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Wide World of Weird

April 17, 1998

A weekly roundup of unusual news stories from around the globe, compiled from Times wire services:

Bionic Granny: Norma Wickwire is a woman of many parts--some of them man-made. Since 1976, doctors have replaced eight of the Florida woman's 10 major joints: both hips, both knees, both shoulders, an ankle and an elbow (she suffers from arthritis and osteoporosis). Now, at age 76, she has made the 1998 Guinness Book of World Records under the heading of Medical Extremes.

A Kinder, Gentler IRS: Don't say the IRS can't be understanding. When Lorie Marling of Ohio got a surprise bill for back taxes, the agency offered to let her pay in installments--of $90 billion each. "My accountant thought I was being called on to pay off the national debt," she said. The IRS said it was a mistake.

Sounds Like Justice to Us: A Milwaukee woman who had too many items in a supermarket express checkout lane lost a portion of her nose in a knife attack by another customer. The woman was slashed after the other customer followed her into the parking lot.

Hail Mary, Full of Cake?: The Virgin Mary's image has appeared in a cake baked in eastern Mexico, attracting dozens of faithful. It's the latest in a string of recent Mary apparitions south of the border, ranging from a sewage stain in a Mexico City subway station to the dented fender of an old Chevy in northern Mexico.

Cigar Budget Extinguished: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cigar money has gone up in smoke after reports that it was costing taxpayers almost $40,000 a year to keep him and his guests puffing. The prime minister's office had insisted the cigars were a legitimate entertainment expense.

Mail at a Snail's Pace: When a Riverside man got a 4-year-old check from the phone company in San Diego, he decided to calculate which was faster, mail or snails. Answer: snails. The Postal Service conceded the hypothetical race and apologized for the late delivery.

More 'Titanic' Addiction: Like other teenage girls, Stacy Johnson and Joslyn Hernandez have seen "Titanic" more than once--but mainly because of the clothes. The two Alabama girls figured the elaborate costumes would be a sure-fire way to stand out at their high school prom. The problem was getting replicas.

On the Internet, they found seamstress Jennie Chancey, whose Sense and Sensibility Clothing in Virginia makes period costumes. For $500 each, Chancey re-created two of the evening gowns worn by actress Kate Winslet. She doesn't plan to make any more "Titanic" dresses.

Baaaaad News: Animal rights activists in Cyprus fear that a sheep saved from sacrifice during the Muslim month of Ramadan may be headed for an Orthodox Easter barbecue after being stolen over the weekend. Thousands of animals will be led to slaughter in Cyprus as Greek Cypriots celebrate Easter on Sunday.

News McNuggets:

* Kentucky clergy fearful of armed robbers stealing the collection money will be able to carry concealed guns in church later this month under a new state law.

* A New Zealand firm is marketing a wine in Asia that contains extract of deer antler velvet, a substance the Chinese believe has aphrodisiac qualities.

* Spring tornado season in the Midwest means it's time to magnetize your cow. A University of Minnesota veterinarian said farmers should place magnets in their cows' second stomachs to protect against sharp metal objects the animals might accidentally eat while grazing in windblown pastures. The magnets will hold small pieces of metal in place so they cannot injure the animal.

* Wide World of Weird is published every Friday. Off-Kilter appears Monday through Thursday.

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