Odds & Ends
Dateline: India—And you thought American bureaucrats were good at passing the buck. Laloo Prasad Yadav, India's railway minister, told The Times of India newspaper that he was not to blame for a rash of accidents that have hit the country's aging railway system. Instead, he claims, the fate of all 13 million daily passengers rests in the hands of the Hindu god of machines. “Indian Railways is the responsibility of Lord Vishwakarma,” Yadav was quoted in last Friday's edition as saying. “So is the safety of passengers. It is his duty [to ensure safety], not mine.” Yadav's statement came less than a month after 20 passengers were killed and around 100 injured when a passenger train plunged off a bridge in western India after hitting a boulder. India's railway system, which stretches for more than 200,000 miles, sees accidents nearly every day thanks in part to a badly outdated infrastructure and a lack of mechanical upkeep.
Dateline: Louisiana—A giraffe and an ostrich were sucked into the earth late last Friday night when a giant sinkhole opened up underneath the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo. The sinkhole was apparently caused by a broken water main, which carved a 15-foot-deep hole under the zoo's African veldt exhibit sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning. It is believed that the giraffe smelled the fresh water, went for a drink and tumbled in. The ostrich, one of only four female ostriches at the zoo, likely was standing beside the giraffe when the ground crumbled. The two animals tumbled headfirst into the 15-foot deep hole. “Nothing but the ankles of the giraffe were visible when I went out there,” Dr. Tyler Thomas told the Shreveport Times. On Saturday, zoo employees used two backhoes to bury the unfortunate animals on the park's veldt. Visitors on the busy July Fourth weekend couldn't see the animals in the sinkhole and were blocked from seeing them removed and buried. The giraffe was one of two males on loan from Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, N.Y. “I just hate it. But it was a freak accident,” Thomas said.
Dateline: England—Are you a long-lost relative of Genghis Khan? A free meal at a London restaurant chain awaits you if it's true. Restaurant Shish has promised free meals for anyone found to be related to the notorious Mongol leader. Shish has teamed up with a DNA-based research company called Oxford Ancestors to help prove diners' claims. From Saturday, July 3, to Friday, July 9, diners at the Shish restaurant locations in London's Hoxton and Willesden Green were given the opportunity to have their DNA sent off for analysis. The procedure required only a small swab from the inside cheek of each participant. Results will be available in about two months. The unusual promotion is to mark the Mongolian government's recent decision to allow citizens to have surnames for the first time since they were banned by the communists in the '20s. Since then, some 50,000 Mongolians have taken on the name Genghis Khan, claiming to be direct descendants of the 12th-century Mongolian conqueror. It is estimated that 17 million people worldwide, including the British Royal Family, Iranian Royalty and the family of Dracula, are direct descendants of Genghis Khan.
Dateline: Peru—The age old question, “Who are the better soccer players—hijackers or robbers?” has finally been settled. Around 400 of the best-behaved prisoners in Peru's tough Lurigancho jail were allowed out to watch a championship match between the hijackers of cell block 5 and the robbers of cell block 10. The “Convict's Cup” match was staged in honor of the upcoming 12-nation Copa America tournament. The hijackers, representing Argentina, beat the robbers, representing Peru, 2-1.
Dateline: West Virginia—A 14-year-old girl under house arrest on charges of murdering her father escaped after cutting an electronic monitoring device off her ankle and gluing it to a cat, authorities said. Police have been searching the neighborhood in Princeton where Kayla Marie LaSala fled her uncle's house last Saturday. “She's very, very sharp. She's cunning,” said sheriff's Detective C.T. Lowe. Unfortunately, an alarm was triggered when the device was cut off of the girl's ankle. She was gone before police could get there. The cat, presumably, was easily located. Kayla is awaiting trial Sept. 7 on charges of stabbing her father to death in February. Sheriff's Sgt. A.D. Beasley said the motive for the slaying was unclear.
Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. E-mail your weird news to firstname.lastname@example.org.