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Wide World of Weird

July 24, 1998

A weekly roundup of unusual news stories from around the globe:

Skunk-Proof Yogurt: General Mills, the Minneapolis-based maker of Yoplait yogurt, has redesigned the containers to make them more skunk-proof--for the animals' own good.

The overhaul already was underway when animal-rights activists told the company that as many as 14 skunks died last year after getting their heads stuck in discarded yogurt containers. The animals reportedly suffocated or wandered into roads and were hit by cars.

"The number of skunks injured doesn't sound like a lot, but it's 14 too many, and that's why we are taking action and changing our packaging," General Mills spokesman David Dix said. The new containers are supposed to be more difficult for skunks to squeeze their heads inside, but easier to get out of if they do.

Emergency Wedding: A jittery Massachusetts groom who passed out before saying "I do" finished his vows in an untraditional setting--an ambulance.

Rafael Pittman fainted at the altar Saturday while awaiting his bride-to-be, Shelly. So she followed him to the ambulance, where he was tended to by emergency workers.

"She stepped in and one of the paramedics joked they should just get married right there," said emergency services official Kevin Shea. "Suddenly a minister hops in and, with the two EMTs as witnesses, they did." The couple exchanged rings, vows and a little mouth-to-mouth, then jumped in their limousine and headed off to the reception.

The Itchy and Scratchy Show: Cities with an itch for recognition probably aren't happy about being on this top 10 list. It's the Lanacane Itch Index, which ranks cities according to their prevalence of poison ivy, sunniness (because sunburn leads to itching) and presence of standing water where mosquitoes lay eggs.

Nashville was the No. 1 itchiest city, followed by Knoxville, Tenn.; Asheville, N.C.; Evansville, Ind.; Cincinnati; Greensboro, N.C.; Paducah, Ky.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Dayton, Ohio; and Charlotte, N.C.

Bacchanal Airlines: A high-school charter flight from Oregon to Mexico turned into "Animal House" at 25,000 feet when a crew member and howling boys staged a wet T-shirt contest, with girls dancing in the aisle and parading into the cockpit. The trip has triggered a Federal Aviation Administration investigation and a state probe of the company that organized it.

Can We Do This to U.S. Congressmen? Please?: Indians from a remote village in southwest Colombia have voted to toss a national senator-elect into an ice-cold mountain lake to punish him for defying a community decision.

Jesus Pinacue, one of the 20,000 members of the Paez Indian community in Cauca province, is due to take his seat in Congress on Monday. But first, 40 shamans will force him to walk six hours along a dirt track, order him to spend the night in a damp mountain pasture in near-freezing temperatures, and at dawn Saturday strip him naked and throw him into a lake. Pinacue was sentenced to the punishment at a tribal council meeting Wednesday for supporting the "wrong" candidate in last month's presidential elections, said a Reuters photographer at the meeting.

News McNuggets:

* Dung from an ancient sloth has revealed DNA secrets from 19,000 years ago, researchers said, showing that the long-dead animal ate capers, mustard, mint and lilies.

* Colombia's army blames its heaviest defeat in the long-running war against leftist guerrillas on unruly soldiers who spent money on liquor and prostitutes instead of food supplies.

*

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

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