News you may have missed...
June 1998

Mexican fighting-priest quits wrestling ring

MEXICO CITY, May 29 (Reuters) - Mexican wrestling will become the undisputed domain of "Satan", "Demon" and "Lucifer" on Friday when fighting Roman Catholic priest "Friar Storm" takes off his mask after 23 years in the ring.

Sergio Gutierrez will remove his red and gold mask, a traditional act of retirement in Mexico's colorful wrestling circuit, to dedicate himself full-time to the street children he launched a wrestling career to support.

"I'm taking off my mask, but I hope people will still support my little puppies," Gutierrez told Spanish language television network CBS-Telenoticias. The 3,000 street children and orphans fed, clothed and educated by the priest over more than two decades are known as "The Puppies of Friar Storm."

"Thanks to the wrestling, this house has produced among others three doctors, 16 teachers, 12 computer technicians, three lawyers and two future priests," Gutierrez said at his orphanage outside the capital, near the ancient Aztec pyramids of Teotihuacan. "That is my greatest satisfaction, though my life's dream is still to establish a city for children."

Friar Storm, now 53, has been a feature of the Mexican wrestling world for 23 years and a priest for 25, dedicating his prize money to his children's home. His retirement was scheduled to take place in Mexico City's Arena Mexico, where famous fighters like "The Saint", "Hurricane Ramirez", "Blue Demon" and "Tonina Jackson" helped make wrestling one of Mexico's most popular spectator sports.

Why "Friar Storm" as a nom de guerre? "Friar because I'm a priest ... Storm because once you get into the ring you're everything but a priest," he said. Gutierrez' career as a fighter won applause not just in Mexico. He fought in Japan 14 times. And the years have certainly left their mark.

"I got crooked thumbs, a broken nose, a busted arm, three cracked ribs and a broken ankle. Thank God the fighting is make believe," he said ironically, adding that the macho sport of flying kicks and bone-crushing falls was not just "pure pantomime." "They've sent me to hospital three times but, thanks be to God, I've never put any of my adversaries in hospital."

Friar Storm will keep on fighting, unmasked and outside the ring, for his children. But he has taken care to ensure the legend will live on, training a 21-year-old former street kid and future lawyer and priest who will wear his mask under the name "Friar Storm Junior". Junior is currently ranked third in the national wrestling ranking.

Amorous couple shock passengers in sky-high antics

JOHANNESBURG, May 31 (Reuters) - Business class passengers on a South African Airways flight were treated to a brazen demonstration last week when a couple made love in full view of fellow travellers, a South African newspaper said on Sunday.

"It was the most callous display of lust I have ever seen," a mother, accompanied on the flight by her husband and two young sons, told the Sunday Times newspaper. SAA corporate relations manager Leon Els said the couple, a white male in his 40s and an Indian female companion, would not be charged over the incident which occurred during a scheduled flight from Johannesburg to London.

Their names were not disclosed. "Ours is not the first airline to have this sort of thing happen and it won't be the last," he told the newspaper. Adventurous couples who indulge in sex whilst airborne are said to have gained membership to the mile-high club.

Embarrassed cabin crew appeared unsure how to handle the situation. The couple halted their love-making only when the captain was called and bellowed at them that the aircraft was not "a shag house" -- by which time most of the damage was done. "I could understand it if they covered themselves with a blanket, but no -- it was wham, bam, right there in the seat -- in the missionary position," the woman's husband told the newspaper.

N.Y. woman sues lover, says Viagra came between them

MINEOLA, N.Y. - A New York woman went to court on Tuesday claiming damages after her 70-year-old millionaire lover dumped her for another woman two days after taking the new anti-impotence pill Viagra. Roberta Burke, 63, is suing retired construction executive Frank "Sonny" Bernardo for $2 million plus damages, charging he left their million dollar condominium on May 5 -- just two days after successfully having sexual intercourse for the first time in four years with the help of Viagra.

Burke said Bernardo, who had been impotent since 1994, told her: "It's time for me to be a stud again." Bernardo's lawyer Raoul Felder said the lawsuit filed on May 15 should be thrown out because common-law marriage is not recognised by New York State. But Dominic Barbara, lawyer for the plaintiff, said that although the couple never formally married, they started living together as husband and wife 10 years ago in South Carolina, a state that does recognise common-law marriage.

In the lawsuit, Burke said Bernardo walked out on her, leaving a curt note and moving in with a younger woman in New Jersey. "She shouldn't be discarded like an old shoe," Burke's attorney Barbara said after the initial hearing before Justice Gabriel Kohn. "Viagra was the cause and effect, up until Viagra, everything was fine."

