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Wide World of Weird

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

March 06, 1998

He Probably Has Trouble Ordering Pizza Delivery, Too: It's not easy being named Al Nino with a similarly named weather system battering the West Coast. The 74-year-old Nipomo, Calif., resident, who says his name is pronounced NEE-no, has been getting obscenity-laced calls from people who apparently think the El Nin~o weather phenomenon has a telephone. "It's happened at least a half-dozen times," said Nino, whose given name is Alfonso. "It's always something like, 'Why are you doing this?' And I say, 'Well, I didn't really have nothing else to do. I thought maybe it would be kind of fun.' I usually joke around with them."

Skivvies Souffle: A sex novelty shop in Houston has been forced to stop selling edible underwear because it doesn't have a food service license.

Hey Kids, It's Fish-Bait Barbie! Fishermen on Russia's Pacific coast have been buying up Chinese-made Barbie dolls and using their golden hair as bait, Interfax news agency said. The anglers said the hair is very popular with the local fish.

McInsect: The Johannesburg Zoo held its annual insect exhibition, where visitors not only got to view creepy-crawlies, but also eat them. The zoo's outdoor barbecue boasted everything from fried termites coated in chocolate to mopani worm hamburgers.

Should Have Named It Al Nino: A dog was executed in Tanzania this week because a judge deemed its name offensive. Prosecutors said the owner called the pooch Immigration to mock a highly respected government department, and compounded the crime by going to the department daily and boasting of the dog's name. The owner got a suspended six-month jail term.

A Kinder, Gentler New York? New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, leading a new crackdown on speeding, loud noise and overall bad manners in his city, strongly denied a newspaper report that his chauffeured car was seen breaking the speed limit all around town. The Daily News said it tailed the mayor after he announced his program and clocked his limo going as fast as 72 mph in a 50-mph zone.

Quick Hits:

* A lost hiker ripped out pages of Lee Iacocca's autobiography to line his sweater for warmth during a cold night in the Pasadena foothills. John G. Hawkins, a 42-year-old insurance adjuster, was found Monday morning by a reserve sheriff's deputy.

* Greek police arrested 12 mules carrying about two tons of marijuana near the border with Albania and were holding them pending investigation. "The mules are trained to follow mountain paths from Albania into Greece," a police officer said.

* Argentine police announced the capture of a woman who allegedly robbed taxi drivers by flaunting herself in their rear-view mirrors and then choking them unconscious with a belt.

* Iranian authorities have traced more than 56,000 telephone pranksters in the capital in less than one year, a newspaper said.

* A family of skunks that burrowed under a Missouri school released such a strong stench that authorities shut down the building.

* Vietnam ordered cat-meat restaurants to close and is banning the export of cats to China because of growing problems with rats.

* A massive, multiday power blackout has turned New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, into "a Unabomber's paradise of dead computers, blank traffic lights and jammed elevators," according to the Internet news service http://www.tabloid.net.

* The FBI is looking for an ex-Marine from Florida who had a sex-change operation and then was married to four men at once.

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

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