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Strange tales of 2006

Strange tales of 2006

The year just ending brought the usual crop of bizarre legal cases, administrative quirks and embarrassed officials from around the world.
n British police finally worked out who a certain Lord Christopher Edward Buckingham really was, after he was found to have been going for 23 years under a false name found on a gravestone.
The man, who sported an ancestral coat of arms and had successfully kept his real identity secret from his wife and two children, turned out to be an American from Florida who was exceptionally good at imitating an upper-class English accent.
His family back home said he must have picked up his skills while working for Disneyworld in his home town in Orlando, from where he had vanished in 1983.
n An opposition parliamentarian in Canada got a big laugh, but failed to make his point, when he accused the government of backing subsidies for "big oil and big ass."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper hardly missed a beat when replying to the accusation, concerning the oil and gas industry in the province of Alberta. "I promise to get to the bottom of it," he quipped.
n Members of parliament in football-mad Portugal decided they needed to set an example when a key World Cup match against Mexico fell during their working hours: They simply voted to postpone their debate on a military reform law.
"This sends a very bad signal," said the head of the country's main employers' federation. Portugal won, 2-1.
n The Brazilian labor ministry acted fast to remove pages from its Web site when journalists noted that they contained advice to prostitutes on how to attract customers. Hookers should "use tender names" and deploy perfume if they wanted to make a success of their trade, said the site, which also contained advice on investing savings.
n An appeals court in Norway meanwhile upheld a ruling which said that striptease was an artistic activity, and should therefore not be subjected to sales tax. The activity "is a form of dance combined with acting," said the judges, ruling in favor of a nightclub company called The Blue Angel.
n A court in England decided not to pursue charges against a high-spirited, and seriously drunk, student who told a member of the mounted police that his horse was homosexual.
The 21-year-old, who had been celebrating the end of his final year exams at Oxford University, had told the officer "Excuse me, do you realize your horse is gay?" The charges included making "homo phobic comments."
n Police in a French coastal town thought they had a modern-day murder case on their hands when a woman's skeleton turned up in the sea with a terrible gash in the skull. However the trail went seriously cold when carbon dating revealed that the bones dated from between 1401 and 1453.
"We reckon it was pirates," said a policeman from the town, in the Brittany region.
n Big Brother came a step closer in the English town of Middlesborough, where city center closed-circuit TV cameras were kitted out with loudspeakers.
Watching operatives were thereby able not only to observe antisocial behavior but also to issue highly public remonstrances to those guilty, the local councillor who thought up the scheme said.
"The voice addresses the person who is littering for example, by saying 'Could the person in the green jacket please pick that up'," he explained. "I think it gets to their guilty conscience."
n Policewomen in the Netherlands were furious when they were issued with new uniforms and found that the blouses were more than a little transparent. Officers felt "uneasy" in the garb, said a union spokesman. "Even a white bra shows through the fabric, he added.
When Polish President Lech Kaczynski agreed to replace his prime minister at a European Union summit meeting in Finland in July, many participants may have been forgiven for thinking nothing had changed. The prime minister in question was called Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and was the president's identical twin.
n In the central Asian state of Kazakhstan, national mint officials were red-faced when it emerged that they had mis-spelled the word "bank" on their newly issued notes.
n The tiny Balkan nation of Montenegro, meanwhile, had an even more worrying linguistic problem: its leaders couldn't agree what to call their country's language. To mark their newly-declared independence from neighboring Serbia, the government had decided to call the lingo Montenegrin, but most of the population persisted in believing that it had always been called Serbian, and saw no reason to change.
n Children in some British state schools are to be given lessons in how to be happy, a newspaper said. There was no word on what the homework assignments would be like.
n Embarrassment echoed around the headquarters of the French navy when it emerged that a US$3.8-million sonar device that was under development for detecting submarines had been lost at sea. The gizmo was being pulled along behind a ship when the cable broke, officials said.
n The Marine Corps in the United States said it had finally decided to accept a gift of 4,000 Jesus dolls which recited the scriptures, and were destined to be given to needy children for Christmas. The group which had donated them had complained vocally when officials tried to refuse the gift.


Updated : 2021-04-22 02:45 GMT+08:00