Burke is suing Bernardo for $2 million plus emotional damages, the marital residence and marital assets, life insurance, medical insurance and attorney fees. Until May 3 of this year Bernardo had been impotent since 1994, Burke said. A doctor gave him a prescription for Viagra on May 1.

According to court papers, Bernardo left Burke a note that said, "Hi Bobbi, Sorry but I'm leaving. Be back in a few days. Use Nations Bank money to move your belongings and my Mercedes for a couple of days. Sorry but it just isn't working out. Love Sonny."

HK family in hospital after trying to revive dog

HONG KONG - A Hong Kong mother and two daughters were in critical condition in hospital on Tuesday after apparently giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to their dog after it passed out during an anti-tick shampoo.

Vets said the shampoo contained the highly-toxic chemical amitrax, normally used to rid farm animals of ticks, or blood-sucking parasites. "It is used to treat ticks in cattle or sheep. It is quite uncommon to use this product on dogs and cats," said David Ip, an Agriculture and Fisheries Department veterinarian, told Pearl television.

A government spokesman said the mother and daughters were found unconscious at their home and it was believed they had each tried to give their pet mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The dog was found dead. Amitrax burns the skin and is harmful if swallowed, Ip said.

Lions eat suspected immigrant in S.African park

JOHANNESBURG, June 3 (Reuters) - A pride of lions in South Africa's Kruger National Park have made a meal of a suspected illegal immigrant from Mozambique, police said on Wednesday.

The man was attacked and eaten early on Tuesday near the border with Mozambique, prompting speculation he was the latest in a stream of illegal immigrants attempting to enter South Africa through the park.

A police spokesman in the eastern province of Mpumalanga said, "We suspect the man was from Mozambique but we cannot identify him...We can't take any finger prints because there are no fingers."

Ginger Spice sings on in Thailand's "Spice Gays"

BANGKOK, June 4 (Reuters) - Fans of the Spice Girls need not despair over the departure of Ginger Spice. The pop star, whose real name is Geri Halliwell, may have quit Britain's famed all-girl quintet but she's still very much with them in the Thai version -- a group of transsexuals known here as the Spice Gays.

Akanit Ratanavich, or "Pretty", mimics Ginger Spice in a red wig, black hot pants and low-cut gown over a pair of implanted breasts as the group lip-syncs Spice Girls' numbers at a Bangkok theatre. "Pop fans everywhere might be disappointed with Ginger's decision to quit the group, but here this Ginger will be with the show for good to make up for the loss of the real one," Pretty said after a recent show before a packed audience.

"Its very act as someone famous that you always like to be," said the 24-year-old singer, who underwent a sex change operation five years ago. "It was sad news, but I knew that one day, they would come to this point since they are so famous," Pretty added.

Among the group's renditions, "Spice Up Your Life" and "Wannabe" were the two Spice Girls numbers that drew the most applause from a visibly spiced up audience. "People always ask if we are really women. The answer is we are better than men and we are humans of all seasons," said Pretty.

Women rugby players in sin bin over brothel money

PERTH, Australia, June 4 (AFP) - An Australian women's rugby union team is seething after being banned from accepting sponsorship from a brothel. Western Amazons have been stopped by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) from accepting 10,000 Australian dollars (6,100 US) to help finance their trip to Darwin next month for the national titles.

"It's hypocritical of the ARU," according to Amazons' coach Sue Roberts. "Sport should be apolitical and amoral," she declared. "We believe alcohol has brought more misery, abuse, accidents and health problems to women's and children's lives than a brothel ever has - and yet the Western Australian Rugby Union is sponsored by a brewery."

ARU general manager Matt Carroll dismissed the hypocrisy charges and claimed a deal with a brothel would drag the game into disrepute. The Amazons raised eyebrows a year ago when they secured sponsorship from a scaffolding company and wore shorts emblazoned with the words 'Instant Erections.' Prostitution is illegal in Western Australia state but the law is rarely enforced. ROME, June 9 (Reuters) - Forget about Latin lovers. For the next month, football will be Italian men's true passion. Not for them the usual distractions of a sunny summer's evening once the World Cup finals get under way on Wednesday. State broadcaster RAI is advising Italian stallions: Dump your girlfriend, ignore your mum, be one of the lads. This is the World Cup after all. The network, which will beam all the matches as part of 500 hours of World Cup television and radio coverage, is running a series of adverts advising men how to concentrate on the game.

