News you may have missed...
This week's column is in memory of Giant Haystacks.
Rest in peace, big man.
Giant Haystacks dies of cancer
LONDON, Dec 1 (AFP) - Giant Haystacks, one of Britain's most
famous celebrity wrestlers, has died after a two-year battle against
cancer, it was announced on Tuesday.
The 50-year-old, real name Martin Ruane, made his reputation in
the 1980s as the villain of the piece in a series of duels against
arch rival Big Daddy.
"It's very sad. He was one of the great stars of wrestling and I
am sure he would have fought right up until the end," said former
promoter Max Crabtree, the brother of Big Daddy.
"He was a big star and always played the bad guy but he loved
his wife Rita and his three children."
The wrestler had undergone surgery and chemotherapy to remove a
tumour in his abdomen at Christies cancer hospital in Manchester and
his weight had plummeted from his trademark 49 stone (310-kg) to 24
stone during his long battle.
Interviewed in April of this year Haystacks said: "I don't want
to thrash the world anymore or beat the living daylights out of my
My greatest joy these days is just waking up, seeing the blue
sky and hearing the birds sing.
Cancer was my biggest opponent and the worst thing is you
cannot see it...you never know where it is going to attack you from
I was a big strong guy but I was still terrified of what was
happening to me.
In my career I've broken most of my bones. I've been covered in
bruises and had gashes requiring 500 stitches. But nothing prepared
me for my fear of dying on the operating table, powerless to fight
Haystacks was best remembered for his favoured technique of
hurling his unfortunate opponent to the canvas before 'splashing'
his considerable bulk on top of them.
In his prime, the wrestler would attract a television audience
of up to 16 million and would eat a box of Weetabix cereal, 3lb
of bacon, a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread -- for breakfast.
Soccer: Sao Paulo bow out to cries of "shock absorbers"
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Three times Brazilian
champions Sao Paulo bowed out of this year's competition to the
bizarre chant of "shock absorbers, shock absorbers" from fans.
One of the weirdest soccer songs ever heard came in reply to
comments made earlier in the week by club president Jose Augusto
Bastos Neto about the reduced capacity of the club's Morumbi
Sao Paulo city authorities lowered the capacity of the upper
tier from 40,000 to 13,000 until shock absorbers are placed in
Authorities say they are needed to reduce the impact caused
by fans jumping and down in unison, which causes the stadium to
wobble alarmingly. But Bastos Neto said on Monday he was not
prepared to spend the money.
"Wherever I go people shout for players (jogador in
Portuguesa)," he said. "You never hear the crowd chant shock
But during Thursday's 2-0 win over Atletico Paranaense he
was made to eat his words as the cries of "amortecedor" echoed
around the ground.
Sao Paulo finished 15th in the qualifying stage of the
Brazilian championship and were eliminated. The Morumbi, which
once held 110,000, now holds just 53,000 after the new ruling.
Dead German found sitting at home, five years on
BONN, Nov 19 (Reuters) - A dead German sat in front of his
television set for five years, the lights on his Christmas tree
flashing beside him, and none of his neighbours noticed.
"Someone said once that he had gone off to a home, I didn't
ask any more," said Monika Majarres, who lived in the same
Hamburg block of flats as Wolfgang Dircks, a divorced, disabled
loner who died in 1993, aged 43.
The two neighbours on his floor only moved in four years ago
and had never seen Dircks, a former toolsmith who had reportedly
threatened to whip anyone who asked after him.
Other tenants in the 18-flat block minded their own
business. Bild newspaper said on Thursday the dead man's letter
box, which might have raised the alarm when it overflowed, had
been emptied every now and then, though no one knows by whom.
The landlords came knocking only after the bank account from
which Dirck's rent and bills were paid ran dry.
Beside the broken television set and the still twinkling
tree they found his skeleton -- his TV listings magazine still
on his lap and open on the page for December 5, 1993.
Child reports mother for dead baby kept in freezer
STOCKHOLM, Nov 19 (Reuters) - A mother who had stored a dead
baby in her freezer was reported to the authorities by one of
her children, Swedish police said on Thursday.
Police in Osmo, south of Stockholm, said they were notified
of the dead baby following an argument between the mother and
her son. Police dogs found the body in the woods, where the
mother had hidden it when she knew police were on their way.
The woman has so far not been charged, although a crime
could not be ruled out, police said. Social workers were taking
care of the woman and her two children, both of them minors.
Police would not give the children's exact ages, or confirm
Swedish media reports that the body had been in the freezer for
"We must see what the examination of the body shows,"
Christer Holmer, a police inspector, told Reuters.
Oklahoma zookeeper loses arm in tapir attack
OKLAHOMA CITY, Nov 20 (Reuters) - A Malayan tapir on Friday
bit off the arm of a woman keeper who was feeding it in its
pen, Oklahoma City zoo director Steve Wylie said.
