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 V.18 No.30 | July 23 - 29, 2009 

Odds & Ends

Dateline: Bangladesh—Police in the northern part of the country say they have arrested dozens of swindlers who conned people out of money by calling them on mobile phones and claiming to be genies with supernatural powers. “It has become an epidemic,” Farhad bin Imrul Kayes, police chief of Gobindaganj province told Agence France-Presse. “In the last three months alone we have arrested 24 of these so-called ‘Kings of Genies,’ some of whom have even become rich in just a year.” According to Kayes, the scammers would gather personal information about their victims beforehand, then call them and speak “in a tone similar to Arabic.” Claiming to be genies who had descended from the sky, the scammers would demand money, threatening a family tragedy if the victims did not pay up. In addition to rattling off detailed family information, the callers would recite passages from the Quran. Police in Gobindaganj used phone taps to catch the scammers after receiving numerous complaints.

Dateline: Saudi Arabia—In other genie-related news, a family is taking a genie to court, alleging that the supernatural entity has been harassing them and stealing their mobile phones. The family told the Al-Watan newspaper they have been forced to move out of their home of 15 years in Medina. “We began to hear strange sounds,” the head of the unnamed family told the daily. “At first, we did not take it seriously, but then stranger things started to happen and the children got particularly scared when the genie started throwing stones.” A local court is investigating the truthfulness of the claims “despite the difficulty” of doing so.

“In the last three months alone we have arrested 24 of these so-called ‘Kings of Genies,’ some of whom have even become rich in just a year.”

Dateline: Italy—A bride’s high-flying idea to toss her wedding bouquet from an airplane ended in disaster when the flowers got sucked into the plane’s engine, causing it to catch fire and explode. The bride and groom had hired a microlight plane to fly past their wedding reception in Livorno on Italy’s western coast so they could throw the bouquet to a line of female guests, Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera reported. After the bouquet ended up in the plane’s engine, the aircraft crash-landed into a nearby hostel. One passenger on the plane received multiple fractures and a head injury. The bride and groom were fine. About 50 people who had been in the hostel escaped unharmed.

Dateline: Colombia—A hippopotamus once owned by notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar died as his master did—hunted down by authorities and shot in a hail of bullets. Colombia’s cocaine king, who was gunned down by police on a Medellín rooftop in 1993, spent some of his ill-gotten gains on a menagerie of animals, including kangaroos, flamingos, elephants, rhinos and nine hippos. Many were given to zoos after Escobar’s death. Some two dozen hippos continued to live and mate on his former estate in northern Colombia. A male and female escaped in 2006 and became something of a local legend, spotted infrequently in the wetlands near the Magdalena River. Last month, two journalists located the animals grazing 100 kilometers away from Escobar’s rural ranch. Unfortunately, Colombia’s environmental agency ordered the animals killed, saying they were carriers of disease and posed a risk to local communities. Colombians were reportedly shocked by television images of the carcass of the male hippopotamus surrounded by hunters and soldiers. Animal rights groups in the country denounced the killing. Officials are still hunting for the surviving adult hippo.

Dateline: New Hampshire—A Manchester man was charged more than $23 quadrillion for a pack of cigarettes at his local gas station. After purchasing the smokes with his bank debit card and returning home, Josh Muszynski checked his online account and saw the 17-digit price tag for the smokes: $24,148,855,308,184,500. That’s more than 2,000 times the national debt. Muszynski said he spent two hours on the phone with Bank of America trying to sort out the massive error—not to mention the $15 overdraft fee it incurred. The bank corrected the error the next day.

Dateline: New York—NBA player Richard Jackson recently traded from the New Jersey Nets to the San Antonio Spurs. He used the occasion to break off his engagement to former Nets dancer Kesha Ni’Cole Nichols. New York media ran with the story, reporting that Jackson broke up with Nichols via e-mail and later paid her a six-figure sum “to help her move on.” Unfortunately, Jackson neglected to share that juicy information with the people he invited to his wedding. According to the New York Post, nearly 100 guests showed up at New York’s ritzy Mandarin Oriental in Columbus Circle last Saturday for the lavish $2 million wedding. “All his boys were there,” one guest told the Post. Although Jackson did not show up, he did give his American Express card to one friend. Jackson’s guests reportedly made good use of the credit card, partying on the baller’s dime.

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

 
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