One shows a disgruntled-looking woman getting ready to go out. Profession: girlfriend, the advert says. Behaviour: incessant. Distinguishing features: Never lets up. Typical remarks: "Let's go out, let's go out, let's go out." The advert's advice: "Avoid her."

The second is the typical Italian Mamma. Distinguishing features: Constant and untimely telephone calls. Behaviour: asphixiating. Typical remarks: "Have you eaten?" The advert's conclusion: "Highly dangerous."

Last comes the best friend whose girlfriend has just left him. Behaviour: Obsessed. Distinguishing features: Desperately lovesick. Typical remarks: "Please, let's talk about her." The advert's judgement: "Enemy number one."

Everyone knows soccer is a serious business in Italy, but the tone of the campaign, by agency McCann-Erickson, has still caused a stir and has been branded by some feminists as an anachronistic, aggressive stereotype. Franco Ferrarotti, professor of sociology at Rome's La Sapienza university, said the ads underlined the fact that in Italy, soccer remained almost exclusively a male preserve. "And from masculine to macho, it's a very short step," he added.

"It's all about irony," retorted Marco Carnevale, associate creative director of McCann-Erickson Rome, adding that the next stage in the campaign was to distribute "do not disturb" signs of the kind found in hotels for fans to put on their doors. "People have to laugh about their passions or the world would be a nightmare," he added.

Indeed, one of the two art directors who dreamt up the ads was a woman and they were commissioned by a woman at RAI. But no matter. Women -- usually of the blonde, beautiful variety -- may be among Italy's top television sports presenters but soccer is still a man's game and to help lads be lads, Il Messaggero newspaper printed its World Cup "10 Commandments". Among its recommendations: Clear your diary, invite round your mates, put some drinks within arm's reach and have a flag ready in case Italy win. Oh, and keep an eye on the wife.

A survey of nearly 900 women for Noi Donne (We Women) magazine found 32 percent of women would watch the football just because their husbands or boyfriends made them. But Il Messaggero warned that one in four wives was ready to cheat on their men to get their own back on the overdose of football during the month-long soccer fest. Noi Donne's survey found 16 percent of Italian women would play away while 17 percent would willingly swap their husbands or partners for Italy's blue-eyed captain Paolo Maldini.

But perhaps, after all, Italian men are not exclusively ruled by the beautiful game. A recent television programme on the would-be impotence cure "Viagra" drew a bigger audience than a pre-World Cup special on Italy's squad.

Thousands swallow live fish "wonder cure" in India

HYDERABAD, India, June 9 (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people jostled in this southern Indian city on Tuesday to swallow medicine stuffed inside a live fish -- a treatment believed to cure asthma and other respiratory ailments.

Eager patients lined up for the medicine -- a herbal formula placed inside a small fish and thrust into their mouths -- in an annual event set in Hindu astrological tradition. The event starts on a holy day marking the advent of monsoon rains. For the first time since 1845, members of the Bathini Goud family, which performs the closely guarded medicinal ritual, shifted the venue from their ancestral home to a college playground.

"There is no change in the potency of our medicine. We performed the rituals and prepared the medicine and mixed it with water from the well at our ancestral house," said Harinath Goud, one of the five brothers leading the family tradition. Braving temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), 250 members of the Goud clan administered the cure to an estimated 350,000 to 400,000 people from 1 p.m. (0730 GMT) on Monday. The event was expected to continue until the last of the patients got their turn.

The medicine comes free, but patients buy the fish. Locally called "murrel", the fish costs 10 rupees (25 cents) but prices shot up to 60 rupees on Monday. The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh state, Chandrababu Naidu, signalled the start of the event by taking the medicine himself. The government deployed anti-riot Rapid Action Force troopers to control the crowds. Police used batons to control restless people and barely managed to avert a stampede, witnesses said. Older men, women and children were stranded as younger patients jumped barricades to get their dose of medicine.

The patients, many of whom came from other parts of India, said the cure worked. "It is like a miracle," said Meera, a woman from Delhi. "My 4-1/2-year-old daughter got 90 percent cured last year. I have brought her here again." J.C. Yadav, a paramilitary soldier, said he had come for the medicine a second time after finding it effective. Special buses ran from neighbouring areas of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh's state capital, to transport patients to the site of the event. Patients from outside the city were accommodated at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium.

And the bride is ...

