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 V.13 No.14 | April 1 - 7, 2004 

Odds & Ends

Scott Rickson

Dateline: Scotland—A would-be vampire working at the Edinburgh Dungeons' horror tour has been removed from her job after fainting at the sight of blood. Marianne Sellar, who plays a vampire at the popular tourist attraction, was about to take a bite from a "victim" planted in the audience when another audience member announced that she had a nosebleed. Ms. Sellar, 24, collapsed and was forced to admit to her bosses that she has had a life-long phobia of blood. "It is quite embarrassing," Sellar told the Daily Mail. "I had managed to keep my phobia a secret for three years because normally we only deal with fake blood, which I can handle. When the visitor showed me all the real blood, I just collapsed." Ms. Sellar has been moved to another part of the tourist attraction and a new actress is being trained to replace her role in the Dungeons' feature tour "Vampires: Fact or Fiction?"

Dateline: India—A local politician has banned all visitors from laughing at the Sanjay Gandhi Biotanical Garden and Zoo in Patna. The ban came after members of a local "laughter club" visited the zoo. Laloo Prasad Yadav, the former chief minister of Bihar State and president of the ruling Rashtriya Dal party apparently became angry when he saw a group of people laughing while he was walking past the zoo director's office. According to Indian news site Sify.com, Yadav ordered them to stop laughing and immediately issued instructions to a zoo official to ban laughter inside the premises. "By cleaning their lungs through laughter, people were spreading their diseases to other people who come for a morning walk," said Yadav. Laughter clubs, groups of people who laugh loudly in public together to relieve stress, are a phenomenon in parts of India. Members of the Patna laughter club described the zoo ban as "autocratic."

Dateline: Norway—A man who robbed a gas station in Arendal allegedly netted so little money that he later called police and tried to collect reward money for coming forward as a witness. According to the Norwegian newspaper Agderposten, the thief—who dressed as a ninja—got only a few dollars from his knifepoint robbery. After escaping on a bicycle, the unnamed man decided to supplement the cash by ringing up the newspaper and asking for a tip-off fee. The man is said to have told reporters, "I saw a man run into the station. He had a ninja-like hood, was carrying a knife and had a sword sticking up from the back of his trousers." The "informant" gave his name and phone number before going to the police to testify as a witness. Unfortunately for him, he was recognized by a customer at the gas station and was immediately arrested.

Dateline: Tokyo—The Japanese government thought it had the perfect PR solution when it hired a popular actress with a tough screen image to help persuade reluctant citizens to pony up their share of contributions to the struggling state pension program. Actress Makiko Esumi, star of such movies as Pistol Opera, was featured in a $3.6 million "Pay now or cry later" poster and television campaign. Esumi's job was to help the government convince more people to pay into the state's basic social security program for citizens aged 20 to 59. Unfortunately, it was soon discovered that the 37-year-old Esumi had not been paying any of her pension money. Though officially mandatory, it is up to individuals to make the payments. Contributions to the scheme are some 37 percent short of where they should be, reflecting the growing belief among young people that they will not get as much out of the overtaxed system as they put in. Ms. Esumi's management company issued a statement last Tuesday apologizing for the trouble and said Wednesday that the actress has since paid up. "We're very disappointed," a spokesman for the Social Insurance Agency told Reuters. The agency is still considering its next move, which could include legal action.

Scott Rickson

Dateline: Georgia—The Georgia Legislature inadvertently banned genital piercings on women last Wednesday. The House passed the bill banning "genital mutilation" 160-0 with no debate. The bill would make such mutilation punishable by two to 20 years in prison. It makes no exception for people who give consent to have the procedure performed on their daughters out of religious or cultural custom. An amendment adopted without objection added "piercing" to the list of things that cannot be done to the female genitals. As reported in AccessNorthGA.com, amendment sponsor Rep. Bill Heath was slack-jawed when told after the vote that some adults want to be pierced. "What? I've never seen such a thing," Heath was quoted as saying. "I, uh, I wouldn't approve of anyone doing it. I don't think that's an appropriate thing to be doing." The ban only applies to women, not men, who are free to get as many Prince Alberts as they want.

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


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