Friday, July 29, 2005

Strange But True Headlines

Those who know me know I love AOL's "Strange But True" headlines and stories. It's quite amazing what happens in societies across the world and with creatures. Strange but true headlines are quite distractors from all these repetitive negative news about wars, politics and so on. Here's the most recent listing.


Santas From Across Globe Meet in Denmark

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (July 25) - More than 100 Santa Clauses and their little helpers danced, bellowed ho-hos and raced up a rapidly melting hill made of snow at the annual World Santa Claus Congress.

Despite a sprinkle of rain and trees in full Nordic summer bloom, the Papa Noels, St. Nicks and Sinter Klaases from 10 countries were in a yuletide spirit Monday as they kicked off a three-day convention in Denmark, including a Santa parade and a chimney-climbing competition.

To the strains of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the bearded Santas dressed in red and white gathered in a northern Copenhagen amusement park as dozens of children watched in astonishment.

"I didn't know that there were that many Santas," said Cecilia Bergqvist, an 8-year-old Swedish girl.

While all Santas professed to be the real thing, one delegate from Marysville, Washington, could make a pretty good case. He legally changed his name to Santa Claus, saying he hated "to lie to children."

Claus, who has worked as Santa for the past two decades, showed his passport to an AP reporter to prove his claim.

To qualify as Santa, candidates must sport a white beard, don a red suit in which they must not smoke tobacco - and refrain from drinking alcohol before addressing children. At the Denmark congress, their physical skills also were put to the test.

A team of three foreign Santas - including Claus, Tokyo resident Paradise Yamamoto and Norway's Thorvald Moi - easily beat three Danish Julemaend in a race up a snowy 5-foot hill atop which they put a small present under a Christmas tree.

Yamamoto, who traveled to Denmark with his sidekick, Yutaka Iwabuchi, dressed as the reindeer Rudolph, said being Santa was "tough work."

A chimney-climbing competition was set for later Monday.

Later this week, the Santas are also scheduled to parade in Copenhagen, visit hospitalized children and take a dip in the sea.

They also were expected to have a few good laughs as they draft proposals to improve their working conditions.

Their demands include standardizing chimney widths in the 25-country European Union and holding Christmas twice a year to lessen the burden on Santas, whom they said must currently rush around the world to distribute presents in just one day.

The festival has grown from a local summer activity created 42 years ago by the Bakken amusement park, 13 miles north of downtown Copenhagen, to an event attracting Santas from around the world. By tradition, the festival is held each year six months before Christmas.

07/25/05 21:17 EDT

Dead Woman Shot in Casket, Mourners Flee

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (July 28) - A dead woman lying in her casket was hit by a stray bullet during a wake in Rio de Janeiro and mourners fled in panic, police said on Wednesday.

The bullet, fired in a shootout between a drug gang and police in a slum adjacent to the cemetery Tuesday, pierced the casket inside the cemetery's chapel and got lodged in the corpse's pelvis. Clenilda da Silva, 49, a babysitter, had died the previous day of a heart attack.

The bullet was not removed before burial.

"This is just too sad. My God, to get shot after death," Extra tabloid newspaper quoted da Silva's sister, Maria de Lourdes Pereira, as saying. The newspaper said another bullet broke a window in a neighboring chapel and bullet holes could be seen on many trees and cemetery walls.

Standoffs between drug gangs and police or just between rival gangs often claim innocent lives in Rio, which has one of the world's highest murder rates.

07/28/05 08:26 ET

Wild Ponies Make Annual Swim in Dense Fog

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (July 27) - Between 150 and 200 wild ponies made the annual swim to the shore of this resort island in dense fog Wednesday morning.

"You couldn't see the crowd," said Evelyn Shotwell, the chamber of commerce's office manager. "It was really foggy."

The hot weather in recent days - a high of nearly 100 degrees was expected Wednesday - didn't appear to reduce the crowd of thousands of onlookers.

Shotwell said the town of about 3,500 seemed to be crowded with about the same number of people as the 40,000 who came for last year's event.

It took the ponies about five minutes to cross the 200-yard channel from Assateague, Md., a barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean, shortly after 8:30 a.m., Shotwell said.

The ponies were then herded through town to a corral on the carnival grounds, where they will be sold at auction Thursday.

