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 V.13 No.6 | February 5 - 11, 2004 

Odds & Ends

Dateline: Swaziland—In this week's good news/bad news category comes word that the king of Swaziland has officially postponed the start of the school year in his country. Unfortunately, the week-long delay is so that young boys can participate in one of Swaziland's most sacred rituals—weeding the royal fields. Opposition leaders and many parents have criticized the move by King Mswati, which affects some 30,000 students who attend the kingdom's state schools. The weeding is the last part of the traditional Incwala rituals, in which Swazis selebrate the start of the harvest season and sanctify the monarchy. “I have no problem with culture, but it should be dynamic and must not supersede daily routines that make the country tick,” said opposition leader Mario Musuku, who has three children in school. “This is a clear sign of absolute dictatorship.”

Dateline: India—A diamond merchant in western India spent nearly a week waiting for his merchandise to reappear after a cow swallowed a bag of his precious stones. Dilubhai Rajput of Limbudi town was able to retrieve 310 of 1,722 small diamonds after three days of digging through the animal's dung. The bag of diamonds was apparently hidden in a haystack, which was eaten by the beast. The businessman and his staff fed the cow lots of grain, grass and fruit and with the help of a veterinarian gave it lots of laxatives to extract the stones. According to the Hindustan Times, the merchant told the Indo Asian News Service, “For three days I tried hard to retrieve my precious gems. But killing the cow would have angered animal lovers, so I tried a different way. I am sure within a week I will retrieve all my diamonds from the cow.”

Dateline: England—Our first “wimpy thief” story comes from the English where a 48-year-old woman used an industrial-sized jar of mayonnaise to fight off an armed robber. Lorraine Avery was working at Heath Stores in Uttoxeter last September when 18-year-old Michael Watt came into the store, produced a knife and demanded money from the till. “I thought, ’He's not having our money, I've worked hard for it,'” Avery said in court last week. “I looked for something to hit him with but hthre was nothing to hand. I was frightened to take my eyes off the knife and the nearest thing was a big bottle of salad cream, so I grabbed it and squeezed it all over his clothes.” Watt eventually fled the condiment onslaught and was picked up by police several streets away. Police were led to Watt by the trail of salad cream he left behind. A judge sentenced Watt to three and a half years and recommended Mrs. Avery for a bravery award. Avery later told reporters, “I would be delighted to receive a bravery award. I bet Watt feels like a bit of plonker now.”

Dateline: Germany—Our second “wimpy thief” story comes from Germany where a 47-year-old shop assistant fought off a would-be robber by pelting him with rolls and pastry. Police say a masked man entered the baker's shop in the town of Wetzlar. He pulled knife and ordered the woman behind the counter to hand over the cash. Instead, she armed herself with several rolls and pieces of pastry from the display and threw them at the man. He fled, but managed to snatch the woman's handbag with contained $30.

Dateline: Iowa—Our final “wimpy thief” story comes from Des Moines, Iowa, where 32-7ear-old tax preparer DeAnna Rankins fought off a knife wielding robber with a stapler. Rankins was at the Jackson Hewitt Tax Service last Thursday night when a man entered the office and demanded money. Now. “I was in a zone, working on taxes,” Rankin told the Des Moines Register. “I finally realized he was not asking for our ’Money Now' program”—a tax service that allows customers to get cash up front for their anticipated tax refund. Rankins eventually picked the stapler up off her desk and told the man she had no money. The man hesitated, then ran out of the office. “I felt the power of the Lord,” said Rankins. “I would have stapled him.”

Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. E-mail your weird news to

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