News you may have missed...
October 1998

Mexican woman sleeps with dead husband for 8 days

MEXICO CITY, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Margarita Sanchez's husband didn't speak to her for eight days. She thought he was angry, but he wasn't. He was dead. Cayetano Sanchez, 83, died in bed more than a week ago, but his wife slept next to him every night for eight days before she realized it, the Mexican government news agency Notimex reported on Tuesday, citing police sources. State Judicial Police in the town of Huatusco, in the gulf coastal state of Veracruz, reported finding Sanchez's partially decomposed body with the bed covers up to his neck, Notimex said.

"The wife told authorities her husband did not speak to her for eight days even though she tried to speak to him without realizing he was dead," Notimex said. A preliminary investigation suggested Sanchez may have died of alcohol poisoning, Notimex said. Margarita Sanchez was due to be examined by mental health specialists.

Bad hair day for Barbie spawns federal lawsuit

BALTIMORE, Oct 1 (Reuters) - A $200,000 lawsuit threatens to give a Maryland woman a bad hair day over a vintage Barbie doll she sold to a collector from Canada. Janice Amundson of Red Deer, Canada, who owns more than 300 Barbies, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore last month claiming the doll she bought from Lori Maddox of Somerset County, Maryland, for $1,800 was nearly bald when it arrived at her home.

Meanwhile, Maddox, who runs an Internet-based doll business called "Backwoods Beauties," claims Amundson tried to dye Barbie's hair from ruby red to midnight black and that is what caused it to fall out. According to court documents, the doll in question is a "Color Magic" Barbie, which was sold by Mattel Inc. in the late 1960s. This particular version of the shapely toy cum cultural icon featured hair that could be dyed blond or black. Amundson saw Maddox's advertisement for the doll on an Internet auction site and ordered it by phone in March. But her lawsuit alleged that when the doll arrived, its hair was discolored and falling out in strands.

She complained. But the lawsuit said Maddox refused to refund the $1,800, accused her of tampering with the doll and posted a message on her Internet site saying Amundson, who also collects Smurfs and ladies' accessories, had "devalued" her Barbie. "She told me the doll's hair was falling out. I said, 'No way," Maddox told the Baltimore Sun. Sold as collectibles, original Barbie dolls have fetched as much as $10,000. The Sun, which originally reported the story, noted Forbes magazine's August advice to collectors that demand for Beanie Babies has begun to cool and that Barbie dolls represented better investments.

Things you thought happened only in the movies, #1

TIRANA, Oct 6 (Reuters) - A 13-year-old Albanian girl shot dead her father's alleged murderer in a revenge shooting in which the victim's six-year-old son, playing nearby, was also killed, a newspaper reported on Tuesday. "Send best regards to my father," the girl, Entela Miloku, told Fran Fufi before opening fire on him with a Kalashnikov rifle which she had concealed in her baby brother's pram.

The Gazeta Shqiptare newspaper said the shooting took place in the northern town of Mamurras on September 30. Miloku had pledged to avenge the murder of her father in Greece three months earlier, for which her family blamed Fufi. Guns are widely available in Albania, where the tradition of blood feud has undergone a renaissance since the collapse of communism in 1990, especially in lawless northern areas. A revenge code dating from the Middle Ages, known as the Kanun, provides for revenge to be carried out by a male relative of the victim but Miloku, as the eldest in her family, apparently decided to act herself.

Gazeta Shqiptare said the 13-year-old girl had been elated after killing Fufi but was horrified to learn that she had also shot his six-year-old son, who had been playing in the garden of his house. The girl has not been arrested because she is a minor but she, her mother and three younger brothers have gone into hiding, fearing retaliation from Fufi's family. "She is the victim of a code as old as the Albanians themselves," the newspaper quoted police chief Fran Ndoi as saying.

What's in a name? Adolf Hittler can tell you...

BONN, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Let's face it, if your surname happens to be Hittler and your parents christen you Adolf, life isn't going to be easy. But a retired Austrian truck driver was quoted in a German newspaper on Sunday as saying he never changed his name out of respect for his mother and father.