Yearlings and younger are sold to thin the herd and raise money for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which cares for the ponies.

Ponies that aren't sold, as well as those donated back to the fire department, will swim back to roam again on Assateague, a national wildlife refuge.

The pony swim was made famous by Marguerite Henry's 1947 novel "Misty of Chincoteague." This year's swim was the 80th organized by the fire department.

07/27/05 19:37 EDT

Teen Who Threw Up on Teacher Sentenced

OLATHE, Kan. (July 27) - A high school student convicted of battery for vomiting on his Spanish teacher has been ordered to spend the next four months cleaning up after people who throw up in police cars.

Johnson County Magistrate Judge Michael Farley said during the sentencing Tuesday that he considered the boy's actions "an assault upon the dignity of all teachers."

The teen, now 17, vomited on teacher David Young as he turned in his textbook on the last day of classes at Olathe Northwest High School. His attorney, Brian Costello, said the student vomited because he was nervous about his final exams.

But two other students testified that the teen said he threw up intentionally. One girl said he told her in advance that he planned to throw up on Young on the last day of school. The girl wasn't in class when the teen threw up, but she testified that the boy later told her, "You missed it. I did it."

Young said the student, who was failing his class, made no effort to avoid throwing up on him. "I was just sort of stunned," he said.

07/27/05 05:35 EDT

Amorous British Couple Sparks Rescue Drama

LONDON (July 26) - An British couple who headed out to sea in a dinghy for an amorous liaison sparked a major rescue operation when their cries of passion were mistaken for someone in trouble, British police said on Tuesday.

A passer-by raised the alarm after hearing strange noises coming from the waters near a beach in Torbay on the southwest coast of England on Saturday morning, prompting the coastguard to send lifeboats and police to the scene.

"It was found that there was a partially-clothed couple in a small rubber dingy that were brought ashore and asked to put their clothes back on," a spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police told Reuters.

"Our log actually mentions that 'they were having fun in their boat!', but doesn't say anything other than that."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press

Kenyan Holding a Torch for Chelsea Clinton

NAIROBI, Kenya (July 27) - A Kenyan says he offered Bill Clinton 40 goats and 20 cows for his daughter's hand in marriage five years ago - and is still waiting for an answer.

Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor told the East Africa Standard newspaper last week that he wrote Clinton asking for Chelsea's hand in 2000 during the then-president's visit to Kenya.

Chepkurgor, a 36-year-old elected city councilor in Nakuru, recounted writing to the U.S president through the Kenyan government.

He described his plans for a grand wedding presided over by South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He named then-President Daniel arap Moi and the president of his university as references.

"Had I succeeded in wooing Chelsea, I would have had a grand wedding," he told the Standard in an interview published Friday during Clinton's recent visit to Kenya.

Chepkurgor said his letter praised Clinton's leadership and commended his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, for standing by her husband "like an African woman" in the face of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The electrical engineering graduate said he promised to pay his would-be father-in-law 20 cows and 40 goats in dowry for his only daughter in accordance with African tradition.

But he said the letter prompted security checks - on him, his family and his classmates, and he was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Nairobi for a meeting that he missed because of his graduation from university.

A National Security Intelligence Service officer told the Standard the letter probably never made it out of the office.

"We gathered that this man was a teetotaler and a staunch Christian who seemed to have been struck by Chelsea, and I thought maybe he just took the joke too far," he said.

Chepkurgor vowed to remain single until he gets an answer to his proposal to marry Chelsea, 25.

07/27/05 14:48 EDT

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press

Cops Find Nude Man Looking for Gump's Home

LITTLEVILLE, Ala. (July 26) - A 26-year-old vagrant was charged with indecent exposure after police found him standing naked in a cornfield chewing on a cob near a country club. "He said he wanted to see the house where Forrest Gump lived," said Police Chief William Nale.

Gump is the fictional character in a novel by Alabama author Winston Groom that became a hit movie.

The Littleville police chief declined to release the man's name Tuesday but said his family lives in Michigan and he had been in a California institution earlier this year. After his arrest, the man was taken for a mental evaluation.

He was spotted Monday morning near twin Pines Country Club.

"He was standing in a cornfield, picking the corn and eating it raw," Nale said. "He didn't have anything on, not even his shoes. He was as naked as the day he was born."

Authorities said the man was taken into custody without any trouble.