The woman, whose name and age had not been released, was in
critical condition at a local hospital,
"She was severely injured, and dismembered her left arm.
She received a lot of other lacerations and probably some
broken bones," Wylie said.
He said the female tapir had an infant, which may have been
part of the reason it attacked.
The Malayan tapir, a native of southeast Asia, resembles a
black and white pig with an extended snout. It can weigh 800
pounds and on average grows to a height of three feet at the
Elderly Florida man has scare with alligators
PALM HARBOR, Fla., Nov 24 (Reuters) - An elderly Florida
man was shocked this week when he woke up in the pond behind
his house staring into the faces of many alligators, police
said on Tuesday.
James Currens, 77, said he believed he had been
sleepwalking before dawn on Monday when he stumbled down an
embankment and into the water.
Frail, and with a reconstructed knee, Currens was unable to
pull himself out of the muck, so he shouted for help. A
neighbor summoned help about 5 a.m.
At first police saw the crowd of alligators, but not
Currens, a Pinellas County Sheriff's Department spokesmen said.
But Currens yelled, "I'm where your light is," after they tried
shining a flashlight.
Police Cpl. James Cooper worked his way through the mud and
brush, where he saw that 8-10 alligators were just a few feet
from Currens. Currens extended his cane, and Cooper used it to
pull him to safety.
Currens was taken to a hospital for treatment of cuts on
Stating the bleedin' obvious, 1.0.1
JANESVILLE, Wis., Nov 30 (Reuters) - A 15-year-old girl
whose lifeless, emaciated body weighed just 15 pounds (6.8 kg)
when brought to a hospital last week died from starvation and
dehydration, the coroner said on Monday.
The girl, Kay Kuffer, was just 38 inches (97 cm) tall and
weighed 12.2 pounds (5.5 kg) at autopsy, pathologist Robert
Huntington III said.
Preliminary results of the autopsy showed the cause of
death was starvation and dehydration.
The girl's mother, Karen Kuffer, 50, has been charged with
neglect and told police her daughter had suffered from cerebral
palsy and other health problems since birth. Police said the
girl had not received medical care for some time and appeared
to have been bedridden.
A lawyer for Kuffer, who was free on bond, said she was
very poor and cared for her handicapped child as best she
Absinthe makes U.K. comeback after 80-year absence
LONDON, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Absinthe, the fiery green tipple
with a high alcohol content, is making a comeback in Britain
after an 80-year absence.
The drink, renowned for its hallucinogenic properties, has
been banned in France, Switzerland, Belgium and the United
States since World War One, but was never formally outlawed in
Now the drink, which packs a serious kick with its content
of up to 75 percent alcohol, is being marketed as the perfect
way to see in the millennium.
Green Bohemia, a company set up by a literary magazine
called Idler, said on Tuesday it had secured a contract with a
small Czech distillery to distribute absinthe in Britain.
It should be available from next week via the Internet, by
mail order and in a small number of London bars for about 40
pounds ($66) a bottle.
"We feel it is the perfect drink to celebrate the millennium
with," a spokesman for Green Bohemia said.
The aniseed-flavoured drink which turns milky when water is
added became popular in western Europe at the turn of the
century after blight wiped out grape harvests and the price of
It was banned in France after being linked with a series of
violent crimes. Absinthe intoxication is popularly held
responsible for artist Vincent Van Gogh's mutilation of his own
Thief dies after eating chicken, feathers and all
YAOUNDE, Dec 2 (Reuters) - An enraged Cameroon mob forced a
chicken thief to eat the bird: meat, feathers, bones and beak.
Shortly afterwards the thief -- named only as Henri -- went
to a local police station in the country's second city of
Douala, "where he collapsed...and died", Le Messager newspaper
reported on Wednesday.
Houston junks error-ridden youth education guide
HOUSTON, Dec 3 (Reuters) - A booklet advising young people
about Houston's city programs and available education
facilities was so riddled with spelling and grammatical errors
it had to be thrown out, city officials said on Thursday.
Words misspelled in the 14-page brochure for the Texas city
included "library," "teaches" and "national."
An aide to Houston Mayor Lee Brown said that of the 2,500
copies printed, only a small number had been distributed before
the shoddy spelling was spotted.
"That document is a poor document and I would not feel good
about giving it to anyone," said Donald Hollingsworth, an
executive assistant to Brown.
He said the mayor's $67,000-a-year director for youth
services who had written the booklet might be disciplined.
Brown, formerly a police chief in both Houston, Atlanta and
New York, was elected Mayor last year promising to improve
S.Africans take flamethrower aboard to fight crime
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Crime-obsessed South
Africans have a new and potent weapon with which to deter
potential criminals -- the in-car flamethrower.
Casting a man-high fireball with no damage to the paintwork,
the aptly named Blaster has been fitted to 25 South African
vehicles since its launch last month.