"I often thought my life would have been a lot easier if I had had another name," 60-year-old Adolf Hittler told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "No one ever believed that my name is Adolf Hittler. I get anonymous calls in the middle of the night from people who say 'Heil Hitler' or 'We have someone here for the gas chamber'," he said. "But I never changed it because I am proud of my parents." Hittler was attending a conference "for people with infamous names" in Braunau, an Austrian town just across border from Germany and the birthplace of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

He said the name once cost him a construction job at a dam project in Austria. An engineer asked the workers what their names were. "The first in line answered 'Tony Sailer', the same as the famous skier," Hittler said. "The next answered 'Andreas Hofer', the same name as the Austrian freedom fighter. The engineer was growing annoyed because he thought they were pulling his leg. "And when he got to me I tried to warn him about my name, but when I said 'I'm Adolf Hittler' he threw us all out."

Hittler said his son had adopted his wife's surname. "I accepted that but it still hurt me a little bit," Hittler said.

Irish mystery parachutes were artistic hoax

DUBLIN, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Mystery orange-and-white parachutes carrying steel tubes which this week sparked a security alert in southern Ireland and feverish speculation of alien or Russian action were in fact the work of Irish artists, angry police said on Wednesday. "They didn't fall out of the sky. They came off the back of a van," Annette Clancy, artistic director at Garter Lane Arts Centre in Waterford, told Reuters.

"It's my responsibility that this sort of hysteria is avoided and the public at large are protected," Superintendent Michael McGarry said after police called on bomb experts, navigation officials and defence forces to help work out the meaning of the objects found in Waterford city early on Monday. McGarry said in a statement that he was informing state prosecutors about the case and that he was "terribly annoyed".

Clancy's group named the artist as Paul Gregg, who police said was a U.S. native resident in Ireland for four years. The hoax caught the imagination of the whole country -- and media -- who have been speculating wildly about the parachutes and their one metre (three feet) long cylinders holding test tubes filled with silt and water. This was exactly what the artists had in mind -- though they had not expected a mini security alert. Clancy said the aim of the action was ... "to stimulate debate and discussion about what art is intended to do." "When people go into a gallery they expect to have all the answers provided. We are very pleased with the outcome of this. Waterford has become a centre of debate," Clancy said.

However, she said the group had become "seriously concerned" on hearing police -- accustomed to security alerts because of the Northern Irish conflict -- had called out a bomb disposal unit. "We hadn't envisaged that scenario. The irony is the artist drove around at 4 a.m. and unloaded the things all over the city, but no one came forward," she said. "They were constructed out of metal, string and see-through test tubes. They were meant to look like scientific objects, not paramilitary paraphernalia," she added.

Police at Waterford have been inundated with calls since Monday and were not amused, despite an apology from the art group and a tribute from Clancy for their vigilance. "I've the greatest headache a man ever had," grumbled Sergeant David Sheehan.

Germans asplutter at naked sushi platter

BONN, Oct 8 (Reuters) - A German restaurant has been attacked as "tasteless" for serving sushi on naked models lying on top of tables. Brigitte Vollmer-Schubert, ombudsman for women's issues in the central city of Hanover, said she was appalled that the restaurant used naked women as huge "platters" for the Japanese dish, dubbed "sushi ala Jungfrau (virgin)". But the restaurant owner was quoted by Bild newspaper as saying the dish had been a huge hit and the evening-long meal, costing up to 400 marks ($250) per person, was booked out for weeks in advance.

The models, usually students in their 20s, wear nothing but see-through veils over their heads and a thin floral decoration between their legs. They are required to lie motionless on the table in the extra warm room. The sushi is spread out all over their bodies. Bodyguards dressed as samurai warriors make sure nothing gets out of hand. "They aren't entirely naked," wrote Bild. "Caviare is stuffed into their belly buttons, sword fish sushi is stuck near their armpits and between their legs is raw tuna fish sushi awaiting the hungry guests." "It's a great way to earn some pocket money," a model named Kim told the newspaper, saying she could earn up to 800 marks per night.

Actually, this sort of thing has been going on in Japan for quite some time. But then, we KNOW they're all a bunch of perverts. :-)

Toll mounts in mystery Indonesia murder spree

SURABAYA, Indonesia (Reuters) - More mutilated victims of mysterious Ninja-style killers have been found in Indonesia's East Java, bringing the death toll to at least 104, police said on Friday. A decapitated corpse was discovered in the town of Jember and police investigating the killing later opened fire on a group of suspects, killing at least one, locals said. A local hospital said one person had died and two others were being treated after being shot in the stomach. "We're still investigating this case," Jember police official Lieutenant Winarto said. Another mutilated corpse was found dangling from a tree in the port town of Banyuwangi, the town's police chief said, adding four other corpses had also been found in the town this week. "We can't confirm whether the victims were part of the organised murder," Banyuwangi police chief Ucu Kuspriadi told Reuters.