"I asked him where his clothes were and he said he got hot (Sunday night), took them off and laid them on the railroad tracks and then couldn't remember where they were," Nale said.

The suspect told authorities that he was a homeless drifter following the railroad tracks to south Alabama, where he thought he would find the Gump home.

07/26/05 17:53 EDT

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

Police Give Man Amputated Foot Back

LAWRENCE, Kan. (July 26) - Ezekiel Rubottom now has his left foot back exactly where he wants it - in a bucket on the front porch. Police in Kansas have returned the amputated foot to him after seizing it during the weekend to check out just how it got there.

The 21-year-old man's foot was amputated three weeks ago after a series of medical problems, and he started keeping it in a five-gallon bucket filled with formaldehyde.

It came to the attention of police after a call from a parent whose child reported seeing the severed foot. Officers who went to the home late Saturday night found the foot, and some of Rubottom's friends, but no sign of Rubottom himself.

Unsure of what to make of the unusual discovery, police confiscated the severed foot and put it into evidence storage.

"We had to make sure that no crime had been committed," Sgt. Dan Ward said.

Rubottom, an artist, recovering methamphetamine addict and occasional hip-hop master of ceremonies, said he was born with a clubbed foot and has dealt all his life with pressure sores and infections. An infection this summer became so severe that doctors at Lawrence Memorial Hospital decided it should be amputated.

Rubottom asked to have the severed foot. A pathologist at the hospital checked to make sure it wouldn't be a hazard and told him he could have it, provided he kept it in a container labeled with instructions for handling the formaldehyde.

Karen Shumate, a vice president at the hospital, said people can keep parts removed from their bodies if they want them.

"They've had women that want their uterus," she said. "People take tonsils. They take appendixes. I think it's unusual that someone would want a foot, but it's within their rights because it's theirs."

After a friend picked up the bucket at a hardware store, Rubottom added several objects as well as the severed foot - including a porcelain horse and can of beer - to make what he called "a collage of myself." He also cut off two of the toes, saying he was considering giving them to friends.

On Monday, police returned the foot to Rubottom after taking him to the hospital, where he signed a release allowing them to see his medical records.

"It's cool. It's all good," said Rubottom. "Now I've got my foot back. That's all I wanted.

"I'm not sick or, like, a danger," he said of his decision to keep and display the foot. "I just wanted my foot ... I just figured I'd do with it whatever I pleased."

07/26/05 14:03 EDT

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

Amish Teen Charged With Stealing Numbers

HUNTSBURG, Ohio (July 26) - Callers complaining about loud music coming from a buggy led deputies to charge a 19-year-old Amish man with stealing house numbers and flower pots. David Byler was charged with theft and underage consumption of alcohol, both misdemeanors.

Callers to the Geauga County sheriff's office told dispatchers early Sunday about a buggy playing loud music and stealing items from outside houses in a rural area of northeast Ohio.

"When our officer caught up with him in the middle of the road, there were flower pots and house numbers in the buggy," sheriff's spokesman John Hiscox said.

Information from: The News-Herald,

07/26/05 16:57 EDT
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

Farmer Killed by Falling Cow

ZAGREB (July 26) - A Croatian farmer was killed when a cow he was about to milk fell and crushed him, local media reported Tuesday.

The unfortunate 61-year-old farmer, from the village of Cadjavacki Lug in central Croatia, went into the stable where his family keeps nine cows, as he had every morning for the past 20 years, the Vecernji List newspaper reported.

"I think he slipped, grabbed the milking machine and knocked it over. That must have frightened the cow, which slipped and fell on top of him," his distraught daughter-in-law, who was in the stable with him, told the daily.

"It took me and the rest of the family almost three minutes to get the cow off him."

She said the cow, named Lara, had been very meek and that even children could milk her without fear. The newspaper did not say what had become of the cow.

07/26/05 10:02 ET
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

A Brazilian man transports the remains of an abandoned Volkswagen Beetle, which caught fire, on his horse-drawn carriage in Rio de Janeiro, July 25.
(Bruno Domingos, Reuters)

Oink Ink
Pigs tattooed with the Louis Vuitton logo rest at a farm in Beijing, July 14. Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has a staff of local farmers and tattoo artists raising sows to use them as canvases for skin art.
(Jason Reed, Reuters)