At 3,900 rand ($655), it offers a cheap and dramatic defence
against would-be car hijackers. It has also yet to be deemed
South African courts sanction lethal action if they can be
persuaded that someone acted in defence of his or her life --
not unheard-of in a country that suffered over 13,000 car
hijackings last year.
The Blaster fires liquified gas from a bottle in the vehicle
boot through two nozzles, positioned under the front doors,
which is then ignited by an electric spark, with ferocious
Both sides fire simultaneously, regardless of whether the
attack is coming from just one side of the vehicle -- or whether
passersby are on the other side.
"My personal feeling is that it would definitely blind a
person -- he will never see again," said Charl Fourie, the
Blaster's 33-year-old inventor.
But he dismissed fears that the flamethrower -- whose
breadth and depth of blast can be adjusted to need and is
supplied by gas cannisters in sizes from three to nine kgs (6.6
to 19.8 pounds) -- could ever be responsible for a death.
"This is definitely non-lethal...A person won't just stand
there and let you roast him," he said.
Fourie has filed an international patent application and
anticipates thousands of orders, nationally and from abroad.
"The demand is huge," he told Reuters Television.
South Africa has an appalling reputation for violent crime
and its first national survey, published on Thursday, found that
20 percent of households had experienced at least one incident
Car hijacking is one of the crimes South Africans most fear,
with criminals often using weapons and showing little or no
hesitation to kill for a car.
Police Superintendent David Walkley of Johannesburg's crime
intelligence unit was the Blaster's first customer and is
satisfied it is all above board -- provided it is used corectly.
"There is nothing that says this is illegal. It depends
entirely on the circumstances and whether you can justify
"Yes, there are certain risks in using it, but there are
also risks in not having anything at all," he said.
The ultimate Belgian Xmas present -- a grass skirt
OVERIJSE, Belgium, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Dior, Lagerfeld and
Versace eat your heart out. A Belgian horticulturalist has come
up with the ultimate ecological fashion statement to give your
loved one this Christmas: a skirt made of live grass.
The clothes -- skirts, tops and dresses -- are the idea of
Luc Mertes, who lives in the Belgian town of Overijse.
The grass is grown on jute matting, instead of earth, for
about 25 days, and is then made into garments which continue to
grow while you wear them.
The end product is striking, if not comfortable: the clothes
weigh several kilograms (pounds) and the water needed to keep
the grass alive makes them quite damp.
"It's a bit of a joke, really," said Mertes, who tells the
friends for whom he makes the clothes: "Make sure you water your
skirt once a day and mow it once a month."
Peruvians find someone who likes airline food
LIMA, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Pigs may not fly -- but in Peru
they stuff their snouts with business class airline meals.
Pigs in Lima are being fed left-overs smuggled illegally
from planes landing at Jorge Chavez international airport, a
local newspaper reported Wednesday.
Police discovered that companies contracted to incinerate
garbage from planes at the airport were diverting left-over
meals to a clandestine pig farm, according to El Comercio.
The law stipulates all airline garbage must be incinerated
to avoid the spread of disease.
Chinese women to become designer footballers
BANGKOK, Dec 12 (AFP) - China's women footballers will wear
specially designed body hugging outfits from next year aiming to
give added attraction to their already admired skills.
Zhang Jilong, vice chairman of the Chinese Football Association,
said: "The new uniforms of the Chinese footballers will be of style,
freshness and attraction."
The red and white outfits are being specially made for the team
by equipment-maker Adidas. Zhang, one of the supervisors of the
Asian Games football, said the sleeves and shorts would be shortened
and the uniforms would be tighter against the players' bodies.
Till now women have had to wear baggy male-style outfits, with
the shorts often longer than their knees. Zhang said they had "none
of the aesthetical taste of the beauty of the female body."
The outfits are bound to become an established fashion item in
women's soccer, and follow a similar campaign by volleyball to give
competitors greater TV appeal.
At the recent world volleyball world championships seven teams
were fined for not using new skimpy shorts and shirts imposed by the
International Volleyball Federation. They also offered cash prizes
for the best dressed teams.
Man bites dog #1: Italian pensioner robs 10-year-old beggar
ROME, Dec 13 (Reuters) - A 66-year-old Italian pensioner was
caught on Sunday after robbing a 10-year-old gypsy girl who had
been begging in a busy Rome shopping street, police said.
The girl shouted "thief, thief" after the man made off with
her bag of small change. Police on duty nearby rushed to the
scene, stopped the man and took him to a local police station to
charge him with robbery. The girl was given back her money.
Man bites dog #2: Indonesian troops throw Molotovs at students
JAKARTA, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Clashes between Indonesian troops
and students resumed after a brief halt for Moslem prayers on
Thursday evening with some soldiers hurling Molotov cocktails at
the protesters, witnesses said.
Thousands of students had earlier tried to march on
parliament in the centre of the capital, blocked by troops who
fired volleys of rubber bullets and teargas at them.
Last week's edition
Back to the TC home page