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 V.14 No.51 | December 22 - 28, 2005 

Odds & Ends

Scott Rickson

Dateline: GermanyIf you're looking for the holiday spirit, Germany may not be the place to find it. A department store Santa on his way home from work was beaten by stressed-out shoppers in Wiesbaden. Stefan Stettler, 31, was still in character and chatting with other passengers while waiting for his train home. Police say two men, apparently stressed after a full day's Christmas shopping, went ballistic when asked to “tell Santa what they want for Christmas.” The men took Stettler's sack of presents and beat him over the head with it. Stettler broke several fingers trying to protect himself. “Around this time of year, shoppers seem to get this glint in their eyes and you can just see they are going to go off any minute,” Stettler said. “I should have known better. But, come on, who beats up Santa Claus?” Police are still searching for the unknown assailants.

Dateline: PakistanPakistan's Supreme Court has upheld a two-month-old ban on making, selling or flying kites, ruling that the sport has become increasingly deadly. While the court was hearing the case, which it decided last Friday, police used batons and tear gas outside the building to disperse about 500 kite-makers and kite-flying enthusiasts who were trying to attend the proceedings. The court ruled to extend the anti-kite legislation until it meets next on Jan. 26. Lahore, the province capital, is the site of an annual kite-flying festival in which tens of thousands of people fly kites from rooftops and sports fields. Hardline Muslims oppose the festival, called Basant, as a waste of money and consider it a Hindu religious festival--something organizers disagree with. Basant, traditionally held to herald the coming of spring, is also celebrated with loud music and yellow dresses. The festival sometimes turns deadly, though, when participants fall from roofs or are wounded by metal kite strings. During a Basant festival in February, some 19 people were killed in various accidents. As it stands, a violation of Pakistan's anti-kite ban could be punished with up to six months in jail.

Dateline: BrazilThe mayor of a rural town has found a novel approach to the problem of his town's overcrowded cemetery: He has proposed a new law banning death. Mayor Roberto Pereira da Silva's proposal has gone before the town council of Biritiba Mirim and asks residents to “take good care of your health in order not to die” and warns that “infractors will be held responsible for their acts.” The bill, which imposes no penalty for passing away, is meant to protest a federal law that has barred the construction of a new or expanded cemetery in Biritiba Mirim, a farm community of 28,000 people 45 miles east of Sao Paulo. “Of course the bill is laughable, unconstitutional and will never be approved,” Gilson Soares de Campos, an aide to the mayor, told the Associated Press. “But can you think of a better marketing strategy ... to persuade the government to modify the environmental legislation?” A 2003 decree by Brazil's National Environment Council bars new or expanded cemeteries in so-called permanent preservation areas or in areas with high water tables. Environmental protection measures also rule out cremation.

Dateline: RomaniaA Romanian construction company is being held responsible after a flock of geese ate the walls of the school they were supposed to be renovating. Geese pecked away at the Styrofoam panels that had been installed on the outer walls of the school in Risesti village, Viaslui county. Village Mayor Constantin Negru said the builders were responsible for failing to protect the panels until they were covered in mortar. “After all, a goose is just a goose,” the mayor told 7 Plus newspaper. “This project was financed by the public budget and I don't blame the birds for the damages. It's the builders' fault because they didn't take care of their work.”

Dateline: FloridaA 500-pound man in Seminole County was arrested last week on suspicion of scamming fast-food restaurants out of large amounts of milk shakes and tacos. Investigators said George Jolicoeur, 33, would visit fast-food businesses and order food. He would then call or visit the restaurants posing as a police officer and ask for a refund. “He would come back and say, ’Oh, there is something wrong with it,'” Seminole County Sheriff's spokesperson Steve Olsen told Local 6 News. “’There was a hair in my shake' or ’There was a hair in my tacos.' And then he wants his money back.” Jolicoeur was captured after he went to a Steak 'N' Shake restaurant near Oviedo and a Taco Bell in Central Florida and allegedly tried to get money back for the food he ate. Local 6 News reported that Jolicoeur has been arrested more than 24 times on charges of burglary, drugs and domestic problems. Police in Stanford and other cities are investigating the possibility that Jolicoeur was scamming multiple area restaurants. “When he first checked into jail in 1991, he weighed 360 pounds,” noted Local 6 reporter Chris Trenkmann. “This morning, the jail weighed him at 500 pounds.”

Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. E-mail your weird news to devin@alibi.com.

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