Black-clad killers have gone on a murder spree in recent months in Banyuwangi, the main departure point for ferries to the holiday island of Bali, and in surrounding areas. The victims -- mostly Moslem clerics or alleged practitioners of black magic -- were often chopped into pieces. The bodies of some victims were tied into bundles and dangled from trees, while others were thrown into mosques. Police officials said that the death toll had reached 104, but local Moslem leaders put the number of deaths at 163. "Data we have gathered from our local group heads show that the number of victims is 163," said Hashim Muzadi, provincial leader of Indonesia's largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). NU members have been particular targets of the killings.

No motive for the killings has emerged, and police and army officials have been divided in pointing the finger of blame. Regional police officials say four members of the military were being interrogated in connection with the killings, but East Java's military commander on Thursday denied claims the armed forces were involved. Indonesia's police chief, Lieutenant-General Roesmanhadi has said members of Indonesia's banned communist party were believed to be involved. Communists have long been used as bogey-men by the Indonesian regime, regularly blamed for unrest or criticism.

One military source has speculated the killings were a deliberate attempt to create tension between the NU and supporters of opposition figurehead Megawati Sukarnoputri, who is holding a congress in Bali. Thousands of Megawati supporters made their way through Banyuwangi en route to the congress this week but no trouble was reported. NU leader Abdurrahman Wahid said he hoped the army would soon get to the bottom of the killings. Armed forces chief General Wiranto pledged this week to investigate the wave of murders. "We have asked local security forces to take firm action against the killers," he told Reuters. "I'm optimistic that the armed forces will not break its promise to investigate the subject."

Asked about a motive for the killings, he said the subject was "very complicated"...

German snack bar sold hashish not hamburgers

KIEL, Germany, Oct 9 (Reuters) - German police have closed down a snack bar in the northern city of Kiel after discovering the owner was selling hashish instead of hamburgers. Police said on Friday they had detained the 39-year-old owner after long-term surveillance of the downtown snack bar revealed several hundred people were getting drugs there every day. "During the entire time, food was not sold on a single occasion," police said in a statement. "It transpired later that the accused did not even know how to operate the kitchen equipment," the police said.

Monica Lewinsky spotted on a bus in Kenya

NAIROBI, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Monica Lewinsky, the former White House aide at the centre of a sex scandal with U.S. President Bill Clinton, has been spotted on the back of a bus in Kenya. Kenya's public transport operators traditionally paint their vehicles with slogans and pictures reflecting popular news events, and a "Monica Lewinsky" bus is now plying a route from Nairobi to Eldoret in Rift Valley Province. The bus bears the name "Monica Lewinsky" on the rear and has an even bigger sign saying "Bill's gal" on the mud flaps. It also has a painting of a swimming costume-clad Lewinsky pouting provocatively.

Bus operators in Kenya are quick to paint their vehicles to keep up with current thinking -- sometimes resorting to puns that would be considered tasteless elsewhere. One bus named "Lady Di" was swiftly renamed "Lady Die" after the Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash in Paris last year.

Six killed while sleeping on Texas railroad track

SARITA, Texas, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Six illegal immigrants sleeping on railroad tracks in south Texas, possibly to avoid snakebites, were killed when a Union Pacific freight train ran over them early on Monday, authorities said. Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said the crew of the 105-car freight train saw the immigrants, all men, lying asleep between the rails in a remote and rugged area about 60 miles (96 km) north of the border city of Brownsville, Texas, but could not stop the train in time. "A train that big takes a mile to stop," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Kenedy (eds: correct) County Sheriff's Department said the conductor sounded the train's horn several times, but failed to rouse the sleepers. Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange said the victims likely slept on the tracks in the belief they would be safe from snakes. "In south Texas, it's not unusual for people to sleep on the tracks on the theory that snakes won't cross the track and bite you," she said. "It's a myth," Davis said. "I've seen many large rattlesnakes cut in half with one half on one side of the tracks and one half on the other. So they obviously do cross over the tracks."

Davis said there have been cases of people surviving similar incidents because trains have passed over their sleeping bodies between the rails without actually hitting them. The freight train was rolling through ranchland on its way from Houston to Brownsville at about 3:15 a.m. CDT (4:15 a.m. EDT) when it struck the victims. The incident took place about 28 miles (45 km) south of Sarita, near the tiny town of Norias, Texas. Had the men gone north another mile or so, they would have arrived at a park where they could have rested without danger, the sheriff's spokeswoman said.

