her home, the Straits Times newspaper reported. Employer Cindy Chen told police in March she thought Tukiran was contaminating the family's tea, coffee and drinking water, the paper said. In court Thursday, Tukiran admitted she had mixed her own urine into the water, it said. She was convicted Thursday of committing an act of mischief and was jailed for 10 weeks, the paper said.


According to Senate sources, presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman has tapped Barney the Dinosaur to be his running mate, in the unlikely eventuality that Lieberman is actually nominated by the Democratic Party in 2004. “It didn’t seem possible,” said one Senate aide, “but Lieberman found someone who’s even dopier than himself.” Analyst Preston Deadboldt of the center-right Kahootik Institute noted that Barney is a good choice for Lieberman. “Joe’s looking to balance his ticket, and Barney can bring in a number of otherwise overlooked voting blocs: Paleontologists, dinosaurs, day-care providers and children under four. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Barney is, well, gentile,” said Deadboldt. Mr. Dinosaur’s office would not comment directly on the rumor, but released this statement: “Barney has binding contracts for the 2003-2004 season, but as a committed American, he has not ruled out public office some time in the future.”

Teachers of failed students cow-charged into confession

CALCUTTA (AFP) - Parents of girls who flunked their college admission exams barged into an Indian village school with cows meant to represent the low-performing teachers, witnesses said. Eight cows were herded Tuesday into the ground floor of the secondary school at Taherpur, 75 kilometers (45 miles) north of Calcutta, with signs hanging from their necks reading "This is a cowshed" and "We will teach here." Assistant headmaster Rita Bhattacharjee said parents of all 28 girls who failed the tests showed up to berate the teachers. Encircled by cows, administrators came clean and admitted the school lacked the required number of instructors. On hearing the confession, the parents responded by jeering -- and mooing like their cows. Jhantu Das, whose daughter learned last week she failed the exam, said the parents took out the unorthodox protest as officials who are supposed to supervise schools did not seem to care. "The politicians aren't bothered at all with schools in rural districts," Das said. Bhattacharjee said the school had been certified by education authorities in 2000.

90 Pot Plants Survive Wash. Brush Fire

DUVALL, Wash. - Firefighters may have smelled something funky as they battled a 10-acre brush fire along a state highway east of Seattle. While using heavy equipment to clear vegetation in the path of the 20-foot flames Monday afternoon, firefighters encountered about 90 six-foot marijuana plants that had been hidden in a blackberry bramble, Eastside Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Lee Soptich said. The pot survived the flames, which were ignited by sparks from grinding equipment used by a state contractor's road crew, but about 60 of the plants were destroyed by a bulldozer as firefighters rooted out hot spots and the rest were seized as evidence, Soptich said. "We're getting a big chuckle out of it," he said Tuesday. "Never have we had a brush fire end up identifying a pot grow." Investigators were checking records to determine who owns the property, but most likely the marijuana was planted without the owner's knowledge, King County sheriff's Sgt. Kevin Fagerstrom said. "It was a discreet little spot where somebody started their own forest," Fagerstrom said. "Somebody obviously put a lot of time and effort into their care."

Blind man's parking tickets paid

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A kindly donor paid off $360 (220 pounds) in parking tickets owed by a blind man on a car he didn't drive, freeing him to obtain a street performer's licence and resume playing his harmonica for change. Mike Perry, who is blind from a childhood case of glaucoma, told Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass he would go to Chicago's City Hall on Wednesday to obtain the performer's licence, but had no intention of getting a driver's licence. "I'm sorry it had to get to this ridiculous level, but City Hall can be ridiculous, and what's more ridiculous than a blind man getting parking tickets?" Perry told Kass. The situation occurred because Perry's brother had him sign papers making him responsible for the brother's car in exchange for free rides, but the brother racked up a slew of parking tickets and then ended up in jail on another charge. City hall bureaucrats would not let Perry buy the $50 performer's licence until he paid off the tickets. Perry could not afford to pay the fines without working, but his story attracted several offers of help.

