NewsQuirks 348

Down Under Down UnderA New Zealand town council announced last June that it was charging more to bury large people. Explaining that the cost of over-sized graves at Porirua's Whenua Tapu cemetery would rise 30 percent, John Seddon, the council's chief executive, dismissed complaints from Pacific Islanders that the surcharge is unfair because they tend to grow bigger than other people. In July, the Australian government said it wants to bury famous Australians in a national cemetery, then use the cemetery as a tourist attraction. Canberra Tourism Minister Tony De Domenico commented, "I make no bones about the fact that that's going to be one of the results of such a memorial park."Food for ThoughtThe Food and Drug Administration approved olestra for potato chips, crackers, and other snack foods but required Procter & Gamble to warn users that the fat substitute may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools. Canada's health ministry informed Eskimos that dangerous pesticides carried to the Arctic from the Third World by wind and ocean currents have contaminated seal and whale blubber, making it unsafe to eat. But the ministry told the natives that they should continue eating it because even contaminated the blubber is considered at least as healthy as the standard North American diet of processed and junk food.Spirited DrivingBritish police charged a 65-year-old man with driving under the influence after he drove 50 mph the wrong way along a highway for 10 miles. He also had a wheel missing from his car. He stopped only when police put a bed of spikes across the highway west of London to puncture his remaining tires, and his car ran into the back of a police car. Maryland police reported that after James D. Padgette Jr., 35, turned into a parking lot to make a U-turn, his door came open and he fell out, then was run over by his car. He wasn't seriously hurt but reportedly tried to drive away in a car that looked like his but wasn't. The owner called police, who charged Padgette with driving while intoxicated. El Paso County, Colo., sheriff's deputies arrested Edward Neidrick, 34, on suspicion of driving under the influence after his car plowed into a sheriff's office DUI patrol van containing two other drunken-driving suspects.Is That a Python in Your Pocket -- Or Are You Glad to See Me?The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals requested that the Malaysian news media carry "positive reports" about pythons. The group complained that after news of a 23-foot python killing and trying to swallow a 29-year-old rubber plantation worker in Johor state last September, Malaysians began indiscriminately killing any snakes they encountered. In October, monsoon floods in Thailand drove pythons from their holes into city streets. During a three-week period, authorities captured almost 100 pythons around Bangkok, according to the director of the Dusit Zoo, Alongkorn Mahannop, who warned, "The big ones can eat people." The pythons followed newspaper reports of crocodiles, freed by floods from their pens in farms north and east of Bangkok, slipping into the Chao Phraya River, which runs into the capital. After Fisheries Department chief Plodplasob Surasawasdi confirmed that as many as 300 crocs escaped, the Thai navy dispatched troops armed with electric prods, nets and rifles to patrol canals.Road KillA 72-year-old motorist who hit a rabbit on a highway north of Amsterdam stopped to help the stricken animal. The Dutch news agency ANP reported the man was walking back up the road toward the rabbit when a car coming from the opposite direction ran over and killed him. Phillip Smith and John Phillips were hunting together near Inez, Ky., when Phillips's spaniel retrieved a downed bird. As Phillips tried to take the bird away, the dog stepped on the trigger of a 12-gauge shotgun and blasted Smith, 45, in both legs. "It's not funny that the guy got shot," Martin County Sheriff Darriel Young said, "but it's kind of funny how he got shot."Dying BreedAfter a concerted effort, CBS has succeeded in reaching a younger audience. The BJK&E Media Group reported the median age of the network's viewers dropped from 50 in 1994 to 49 in the last quarter of 1995. Its survey revealed, however, that the shift occurred not because the network is attracting new younger viewers but because it's losing some of its current older ones. "This," CBS executive vice president David Poltrack commented, "is not what we were hoping for."People Who Need PeopleTo beat a restriction that taxis without passengers cannot enter Bangkok's Don Muang airport, cabbies hire people to pose as departing travelers. The Bangkok Post reported that some phony fares, mostly "jobless teenagers and a few middle-aged men," earn $12 to $16 a day for taking as many as 30 trips.Wretched ExcessAfter 800-pound Tommy McGruder, 35, nearly died of congestive heart failure and obesity, a diet center in Orange, Calif., donated its service. In five months on a special diet, McGruder lost 400 pounds, but the loss was so rapid that his skin became loose and cumbersome. In December, surgeons trimmed the excess skin to give him more mobility. The skin, weighing 75 pounds, was donated for transplants and research.In Case Loud Music Hasn't Made You DeafAging baby boomers risk going blind, according to James M. Tielsch, an associate professor in international health and ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who forecast that blindness will double among older Americans during the next 35 years.By Popular DemandWhen convicted murderer John Albert Taylor demanded to be executed by firing squad rather than lethal injection, explaining "I don't want to go flipping around like a fish out of water on that table," the switchboard at the Utah corrections department was jammed with calls from people hoping to join the first U.S. firing squad in 19 years.Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306. Odd-news hounds will enjoy the latest compilation, "Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: True News of the World's Least Competent People" by John J. Kohut and Roland Sweet, published by Plume/Penguin.

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