Do you take this woman?

MESSINA, Sicily, Oct 13 (Reuters) - A Sicilian bridegroom took public revenge on his cheating bride at their wedding ceremony by answering "I don't" when asked if he would take her to be his lawful wedded wife. The man had returned from a stag party the night before his nuptials to discover, unbekownst to them, his fiancee in the arms of the would-be witness to the marriage. "It's not me you should be marrying, it's your lover, sitting in the front row, who's meant to be my witness," Il Giornale newspaper quoted the groom as saying in the church in Messina, northwest Sicily. The couple were not married but the groom invited the shocked guests to go ahead anyway with the wedding breakfast -- at his expense.
The next one's for Sven -- what IS it about the Swedes and animals? :-)

Swedish police chasing robber in chicken suit

STOCKHOLM, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Swedish police were pursuing a man on Wednesday who tried to rob a post office dressed in a chicken suit. Police said the robber, disguised in a yellow chicken outfit and wielding a baseball bat, failed to steal any money from the post office in Kalmar, southern Sweden. However, the attacker smashed windows and seriously upset a female cashier. "She's now psychologically disturbed by the event and undergoing treatment," a Kalmar police spokesman told Reuters.

Ice hockey -- Fog halts indoor match

CAEN, France, Oct 14 (AFP) - An ice hockey match in the French League was halted by fog on Wednesday night -- despite being played indoors. The game between Caen and Chamonix was halted because of poor visibility after only three minutes when the stadium air-conditioning system malfunctioned and pumped fog from outside into the arena.

Virtual reality autopsy on the Internet

LONDON, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Aspiring pathlogists can now hone their medical skills by performing a virtual reality autopsy on the Internet. Instead of a pathologist's knife, medical students can use a computer mouse to perform the virtual post mortem on the autopsy website created by staff and students at Leicester University in central England. "As far as we know this is the first virtual autopsy website," Dr Kevin West, a pathologist at the university, said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

The website includes seven cases with information that would be available to a pathologist carrying out a real examination to establish the cause of death. Students can click and get the patient's history, such as his age, symptoms, what drugs he had been taking and any other relevant information. A dictonary also explains any unfamiliar medical terms and drugs. There are also investigations and findings of examinations. "The student, at any time, can guess the cause of death but we presume they will go as far as the autopsy," said West.

To discourage voyeurs whole body images and faces are not used. Each case includes a body outline which students can use to choose which part of the anatomy they want to examine. West said some people might find the experience unpleasant but it is tame compared with some Internet images. "The images are not too bad. I don't think anyone will be grossly offended," he added.

By clicking on the specific body part -- lung, body, heart, head -- students can examine tissue from that area. Then they can go to the causes of death list. "When they click to select the cause of death there will be a list which includes the right one, some near misses and some red herrings," West said. "If they choose something completely wrong they will get a slight rebuke for being so far away....Students are told if they get the right answer."

The idea for the Internet site came from a student who approached members of the pathology department about a way to use his computing skills to improve his knowledge of pathology. The virtual autopsy is designed for medical undergraduates in early training but anyone can try it

Jamaican soccer players shoot to kill

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct 19 (Reuters) - A game of soccer to promote a recent "peace treaty" between two warring Kingston neighborhoods after months of gang warfare ended in a gunfight in which three people were killed, police said on Monday. Teams from rival Tower Hill and Penwood communities met in a match on Sunday with bottles of beer as the prize for the winner. "Things started to go wrong when one side scored early and started drinking the beer in celebration before the match had ended," a police spokesman said. The ensuing argument involving players and supporters erupted into gunfire. One Tower Hill player and two from Penwood were killed.

Infamous Japan suicide spot sets dismal record

TOKYO, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Japanese police on Tuesday reported finding three people hanged in a thickly wooded area near famed Mount Fuji, bringing to a record 58 the number of apparent suicides there this year. In addition to the confirmed deaths, around 40 people were believed to have attempted suicide in the forest this year, a police spokesman told Reuters. Most of the incidents involved hanging.

Last year, 55 bodies were found in the same place, a dense stretch of woods on a cliff located northwest of Mount Fuji in central Japan, the spokesman said. The place became famous after a notorious suicide guidebook several years ago named it as an ideal place to commit the deed. "I can't say for sure why so many killed themselves, but increasing financial problems due to the poor economy can't be ruled out completely," the police spokesman said. About 350 police officers and firefighters participated in a search of the area on Tuesday in an annual event conducted before the onset of winter.