Clinton Haters Look to Mock His Library

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Just a few blocks from the future site of Bill Clinton (news - web sites)'s $160 million presidential library, a couple of Clinton haters hope to open a museum devoted to mocking his presidency. "As long as he's talking, we'll have to be here trying to keep him somewhat honest and stop him from rewriting history," says John LeBoutillier, a former Republican congressman from New York who rode Ronald Reagan (news - web sites)'s coattails to victory in 1980. LeBoutillier and his partner, Houston businessman Richard Erickson, plan to call it the Counter-Clinton Library. They say the museum here and one planned for Washington will look at such topics as Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, the last-minute pardons, even damaged White House furniture. "We already hear he's going to bring a bunch of egghead economists to his library to say how great the economy was when he was president," LeBoutillier says. "And we'll find our own who can say it had nothing to do with him." The two partners hope to open their place the same day that Clinton's opens in November 2004. They say they will need $5 million. LeBoutillier says thousands of donations have come in and the average one is $72, but he will not say exactly how much has been raised so far. Dick Morris, the Clinton strategist who resigned in a sex scandal, has pledged stacks of his insider documents, as has Gary Aldrich, the former FBI (news - web sites) agent who wrote a best seller about Clinton's scandals. "We think people will want to come out of the Clinton Library and head immediately down the street to us to get the rest of the story," LeBoutillier says. In recent appearances, Clinton said that the big picture of his presidency is being obscured and that his library will set the record straight. The designer of the Clinton museum, Ralph Appelbaum, said the place will deal with Clinton's impeachment, but will focus on how Clinton policies smoothed the political and technological transition into the 21st century and fostered unprecedented economic growth. LeBoutillier — who once called the late House Speaker Tip O'Neill "fat, bloated and out of control, just like the federal budget" — says Clinton's library will require immediate rebuttal in a way that libraries of other scandalized ex-presidents do not. "Reagan, Nixon, that's the past," he says. "The problem is Clinton's still young, he's the most powerful force in Democratic politics, and he would like nothing more than to erase the past so he can return to the White House with Hillary." Skip Rutherford, president of the foundation paying for Clinton's library, says he had hoped for a political cease-fire. "The haters don't have to like or agree with Clinton, but they need to acknowledge that only 43 men have done this — reached the pinnacle," he says. "I think they need to move on with their lives."

Dumb Crime Dept.

FORT WORTH, Texas - A bank robber made the ultimate bad career move when he wrote a holdup note — on the back of his resume. Police used the job-search information to identify the man, who was arrested and charged with robbing a Wells Fargo bank branch on Fort Worth's east side. The man had tried to hide the personal information by taping black construction paper over it. But then he forgot to retrieve the note and take it with him after giving it to the teller. Police then just peeled the tape from the note. A tip led police to a Fort Worth motel, where the man was arrested Saturday. He remained in federal custody on a bank robbery charge in the July 15 holdup.

MIAMI (AFP) - A Florida man has been indicted for mailing a live tarantula to his girlfriend, it was reported.

The Tampa Tribune said John Galarza, 37, of Apollo Beach, Florida, was charged with sending "a non-mailable matter" with intent to kill or injure. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to 250,000 dollars. The paper did not say why Galarza sent the package nor whether his girlfriend received it.

SAN FRANCISCO - Rick Beal wanted to grab some cash on the way to the airport — so he hired a limo and allegedly robbed a bank on the way. Beal hired the limousine Thursday and asked the driver to wait for him at a Bank of America branch around 11:00 a.m., according to police spokeswoman Maria Oropeza. Inside, Beal allegedly held up two tellers by "simulating a gun," and then used the limousine for his get away, Oropeza said. The driver, oblivious to what had happened, headed for San Francisco International Airport. A witness followed the limo and called police, who stopped the car. The unidentified driver was released. Police recovered all the money, but would not say how much. They did not know Beal's flight plans. Beal was being held in the San Francisco jail Thursday evening on two counts of bank robbery, Oropeza said.

Bizarre Websites

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Ted Rall (on a roll this week!)
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Separated at birth, or did they have the same milkman?

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