MINNEAPOLIS, June 8 (Reuters) - A groom-to-be who says he won't know who his bride is until a committee picks her on the day of the wedding is still accepting candidates and has received worldwide inquiries, friends said on Monday. "We have a solid, confirmed list of about 40 candidates. But we're hearing reports that some radio stations are busing people up here. So it could be 300," said Pete Johannsen, a roommate of Dave Weinlick, the intended groom.

But the chances of an absolute stranger joining Weinlick, 28, in wedlock are remote. "If you don't know Dave or anyone else there you probably won't get picked," Johannsen said. That's because a committee of Weinlick's friends, and friends of the bridal candidates as well, will vote on the winner at a public park next Saturday. A few hours later, the "wedding ceremony" will be held, but it will be only a ceremonial event pending a marriage license and blood tests.

Weinlick, a University of Minnesota anthropology student, said it all began because he got tired of people asking him when he was going to get married. So he set a date -- June 13, 1998. Weinlick has registered for wedding gifts under his own name and a bride to be announced. He says he'll accept whomever the "bridal nomination committee" picks.

Bangladesh fans attack power stations

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh, June 12 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Bangladeshi soccer fans attacked two power stations, beat up staff and smashed cars after the lights went out during a World Cup match, the second such incident in two days. The electricity failed in the southern port of Chittagong on Thursday when millions of Bangladeshis were glued to their television sets watching the Italy vs Chile match live.

"Angry fans ran out from homes and sports clubs and stormed the power sub-stations. They barricaded the highway and turned on vehicles," one power department official said. "Eight electric supply technicians and staff of two power sub-stations were injured in the attack and equipment and furniture worth 300,000 taka ($6,470) was damaged," one police officer said. The fans dismantled the roadblocks when power was restored an hour later.

On Wednesday, nearly 2,000 people stormed a power utility office in the Cox's Bazar coastal district after the electricity failed during the second half of the Brazil-Scotland match, the opening game of the World Cup. "Such outages cannot be (stopped) fully although people are responding to request by the Bangladesh Power Development Board to close down shops and businesses by 7 p.m. to save power and ensure uninterrupted World Cup TV coverage," one PDB official said. "We are facing a daily shortfall of more than 400 megawatts," he said, adding that the situation may improve in next few days if two Russian experts manage to repair a disabled 210-megawatt power plant near the capital Dhaka.

Soccer fans had threatened to burn down or blow up power plants if electricity supply was disrupted during the World Cup, forcing authorities to deploy police and troops at many plants across the country.

[Some people just have no sense of humour...]

Staid Swiss reject "The Kiss"

GENEVA, June 8 (Reuters) - Legalistic Swiss voters kissed goodbye to a statue of two naked lovers kissing passionately because the sculptor did not get permission to put it up. The 12-feet-(3.66-metre)high white marble statue called "The Kiss" now adorns the hospitable neighbouring French town of Ferney-Voltaire.

Ferney gave the statue artistic asylum after Geneva's authorities refused to give it a home, saying they did not want their boundaries to become a dumping ground for unauthorised works of art. The issue was put to vote at a weekend referendum after the statue's Swiss creator Vincent Kesselring urged locals to have his work returned.

But the gulf between the prudish Swiss and the more relaxed French widened after voters in this city of strong Calvinist traditions rejected the statue by a crushing majority of 66 percent. Ferney, where the great French thinker Voltaire moved after he left Geneva in 1760, says it will shelter "The Kiss" with a "spirit of tolerance that was so dear to Voltaire and to Ferney."

The French-language Tribune de Geneve bid "The Kiss" good riddance and praised the Swiss for voting in favour of regulations over spontaneity: "This weekend, we saluted the end of this abuse of democracy," crowed the paper.

England to win World Cup for "scientific" reasons: Turkish critic

ANKARA, June 10 (AFP) - England will win this year's World Cup in France, a leading Turkish football critic said on Wednesday, basing his estimation on a finely honed mathematical induction formula.

"The number 3,964 is a critical figure," Hincal Uluc said in his column in the Istanbul mass circulation daily Sabah. "Germany became champions in 1974 and 1990. And 1974 plus 1990 makes 3964," he said. "Similarly, Brazil became champions in 1970 and 1994. Here the sum is again 3964. Also Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986. Add them to find 3964," Uluc said.

"Using this mathematical induction method to find out this year's champions, subtract 1998 from 3964, you will find 1966. Who won the World Cup then? That was England, and you now know the winner this year," he said.

[...well, you read it here first...]

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