Amorous emu fails to get her man

MOBILE, Ala., Oct 22 (Reuters) - A 6-foot-tall, 150-pound (1.8 metre, 68 kg) emu that fell head over heels in love with an Alabama man and stalked him for days was turned loose Thursday on a farm populated by her own species. "It was mating season and she took a fond liking to him," Diane Roberts, director of the Mobile, Alabama, Animal Rescue Foundation, told Reuters. "He had to ward her off with a boat paddle. She was absolutely intent that this was her mate."

The giant bird showed up at the home of Ed and Ann Stuardi last month, drinking from a bird bath and eating berries in their yard. They fed it dog food. Last week the emu began following Ed Stuardi around. Then it became aggressive, chasing their cats. Stuardi tried to frighten the bird away by shooting his gun into the air. The emu just stood there, looking at him forlornly. By Monday, it was making noises deep in its throat, a mating call Stuardi failed to recognize as the bird approached him. Shorter than than the bird, he held it off with a boat paddle.

On Monday night and Tuesday, the Stuardis cowered inside their home. Ann Stuardi called the sheriff to beg for help but was told deputies didn't have the equipment to catch the bird. That's when Animal Rescue Foundation got involved. "She pursued him. They had been feeding her, and when mating season hit, he almost got it. She had her heart set on this man," said Roberts. "I've never seen an emu hold hostages," she said. "He wasn't aware what the bird wanted, or why she was stalking him. I've never seen one stalk a human with procreation in mind."

Animal Rescue had been looking for the bird since Aug. 22, when it heard that a man had moved away from the area, abandoning three emus. The other two birds still have not been found. It took several hours for the rescue team to persuade the bird to get into a horse trailer so it could be taken to a farm that cares for injured wildlife. Roberts said the emu's only injury was a broken heart, and it was released into an area with other emus, including several males. "Hopefully she will meet another fellow and forget all about Mr. Stuardi. After all, he is a married man," Roberts said.

Baltimore school suspends 15-year-old "witch"

BALTIMORE, Oct 22 (Reuters) - A 15-year-old girl who claims to be a witch was suspended from school this week after another girl accused the high-school freshman of casting a spell on her, school officials said on Thursday. Jamie Schoonover, who has been taunted by fellow classmates for her overt adherence to the neopagan Wicca religion, was sent home for the day after an incident that occurred outside Baltimore's Southwestern High School on Tuesday morning. The other girl heard from a third student that Schoonover had put a "hex" on her. She started crying and ran to school administrators, who later held a two-hour meeting with both girls and their families. Schoonover's suspension slip cited her for "casting a spell on a student."

Baltimore schools officials later pronounced the whole thing a misunderstanding and said Schoonover's suspension order should have cited her for making an alleged verbal threat. Schoonover, whose father is a 45-year-old transsexual named Colleen Harper, stands out at school because she wears all-black clothing and is a devotee of gloomy "Goth" rock music, school officials said. Her family says she is also bisexual. Harper, who describes herself as a witch as well, told reporters at the school that this week's incident was only the latest in a series of encounters in which her daughter had been taunted and threatened.

Things you thought only happened in the movies, #2

BANGKOK - A woman stood up in court in central Thailand and shot dead a man accused of murdering her son. Wealthy businesswoman Srisombat Pakdiwong said Natthopol Virayutsilp provoked her as he arrived to be tried at the court in Lop Buri, a provincial town north of Bangkok. So she pulled out a Beretta pistol and shot him four times. "I asked him whether he was the man who killed my son. He said he was and threatened to get me next," The Nation newspaper quoted Srisombat as saying. "I was suddenly overcome with anger and shot him."

Dane takes dead father on last motorcycle ride

COPENHAGEN, Oct 26 (Reuters) - A Danish man bade his dead father farewell by taking his corpse for a motorcycle ride at the weekend, stopping at a bar for beer and a cigar. Flemming Pedersen, 37, asked the staff at the hospital where his 86-year-old father died if he could be left alone with him for a while, the tabloid BT reported on Monday. Pederson dressed the rigid corpse in leather gear, boots, a helmet and dark sunglasses and walked it out of the hospital. Then he strapped the body to the seat of his Harley Davidson with elastic straps and drove around metropolitan Copenhagen for three hours, visiting his father's favourite spots. He stopped at a kerbside bar, where he bought two beers and stuck a lit cigar between his dead father's lips. Pedersen said he had taken the last ride with his father to have a chat with him and that he felt good about it afterwards.
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