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Will Work for Food or Credit Cards

April 04, 1999

A roundup of unusual stories from Times wire services:

Brother, Can You Spare a MasterCard?: San Francisco panhandlers may soon accept credit cards.

Under a proposal before Mayor Willie Brown, homeless beggars could be equipped with machines that "swipe" donations from credit or bank ATM cards.

Eighty percent of each contribution would go to community homeless programs; the rest would stay with the beggar who snagged the donation. However, the city's top official on homelessness was unenthusiastic, noting that issues such as how to guarantee the security of credit card numbers would have to be resolved first.

Ringing in the New Year: A massive, inflatable Liberty Bell--big enough to hold 5,000 people--would make a great centerpiece for Philadelphia's New Year's celebration, an architect says.

Alan Johnson, who estimates that the 200-foot-tall bell would cost about $1 million, has a model of the project in his basement onto which he has projected historic scenes, including the invention of plastic, the toilet and the atom bomb. He proposes using the giant bell as a screen for the same sorts of pictures.

Johnson said the bell could be built from polyester-reinforced vinyl, the same material used to make the Garfield and Bullwinkle balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade.

Anti-Thong Law: A county in Florida has barred women from exposing more than 75% of their breasts in public and all citizens from showing more than two-thirds of their buttocks.

That left sheriff's deputies in Manatee County wondering how to make the calculations. "I don't think we'll be tape measuring," a spokesman said.

The law allows exceptions for locker rooms, theatrical performances, nursing mothers and other situations in which nudity "is not a guise or pretense utilized to exploit nudity for profit or commercial gain."

If the Shoe Stinks, Wear It: Chelsea Ours' new trophy is a feat of stink. The 11-year-old West Virginia girl took home first prize in Odor Eaters' annual rotten sneaker contest for the slip-on tennies she's been wearing for five years.

News McNuggets:

* A U.S. judge has ruled that weather forecasts are predictions and broadcasters shouldn't be blamed if they are wrong, dismissing a $10 million lawsuit filed by relatives of a Florida fisherman who died in a storm.

* In an effort to help the emerging bison industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to buy $6 million worth of the shaggy mammal for its school lunch program.

* An unemployed German, celebrated in the press as "Lotto Lothar," drank himself to death after winning $2.2 million in a state lottery.

* For women fed up with long lines in the ladies' restroom, a Dutch company says it has come up with the answer: the female urinal. Bathroom equipment maker Sphinx said the "Lady P" consists of a ceramic pot, a frosted partition wall, space for a toilet paper dispenser and disposal unit as well as storage for handbags and jackets.

* A Chinese illegal immigrant was given a year in jail for breaking into a Hong Kong home and eating an expensive pet tortoise.


Wide World of Weird is published on Sundays. Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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